Wake Forest board opposes proposed state development laws | The Wake Weekly
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Wake Forest board opposes proposed state development laws

Posted on May 26, 2021

Updated on May 27, 2021

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The Wake Forest Board of Commissioners. Back row, from left: Liz Simpers, Jim Dyer and Bridget Wall-Lennon. Front row: Chad Sary, Mayor Vivian Jones, and Adam Wright.

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The Wake Forest Board of Commissioners. Back row, from left: Liz Simpers, Jim Dyer and Bridget Wall-Lennon. Front row: Chad Sary, Mayor Vivian Jones, and Adam Wright.

arevels@wakeweekly.com

WAKE FOREST — Some local government officials say they are concerned about several proposed state laws related to development.

The Wake Forest Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 to adopt a resolution asking the N.C. General Assembly to not pass House Bill 401/Senate Bill 349, House Bill 496 and House Bill 794. These bills, if they become law, would limit the town’s authority to regulate its own zoning and development.

In the resolution, the town said it couldn’t support any legislation that would “result in the loss of personal enjoyment of private property” or cause a decrease in property value. It also claimed the bills would have unintended consequences.

The commissioners said the bills stripped away some of the town’s ability to determine what’s best for itself.

Increase Housing Opportunities

H.B 401 and its Senate companion S.B. 349, called the Increase Housing Opportunities bill, would require towns to allow duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes and town houses in any areas zoned for residential use, including those that only allow for the development of detached single-family dwellings, according to Wake Forest Planning Director Courtney Tanner.

“You can’t specifically have a very low-density residential district. You’d have to allow some of these others,” she told the board during a May work session. “Anecdotally, I think there’s some good points to it, but I don’t know that it makes sense in all cases.”

She added that the town was looking at adding higher densities near downtown.

If the law passes, a homeowners’ association could still block uses other than single-family. The town would only see an impact in older neighborhoods that didn’t have an association.

“It could lead to faster gentrification in some of older neighborhoods, which is where more of the concerns are probably coming in from some of the planning community,” Tanner said. “All of these uses are extremely important. We need to consider including them. But let the towns decide the best place to include them.”

While the bill is supposed to increase housing opportunities, it doesn’t regulate the costs of the additional housing opportunities, according to Tanner.

“For example, I could buy a $200,000 house in one of our neighborhoods and build a fourplex on it then sell the fourplex for a quarter-million each,” Tanner said. “That’s quadrupling the density and pushing people out because they can’t afford to move into it. That’s a problem with this.”

The resolution specifically mentions that the Northeast Community, a longstanding historically Black neighborhood of Wake Forest, could be negatively impacted by that gentrification.

H.B. 401 passed its first reading in March, but nothing has happened with it since then. S.B. 349 was moved to committee May 7.

Property Owners’ Rights

H.B. 496, called Property Owners’ Rights/Tree Ordinances, wouldn’t let towns regulate the removal of trees from private property without express approval by the General Assembly, according to Tanner. It would limit the town’s ability to control clear-cutting.

Wake Forest’s tree ordinances regulate how many trees can be removed during development. The town’s goal is to maintain a 45% urban tree canopy, it said.

In the resolution, the town commissioners said the bill could impact watersheds, property values and economic development. They also said the bill would keep the town from working with citizens and the development community.

Mayor Vivian Jones spoke to the House’s Local Government Committee earlier in May, asking them not to approve the bill.

“Local citizens should have the right to their vision of their community,” Jones said in an email May 21. “This bill could create damage to the community character, which is important for quality of life and economic development.”

H.B. 496 passed the House 72-43 and moved to the Senate in May. It passed its first reading there May 12.

Allow Schools in All Zoning Districts

H.B. 794, called Allow Schools in All Zoning Districts, would make schools, including charter schools, a permitted use in all zoning districts.

In the resolution, the town commissioners said the bill was well intentioned but falls short of protecting children, because it could result in schools being built in industrial zoning districts or near adult establishments.

H.B. 794 passed the House 109-3 and was moved to the Senate in May. It passed its first reading there May 11.

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