OBAR Legislative Briefing

June 5, 2015 Legislative Briefing

NC Homeowners Alliance – Property Insurance Fairness
The NC Homeowners Alliance has sent out a call for action on HB 182/SB 208 – Property Insurance Fairness. The bill passed the NC House and is awaiting action in the Senate. Our Senator Bill Cook sponsored SB 208 and has been long involved in advocating for fairness and transparency in the property insurance rate-making process. All NC homeowners should be encouraged to join the NC Homeowners Alliance to stay up-to-date on legislation that impact property owners. Sign up at www.nchomeownersalliance.org
Rate Decreases Effective June 1st – Homeowners in the area should see a decrease in their homeowners insurance policies at renewal time this year. Rate decreases went into effect for many eastern NC areas. The below table shows rate history over the last 17 year and rate changes as of June 1st. Revised current rates reflect new territory boundaries approved by the NC Insurance Commissioner last fall. The rate changes also impact wind only policies – those through the NCIUA (NC Insurance Underwriters Association). Owners of property in the barrier island portions (beach areas) of Currituck, Dare and Hyde counties will see a 9% decrease; those on the mainland/inland (coastal) areas of those counties will see a 12% decrease.
Another reminder: if a policyholder has signed a Consent to Rate form, giving their insurance company the authority to go up to over 250% of the maximum rate approved by the NCDOI, then they will most likely not see the decrease.

Duck Zoning Changes Approved
On Wednesday, June 3rd, Town Council conducted public hearings on three zoning ordinance amendments. Only two people spoke during the public hearing portion – Sandmark Construction owner Mark Martin and OBHBA/OBAR Government Affairs Liaison Willo Kelly.  Council took the following action:
• Approved an ordinance amending Section 151.23(B) of the Buildings and Structures Ordinance by defining the activities that constitute “Commencement of Work” as:
(A)  If any person undertakes the commencement of work regarding a building or structure before obtaining the necessary permit from the town, he or she shall be subject to the additional fees as prescribed in the adopted fee schedule of the town.
(B)  The term “commencement of work” shall include any of the following activities relating to a building or structure:
(1) Initiation of any construction or repair work;
(2) Clearing or grading not specifically permitted under a land disturbance permit;
(3) Excavation or batter boards set for a foundation;
(4) Demolition (Council added language to reflect the NC Building Code definition of demolition); and
(5) Delivery of construction materials, equipment, or dumpsters.  Community Development Director Joe Heard clarified that the delivery of a dumpster to remove furniture or carpet would not reflect commencement of work but if, for example, cabinets were placed in the dumpster then it would constitute commencement of work.
• Approved an ordinance amending the standards of Section 156.137, Tree and Vegetation Preservation and Planning by adding the definition of multi-trunk trees, adding additional requirements for tree removal applications, removing shrubs as an allowable substitute for tree replacement and removing the language prohibiting tree pruning and topping:
Multi-trunk trees.
(a) For the purposes of this section, multi-trunk trees are defined as trees that have more than one trunk growing from a single root mass or trees that split into multiple stems below breast height (4.5 feet above ground).
(b) The diameter at breast height of multi-trunk trees shall be measured according to the following formula from the U.S. Forest Service National Core Field Guide: the dbh for a multi-trunk tree is calculated by taking the square root of the sum of squared dbhs of all trunks.  The following example shows how this formula is intended to be applied: Example: Multi-trunk tree with four 10-inch trunks
1. Find square of each trunk.  10 x 10 = 100
2. Add squared numbers together.  100 + 100 + 100 + 100 = 400
3. Calculate square root of total.  Square root of 400 = 20
4. This multi-stem tree would be measured as a 20” dbh tree.
(c) Preserving some trunks of a multi-trunk tree is preferable to removal of the entire tree.  The Director is authorized to allow the pruning or removal of an individual trunk to accommodate reasonable development of a property.
Tree Removal Permits: Notwithstanding any other regulations, a person otherwise required to obtain a tree removal permit may take any reasonable action necessary to avoid or eliminate the immediate danger or hazard, or conduct emergency repair or replacement of the public or private utility. The person taking such action shall file an application for a tree removal permit within seventy-two (72) hours after a tree is removed in a tree In these instances, documentation of the need for the emergency tree removal must be provided.  Such documentation can include (as applicable):
(a) Documentation from a certified arborist;
(b) Police report;
(c) Photographs; and/or
(d) Other information documenting the condition of the tree and circumstances surrounding its removal.
Vegetative lot coverage requirements:  The ordinance adds mulched bushes or shrubs (18-24 inches minimum height at planting or a three gallon size) to provide a 40 square foot canopy credit and ornamental grasses (18-24 inches minimum height at planting or of a three gallon size) to provide a 20 square foot canopy credit. The change prohibits shrubs being planted as a substitute for replacement trees.
Pruning and tree topping are removed as prohibited activities. The Town discovered this was in conflict with some homeowners association covenants.
Off-site planting or payment: Provision also included for off-site planting or payment-in-lieu for  situations where it is infeasible to replant all required plantings on site.
• An ordinance amending Section 156.002 of the Zoning Ordinance of the Town of Duck, North Carolina to clarify how building height is measured in different flood zones to allow owners of properties subject to flood elevation requirements to construct structures of the same height as other properties.
Town Council also held a public hearing on the proposed 2015-2016 Fiscal Budget. No one spoke from the public during the hearing. Town Council approved the budget as presented which reflects the following town property tax structure:
• The tax rate will be 21 (twenty-one) cents on each one hundred dollars ($100) valuation of taxable property, as listed for taxes as of January 1, 2015
• The tax rate for MSD-A* will be 14.8 (fourteen point eight) cents on each one hundred dollars ($100) valuation of taxable property.
• The tax rate for MSD-B* will be 31.5 (thirty-one point five) cents on each one hundred dollars ($100) valuation of taxable property. *MSD – Municipal Service District established to fund beach nourishment.
Go to www.townofduck.com for more information.

