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March 2022

Zoning Reform

This is an article exploring “Zoning Reform” and how state and the federal government are implementing it.  The basic premise behind zoning reform is that there is a housing crisis in the United States today, that local zoning and development regulations have significantly contributed to it, and that reform of these regulations is the best way to address the crisis.  The article describes recent federal policy related to zoning reform.  It also outlines the zoning reform actions several states have taken (including North Carolina) in response to the housing crisis.  The last part of the article contemplates the future of zoning reform in North Carolina and the potential role planning professionals can play in the discussion.

To read the complete article click APA-NC Legislative Committee Zoning Reform Article_March 2022.


February 10, 2022

APA-NC Legislative Committee Releases 2021 Annual Report

 2021 APA-NC Legislative Committee Annual Report


December 22, 2021

Report from the 2021 National Policy and Advocacy Conference

On Wednesday, September 29 and Thursday, September 30, 2021, the American Planning Association held its 2021 Policy and Advocacy Conference. This annual conference is billed by APA as an opportunity for planners to learn about the policy issues that affect the profession, communicate with legislators, and become an effective advocate for planning. The topics of focus of this year’s conference were:

  1. Zoning reform and planners' push for change that advances housing access and affordability;
  2. The federal transportation infrastructure program and its significant impact on local and regional planning efforts; and
  3. The best approaches to combating climate change and planning's potential to influence the decisions and investments.

The Conference consists of two parts: 1) sessions generally on the topics of focus, and 2) Planners’ Day on Capitol Hill, where attendees are able to participate in meetings with NC senator and representative staffs.

In terms of the topics of focus, this year included sessions covering ADUs, state and local experiences with zoning reform, federal infrastructure policy, the future of mobility, experiences in tackling climate change, and energy, environment, and equity in the new administration. Sessions regarding housing and zoning reform provided helpful insights on successful experiences in other states, particularly recent efforts in Connecticut, while sessions on transportation focused on the then-pending now-adopted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the growth in EVs, micro-mobility, and innovation overall, and climate change sessions relayed the relevance of global efforts, such as COP 26 (the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference), to national, state and local implementation.

For Planners’ Day on Capitol Hill, the National Chapter develops a platform to support planners’ engagement and advocacy with legislators. This year’s focus was on zoning reform and housing. At the time of the conference, planners were asked to discuss congressional support for the pending budget reconciliation, and specifically the draft Housing Supply and Affordability Act, which was incorporated into the budget reconciliation legislation. 

A team of North Carolina planning professionals attended meetings with staff of Senator Richard Burr and Senator Thom Tillis, before meeting with the offices of their respective Representatives. This team included Pam Davison (Planning Director, Town of Fuquay-Varina), Ben Hitchings (Principal, Green Heron Planning), Amy Sackaroff (Principal, Senior Planner, Stantec), Sue Schwartz (Planning Director, City of Greensboro), and Michael Zehner (Environmental Programs Director, The Berkely Group).

Prior to these meetings the team met to discuss their goals for the meetings, and develop their relevant community stories and talking points. Ideas and concerns raised by the team, the pressing need to address housing affordability, and the request to support the provisions of the Housing Supply and Affordability Act were very well received by the Congressional offices. Staff from both Senator’s offices engaged the team in discussions regarding the reasons for housing issues at the local level, the ramifications of those issues, solutions and best practices that could be brought to bear, and the potential tools and resources that pending legislation could offer.

All in all, this was a beneficial conference experience, even more so given the engagement and receptiveness of Congressional staffers. If planners are interested in this Conference or larger policy discussions and advocacy, please consider signing up for the American Planning Associations’ Planners’ Advocacy Network https://www.planning.org/advocacy/. Members of the Chapter’s Legislative Committee would also be happy to discuss opportunities. 


August 2, 2021 

Understanding Crossover

This is an update to the Legislative Crossover Blog post we submitted in May. It provides some deeper perspective on the concept of legislative crossover and a status update on the variety of planning-related legislation moving through the General Assembly.

To start, here is general information on the General Assembly you may already know - Legislative sessions convene in January on odd-numbered years following the election from the previous November. Technically, the legislative session runs for two years, but in practice, the two-year session is broken up into two or more sessions – a regular (or “long”) session that runs from January through the summer of the odd-numbered year and a shorter session (often referred to as a “called” or “short” session) that runs from spring through summer of the second (or even-numbered) year. There are sometimes other kinds of session sandwiched between the long and short sessions, but that is a topic for another day.

The distinction between the long and short sessions is important because the kinds of legislation that may be considered by the General Assembly during the short session is typically more limited than what may be considered during the long session. The kinds of bills that may be considered during the short session is usually set out in the adjournment resolution from the previous long session. Typically, the kinds of bills that may be considered include bills that directly affect the State budget, constitutional amendments, bills that passed one of the two chambers (the House or the Senate) before the crossover deadline, appointments to State boards and commissions, and a handful of other caveats or pre-conditions.

