Council voices strong opposition to Senate Bill 317

Published 10:16 am Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Clemmons working to finalize resolution regarding ‘harmful legislation’ on proposed workforce housing bill

The Clemmons Village Council took a strong stand in Monday night’s meeting against Senate Bill 317 with a resolution opposing proposed legislation amending local control over certain styled “workforce housing.”
In fact, while council members commended village attorney Al Benshoff’s initial attempt at crafting a resolution to what Mike Combest called “strong opposition to this harmful legislation,” the general consensus was that it needed to be even more direct on “how bad this for Clemmons” and other municipalities.
“First of all, I agree with everything the resolution says,” Combest said. “but I would recommend that our resolution be a little bit harder hitting with the language placing the bottom line up front because this is an egregious assault on municipal authority and responsibility. This is legislation written for special interests by special interests.
“We staunchly oppose Senate Bill 317. It jeopardizes our ability to fulfill our charter and our legal mandates to protect and promote the health and welfare of our residents and businesses. Also, I would recommend that we prepare this for our House of Representative delegation as well, stating we want them to prevent this disastrous bill from even coming to any consideration by the House at any level.”
Benshoff said he was asked to prepare a resolution at the request of council and added this was not his resolution but “an opinion of the board and reflecting your opinion. Anything I’ve written is subject to your amendment.”
After hearing from Combest and council members Mary Cameron and Bradley Taylor on the harmful impact of such legislation, Benshoff asked if it would reasonable for him to circulate another draft to the board, which received consensus.
In his earlier remarks, Benshoff referenced what he called “an excellent dissection” of Senate Bill 371 by the N.C. Chapter of the American Planning Association addressing the Workforce Housing Crisis, which was filed March 15, 2023.
The document states that the bill seeks to establish workforce housing developments, which are 10-acre residential developments comprised of single-family detached, duplex and attached residential development that are pre-empted from basic local government planning requirements, including allowable zoning districts, residential densities, dimensional requirements, landscaping, utility system fees and a maximum 60-day approval period.
It further says APANC agrees that there is a crisis of housing availability and affordability for N.C. residents that needs to be addressed, but pre-emption of local government regulations as the primary means of addressing these challenges falls short of the mark and is likely to produce more problems than it solves.
In her comments, Cameron said that “this bill is clearly not about what is going to happen but how things will happen. It would usurp the authority of the municipality to fulfill our primary goal, which is to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of our residents. This is probably the most important bill I’ve seen come out of the legislature in a very long time that would reflect on us negatively.”
Taylor thanked Benshoff for “taking an initial stab” at the resolution. “It’s well written, and I think it points out many of the negatives heard from APA and others. I think this bill is really a jab at local municipalities like the Village of Clemmons.”
Taylor also pointed out the importance of being “blunt about the statements at top about our position and how it would not only hurt the village but other municipalities across the state.”
When asked for a time frame on Senate Bill 317, Benshoff said: “It’s in committee as of last week. There has only been one version so far, and they usually get marked up a couple of times. So it has a long way to go. We have some time.”
In an item on the agenda in the manager’s report, Mike Gunnell gave an update on the village’s contract with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office after receiving an email Monday afternoon of the interlocal agreement.
“We are still missing a few items on it,” Gunnell said. “There are a couple of exhibits that we haven’t received yet as well. We have requested information on the drone program to see if it’s going to continue. They’re supposed to be working on it. but we haven’t got anything yet.”
Gunnell added that from what he’s seen of the contract so far, “it has increased from last year. A lot of that is due to salaries and vehicle cost.”
Mayor Pro Tem Michelle Barson said, “And that will be a part of our greater budget discussion in May. That is probably the largest, most cumbersome contract we really have to work our way through.”
In other highlights from Monday night’s meeting, the council:
• Voted to continue a public hearing to amend multiple sections in Chapter B of the Zoning Ordinance of the Unified Development Ordinances (C-UDO-88) until the May 8 council meeting and to send it back to the planning board meeting on April 18 as recommended by planner Doug Moore so that it can be further clarified with C-UDO-89.
• Approved Mayor Mike Rogers to be the N.C. League of Municipalities voting delegate to cast a vote for the 2023-24 League Board of Directors in advance of their annual business meeting.
• Heard from Lisa Shortt, village clerk, about citizen board openings for the Planning Board (3 positions whose terms expire June 30, 2026) and the Zoning Board of Adjustment (1 regular and 1 alternate position whose terms expire June 30, 2026). All applicants must live within the corporate boundaries of the Village of Clemmons. The application deadline is May 31. For more information, call 336-712-4041.