A bill recently introduced in Raleigh would give property owners and land developers better standing when they bring a case before their local Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA), and make it easier for them to obtain relief from restrictive regulations and policies.
HB 276 unanimously passed the North Carolina House of Representatives on April 9, and is presently awaiting a hearing by the Senate Commerce Committee. If it becomes law as expected, it would standardize ZBA procedures statewide, and provide greater clarity for applicants bringing land use appeals before their local body. Crafted by Greensboro zoning attorney Tom Terrell, the bill has the support of the North Carolina Home Builders Association (NCHBA), the NC Association of County Commissioners and the NC League of Municipalities.
Some of the key changes included in the bill are:
Would clarify that a ZBA shall hear appeals of any decision made by a local official charged with administering a zoning or unified development ordinance, and gives the board latitude to hear any appeal of a development or land use administrative decision;
Would require a local official whose decision is appealed to the ZBA to provide the appellant with all documents and records used to reach that decision. In a court of law, this is called “discovery,” but currently it is not required in a ZBA case unless the appellant specifically makes the request;
Would require the official who made the decision to be present at the ZBA hearing as a witness;
Would clarify the standards by which a variance may be granted by the ZBA, removing any need for the appellant to proved that, if denied, no reasonable use may be made of the property; and,
Would allow for a simple majority vote of the board to overturn an administrative decision, instead of the 4/5 “supermajority” required today.
Charlotte’s ZBA only hears administrative appeals and variances, leaving conditional and special use permits to the City Council. HB 276 would not require this to change.
REBIC will continue to follow the progress of this legislation and update you when it is scheduled for a hearing in the State Senate.