Crossover is a concept used by many legislatures across the country, including North Carolina. In most cases, a crossover deadline is the date certain that a piece of proposed legislation must have passed one of the two different houses in a state’s legislature (Remember, to become law in North Carolina, most bills must pass both the House and Senate and then be signed by the Governor). A proposed bill that has not passed one of the two chambers before the crossover deadline is generally thought to face high procedural hurdles in order to be considered. That’s the idea behind crossover. There is not a lot of detail out there about why legislatures have crossover deadlines – perhaps it is a workload management tool, or it’s a filter intended to make less popular proposed legislation more difficult to enact. Whatever the reason, the conventional wisdom indicates that bills that don’t make crossover are less likely to become law.

However, we all know the wisdom of following conventional wisdom.

Both the NC House and the Senate have rules regarding bill eligibility after the crossover deadline – which was May 13, 2021 for the current legislative session.

We also know there are exceptions to every rule.

In the case of crossover there are 9 exceptions to the crossover rules in the NC Senate and 10 crossover exceptions in the NC House. For the most part, these exceptions address constitutional amendments, appointments, bills affecting district boundaries or election laws, and adjournment resolutions. However, there are also exemptions for bills that relate to appropriations, bills referred to Finance Committees (whether of the House or the Senate) and a handful of other exceptions. One of the most concerning aspects of the process is that a legislator may extract language from a bill that did not make crossover and insert it into a bill that did as a committee substitute.

You may remember the Legislative Committee’s blog post from May 21st where we outlined the list of 26 planning-related bills that met this session’s crossover deadline and 38 other planning-related bills that didn’t (This list is available by contacting any Legislative Committee member and requesting a copy of the current legislative tracking form).

As of this writing, there are at least seven planning-related bills that did not meet the crossover deadline but are still moving through the legislative process after May 13, 2021. They include:

HB911 – Regulatory Reform 2.0 https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2021/H911

HB865 – Private Commercial Inspection System https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2021/H865

HB815 – County Broadband Authority https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2021/H815

HB477 – Temporary Event Venues https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2021/H477

HB831 - Cities/Prohibited Service Agreements https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2021/H831 

HB326 – ENOUGH/Gaming Machines https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2021/H326

HB500 – Disaster Relief and Mitigation Act of 2021 https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2021/H500

After research and discussion of crossover with School of Government experts and members of the General Assembly’s Legislative Analysis Division, we now understand that there could be other planning-related bills or bill text that are also still moving forward despite missing the crossover deadline. If you are familiar with Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean films, then you understand that in many ways, the crossover rules are very much akin to the film’s ‘Pirata Codex’ – they are more like guidelines.

What we have learned is that failure to meet crossover is not necessarily the end of a proposed bill – rather, the bill can move forward under a variety of different mechanisms (like the seven bills mentioned above). What’s more, the rules allow the introduction of a committee substitute that allow the text of “dead” bill (one that missed crossover) to be inserted into a “living” bill (one that did make crossover), giving rise to the “zombie bill” (hopefully not all zombie bills will be bad for planning or local governments).

The Legislative Committee continues to track planning-related legislation (including those zombie bills) with increased focus on the calendars of the rules and operations committees, finance and appropriations committees, and the local government committees – but, we need your help. If you hear about the possibility of a committee substitute that resurrects proposed planning-related legislation that did not meet crossover, please inform the Legislative Committee so we can investigate and keep the Chapter membership informed. Contact information for the Legislative Committee can be found under the Policy and Advocacy tab of northcarolina.planning.org. Thanks for reviewing this material and for all you do to keep North Carolina a great place to live.


May 21, 2021 

2021 Legislative Session Crossover Roundup

Last Thursday, May 13, 2021, was the crossover deadline in the North Carolina General Assembly. This blog posts summarizes the pieces of planning-related legislation that are still moving through the General Assembly.

What is the crossover deadline and what does it mean for pending legislation?

The crossover deadline is the date established at the start of the legislation session in which a bill would need to have successfully passed either the House or the Senate in order to be further considered during the current legislative session.  In other words, a bill that did not successfully pass either chamber by the end of day on May 13 is no longer eligible for consideration or a committee hearing. The only exclusions to this deadline are bills concerning finance or appropriations, constitutional amendments, appointments, or elections laws.

So, what important planning-related bills survived crossover day?

·        HB496 – Property Owners' Rights/Tree Ordinances.

·        HB 366 – Regulatory Reform Act of 2021.

·        HB 291 – Building Plan Approval- Certain Commercial Property.

·        HB 489/SB 478 – 2021 Building Code and Development Regulations Reform.

·        SB 455 - Decriminalize Non-Statutory Offenses.

