The Beacon has learned that the N.C. Home Builders Assn.’s legislative team drafted the bills introduced March 24 by the N.C. General Assembly to eliminate exclusive single-family dwelling zoning statewide and to force municipalities to allow multi-family dwellings and other dense development in all residential zones within their limits.

See The Beacon, 4/17/21, for a report on the bills, Senate Bill 349 and its companion, House Bill 401, which should be titled “Increase Builders’ Opportunities,” rather than “Increase Housing Opportunities.”

According to news items on the NCHBA’s website, the association’s legislative team drafted this “cutting-edge” legislation and “worked with” Senators Chuck Edwards (R-Henderson), Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus), and Toby Fitch (D-Wilson) to introduce SB 349 and with Representatives Destin Hall (R-Caldwell), Tim Moffit (R-Henderson), Mark Brody (R-Union), and Billy Richardson (D-Cumberland) to sponsor HB 401.

To our knowledge, none of the areas represented by these legislators is a high-dollar area where housing costs would be prohibitive.

Addressing just the Democrats’ home turf: Wilson County, whose largest town is Wilson, is south of Rocky Mount, and Cumberland County is home to Fayetteville.

The bill, according to a March 29 NCHBA news item, “would make it easier for builders to build duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes in residentially zoned areas.”

In a later news item posted April 5, the NCHBA amends this language to specify that the bill would “allow property owners” to build these multi-family dwellings in “areas zoned for single-family structure.”

The NCHBA apparently thought better of emphasizing how the bill would improve the home builder’s bottom line, rather than the property owner’s freedom of choice, but not enough to delete the first item.

Neither news item mentions townhouses, the fourth type of “middle housing use” that SB 349/HB 401 would require local governments to permit in areas zoned for residential use, including those that allow only detached single-family dwellings.

Southern Shores homeowner Mark Martin, who owns Sandmark Custom Homes, Inc., is immediate past president of the NCHBA and currently serves on its executive committee.

Before his election to the Southern Shores Town Council, builder Matt Neal was active with the Outer Banks Home Builders Assn. (OBHBA), serving as president for two years, and the NCHBA.

Southern Shores and all other Dare County towns should call upon the OBHBA to state its position on this legislation and to reveal its lobbying effort, if any, in support of it. Was anyone from the OBHBA “in the room” when this intrusive and self-serving legislation was being formulated and discussed?

The NCHBA has been a powerful force behind the State legislature’s chipping away in recent years of local governments’ land-use and zoning authority in order to benefit the home-building industry.

That includes passage of SB 25 in 2015, which resulted in the elimination of the bedroom restriction in Southern Shores and the threat of a 16-bedroom wedding-destination venue being built by SAGA at 64 Ocean Blvd. Only a 3-2 majority vote by the Town Council in favor of limiting house size to 6,000 square feet prevented that from happening. The dissenting votes were cast by Mayor Tom Bennett and former Town Councilman Chris Nason, an architect who had a client relationship with SAGA.

See yesterday’s Beacon for a brief recall of that legislation. Pat McCrory, a Republican, was governor of North Carolina then. Current Governor Roy Cooper is a Democrat.

Knowing its origins, The Beacon does not see this bill as a progressive strike for affordable housing, but rather as another means by which the heavy-handed, overreaching home-building industry can profit.

As we said yesterday, if the N.C. General Assembly truly wants to increase affordable housing, it should give municipalities–especially population-dense cities such as Raleigh and Charlotte, which is in Mecklenburg County, not Cabarrus–incentives to build that housing in a rational plan, not strip them of their control.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 4/18/21


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