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New NC bills target home-design restrictions

The N.C. House and Senate each reintroduced bills this month that would limit the ability of municipalities and counties to impose design and aesthetic standards on homebuilders.

The bills are now slated for review by the House Committee on Local Government and the Senate Committee on Rules and Operations, respectively.

A similar proposal, introduced and passed by a wide margin of 98-18 in the lower chamber in 2013, died last year. It was sent to the upper chamber’s rules committee, where it languished for more than a year before the previous two-year legislative session ended.

Proponents of the pending legislation, such as the N.C. Home Builders Association and the N.C. Association of Realtors, say regulating matters such as garage door size and paint color on homes is beyond the zoning authority granted to local governments by the state’s constitution, general statutes and legal precedents. They say such rules needlessly hurt their businesses and the local economy by raising prices beyond what some buyers can afford.

Those against the proposed measure, including the N.C. League of Municipalities and local governments across the state, say regulating the aesthetics and design of new-home construction protects existing homeowners by preserving the character of neighborhoods.

Last year, the Town Council of Indian Trail endorsed a letter from Patti Cowan, chairwoman of the town’s Planning Board, to several N.C. legislators explaining the town’s opposition.

“Standards are in place now that promote quality within our town and any builder that wishes to expand here (is) aware of our standards,” the letter said. “Control of these issues needs to stay in the hands of local departments and committees.”

It said imposing limits to the town’s powers would be a gateway to the use of lesser-quality building materials, which in turn would reduce residential growth, property values and taxes revenue.

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