·        HB271/SB378 Eminent Domain.

·        HB794 – Allow Schools in All Zoning Districts.

·        HB712  - Preservation of Workforce Housing.

·        HB 218 – Streamline Permits/Redevelopment of Property.

·        HB 425 – Development Regulations/Multijurisdiction.

·        SB 308 - Building Code Inspection Reform.

These 11 bills are still viable and moving within one of the two chambers of the General Assembly.  The Legislative Committee either opposes or is dubious about each of them.

In addition to the eleven bills listed above that we are concerned about, there are also 16 bills that made the crossover deadline that are planning-related but that we are neutral on or have no opinion about.  These bills, if passed, will affect your local provisions and how you go about your job, so it is a good idea to be familiar with them.

·        HB842 Clarify Deed Restrictions/Solar Collectors

·        HB 829 Private Residential Rentals

·        HB814  Neighborhood Occupantless Vehicle

·        HB781 Bring Business Back to Downtown

·        HB783 Create Building Code Permit Technician Certification

·        HB684 LRC Study Development Exactions

·        SB707    Development Regulations & Airport Authorities

·        SB605  North Carolina Farm Act of 2021

·        SB554 Encou.Affordable Housing/Shipping Containers

·        HB812 / SB531 Public Bodies/Mods to Remote Meeting Req.

·        SB 329 Building Code Modifications

·        HB 344 System Development Fees Update

·        HB 273 Modify Builders Inventory Tax Exclusion

·        HB 184 Support Private Property Rights

·        HB 161 Address Abandoned and Derelict Vessels

·        HB 110 Increase Building Permit Exemption Threshold

We strongly encourage our membership to continue to focus on the local and public bills that met the crossover deadline. Talk to your local officials and explain the ramifications of these action. Please consider advocating for your perspective, either professionally or personally, as you are able.

So, what important bills did not survive crossover day?

·        HB 865 – Private Commercial Inspection System.

·        HB 853 – Plan Review & Certificate of Occupancy Scope Changes.

·        HB 456 – Justice for Rural Citizens.

·        HB 401/SB 349 – Increasing Housing Opportunities.

While we are glad to see that some bills that were a focus of the Legislative Committee are not moving forward, it is important to note that bills that did move forward could be used to re-introduce provisions from bills that did not survive. Bills that passed either the House or the Senate are subject to amendments, which may include the insertion of provisions from bills that did not survive crossover. The Chapter’s Legislative Committee will continue to monitor legislation for this possibility and notify the membership should this occur with one or more pending bills.

We thank the membership of the North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association for their diligence and attention to these bills, especially House Bill 401/Senate Bill 349. We believe your voices were heard!

Want to know more?

The Legislative Committee conducts conference calls on pending legislation on the first and third Fridays of the month at noon.  We go over pending legislation, answer questions, and look for input from planners. You will see the invites on the listserv, so please feel free to join us!  Please contact Chad Meadows, Legislative Chair, at chad@codewrightplanners.com if you have questions or would like more information.


May 11, 2021 

How to Get Involved in NCDOT's Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) 

In 2020, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) released their updated Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP). The Plan is a key component of North Carolina’s Highway Safety Improvement Program and focuses on reducing fatalities and serious injuries on all public roadways in the State. Stakeholders encompassing the 4 E’s of highway safety—engineering, education, enforcement, and emergency services—met throughout 2019 in 2 statewide summits, 3 regional summits, and 11 emphasis area working groups to develop the SHSP. The SHSP establishes statewide goals and objectives to focus implementation efforts for safety programs and countermeasures. The SHSP is organized by Focus Areas (Roadway Infrastructure, Human Behavior, All Users, Data and Evaluation, and Safety Culture) that group the 11 Emphasis Areas by similar crash types, road users, or other characteristics. These groupings provide the roadmap for implementation - which in now underway. 

Throughout 2021, a diverse panel of stakeholders with a wide range of professional backgrounds and expertise will help support implementation of the SHSP. NCDOT will organize stakeholders into working groups based on the five Focus Areas. The working groups will meet virtually over the summer to prioritize supporting actions, assign leadership roles, and select tracking mechanisms and milestones. Each working group will also establish an implementation plan and develop white papers on safety perspectives in North Carolina. The white papers will summarize research, include case studies, and consider potential impacts on the State's goals. 

To learn more about how you or your agency can be involved in implementing North Carolina's SHSP please contact Chris Oliver, NCDOT, at coliver@ncdot.gov.


April 29, 2021

APA-NC Legislative Committee Responds to Questions on HB 401/SB 349

On April 8, 2021 the APA-NC Legislative Committee responded via a conference call to submitted questions regarding HB 401/SB 349. A transcript of the Q&A was prepared and is now available to download. 

HB 401/SB 349 Q&A