Mecklenburg County’s Land Use and Environmental Services Agency, more commonly known as LUESA, will be experiencing some dramatic changes in the coming months, and the impact on builders and developers in the county’s three southern towns could be significant.
Last week, the agency announced it will significantly scale back services at its South Office in Matthews, by relocating to the Hal Marshall Building most of its Code Enforcement and Land Development staff. As of Monday, October 1, the South Office will no longer provide the following services:
Land Development Plan Review and Permitting for subdivisions and commercial projects
Land Development bonds and sureties
Residential Building Permits for the three southern towns
Construction site inspection roadways, driveways, sidewalks and storm drainage infrastructure
Water quality regulations compliance including erosion control, stream buffer protection and impervious area limits
Zoning compliance and enforcement of the three southern Towns’ Zoning ordinances
The news comes just a few months after the agency announced it will be curtailing services at its North Office in Huntersville, shifting all land development services to Hal Marshall by December 1. The reduction in services is a direct result of LUESA’s ongoing budget challenges — a product of the dramatic decline in permit activity over the past few years. Because the agency is fully funded by permit fees paid by its customers, it has been forced to cut back on staffing and operations as that fee revenue becomes scarce. The only alternative would be to dramatically increase fees for a second straight year — a move that REBIC and our members would oppose.
In addition, LUESA’s new Electronic Plan Management (EPM) system has reduced the need for the agency to maintain multiple physical offices. While the new technology still shows room for improvement, it lets builders and developers to submit their plans electronically, and will eventually allow for online collaboration between engineers, plan reviewers and the towns.
As LUESA continues to adjust to a changing marketplace, it will do so without the leadership of longtime director Cary Saul, who announced this week he will be retiring on December 1. Saul, who has been with the Mecklenburg County for 30 years, oversees more than 450 employees and an annual operating budget of $63 million. The county has launched a search for his replacement and hopes to name a new director for the division by the end of November.