The North Carolina Senate's Big Act
Although Governor Bev Perdue - a Democrat - now heads North Carolina, one would hardly equate the Tar Heel State as a capital of big government. In the land of states' rights, logic would seemingly dictate that the North Carolina state legislature would allow for local municipalities to operate free from interference. Yet in a bill recently passed by the North Carolina Senate - Senate Bill 731, aka the Zoning/Design and Aesthetic Controls Bill - it appears that the state legislature is abandoning the small flag of self-rule, and instead aiming to impose restrictions on cities and towns in their ability to regulate zoning and design decisions.
If enacted, the bill would effectively disallow localities from enforcing their own zoning and coding rules over housing standards. Speaking in a recent article in the Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly, Matthews Town Manager Hazen Blodgett expressed concern over how "the proposal is just one more way the state legislature is trying to take away local control." Blodgett continued, “It seems to me that this session of the (N.C.) General Assembly they have really pushed down regulations on local governments that, I think, if the federal government did it to them then it would be a states’ rights issue."
Some Tea Party-esque protesters have taken up protesting New Urbanist and sustainability initiatives of late by invoking Agenda 21, the United Nations' Declaration on Environment and Development, fearing that sustainability proposals represent some type of mandated relocation effort into denser, more compact places. But could such a move as this by North Carolina lawmakers actually invert the perceived argument and reveal the truth? That by removing top-down prescriptions from larger authorities - whether they be federal or state - conditions are created that allow for environments to develop more in sync with the communities they represent? Shouldn't we allow towns to make decisions for themselves, enforce form-based codes that reflect the character of their community and no longer rely on one-size-fits-all measures from faraway places?
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