Nags Head – At Wednesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting, action was taken after two public hearings reflecting the following:
• Approved a zoning ordinance amendment that would prohibit lot clearing prior to development: “On a vacant, undeveloped parcel, removal of any tree greater than 6 inches in diameter at breast height is prohibited except after receiving approval of a site plan for new construction in conjunction with a Town issued land disturbance permit or building permit.” Language was added to exempt diseased trees or those that pose a safety threat to persons or personal property. It was also discussed that this would not impact the issuance of septic permits. OBAR/OBHBA Liaison Willo Kelly expressed concerns regarding private property rights and the additional expense and negative impact of removing much larger trees in the future when a lot may then be developed. She stated that since 85% of lots are already developed, it is unfair to make vacant lots defacto stormwater retention areas since the amendment was drafted during discussion on stormwater rules. In addition she added that the Dare County Firewise Council encourages owners to not have trees within 30 feet of their homes.
• Approved a zoning ordinance text amendment as presented that allows up to 12 inches of fill above the base flood elevation only within the footprint of a turn-down or thickened edge slab – thus possibly eliminating the practice of constructing a 12” slab to meet the town’s freeboard requirement. Mayor Bob Edwards asked that staff bring back an ordinance amendment that would also allow “ring wall” construction.
Planning Board member Mark Cornwell updated Commissioners on Planning Board activity. He said that they were looking at revising rules for vacation rental signs and a few options had been proposed: allow only signs attached to the house and eliminate the street front sign allowance when the home is more than 100 feet from the road; allow the street front signs but reduce their size to 1.5 sq. feet with no frame and allow only the number of the property on the sign placed parallel to the road; and allow smaller road front signs and impose setback and height restrictions. At the Planning Board meeting, OBAR Government Affairs Liaison Willo Kelly argued that the name of the vacation rental company was crucial on the sign to market to possible repeat visitors and identification of the property to those already staying in the home.

Dare County
During Monday’s Board of Commissioners meeting, the item Waterway Maintenance as a Use for the 2 Cents of Occupancy Tax Designated for Beach Nourishment was discussed. Commissioners passed a resolution unanimously supporting NC Senate Bill 160 – Enhance Safety and Commerce for Ports/Inlets that would allow the use of Dare County’s Occupancy tax designated for beach nourishment to be used for dredging. The bill has already passed the Senate and is still in the Rules Committee of the House; however, the bill had an effective date of 2016 – Commissioners said this should be changed to 2015.
Several people spoke on this issue during the public comment portion of the meeting and asked that the Commissioners encourage Senator Cook to support a ¼ cent local sales tax increase as a long-term funding source for waterways maintenance/dredging. Nags Head Commissioner Susie Walters stated that 27 other NC Counties had already been given authority to impose an additional local sales tax. Another Nags Head Commissioner Renee Cahoon expressed opposition to taking beach nourishment funds to dredge any inlet and added that it was a short-term solution to a long-term problem. The occupancy tax funding plan sunsets after five years. Commissioners addressed questions raised about whether Hatteras Inlet was included in a Memorandum of Agreement regarding state matching funds and dredging; they stated that Hatteras Inlet was indeed covered in the MOA.
There was also a public hearing on the FY2015-16 budget during Monday’s meeting. Several educators took to the podium to express concern about a $500,000 shortfall in the School Board budget. In response, Commissioners scheduled a budget workshop on Wednesday, June 10th at 5 p.m. in the Board of Commissioners meeting room.

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