Administration, Enforcement, and Appeals.
§ 160D-401. Application.
(a) The provisions of this Article shall apply to all development regulations adopted pursuant to this Chapter. Local governments may apply any of the definitions and procedures authorized by this Article to any ordinance adopted under the general police power of cities and counties, Article 8 of Chapter 160A of the General Statutes, and Article 6 of Chapter 153A of the General Statutes, respectively, and may employ any organizational structure, board, commission, or staffing arrangement authorized by this Article to any or all aspects of those ordinances. The provisions of this Article also apply to any other local ordinance that substantially affects land use and development.
(b) The provisions of this Article are supplemental to specific provisions included in other Articles of this Chapter. To the extent there is a conflict between the provisions of this Article and other Articles, the more specific provision shall control. This Article does not expand, diminish, or alter the scope of authority for development regulations authorized by this Chapter. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, s. 51(a), (b), (d).)
§ 160D-402. Administrative staff.
(a) Authorization. - Local governments may appoint administrators, inspectors, enforcement officers, planners, technicians, and other staff to develop, administer, and enforce development regulations authorized by this Chapter.
(b) Duties. - Duties assigned to staff may include, but are not limited to, drafting and implementing plans and development regulations to be adopted pursuant to this Chapter; determining whether applications for development approvals are complete; receiving and processing applications for development approvals; providing notices of applications and hearings; making decisions and determinations regarding development regulation implementation; determining whether applications for development approvals meet applicable standards as established by law and local ordinance; conducting inspections; issuing or denying certificates of compliance or occupancy; enforcing development regulations, including issuing notices of violation, orders to correct violations, and recommending bringing judicial actions against actual or threatened violations; keeping adequate records; and any other actions that may be required in order adequately to enforce the laws and development regulations under their jurisdiction. A development regulation may require that designated staff members take an oath of office. The local government shall have the authority to enact ordinances, procedures, and fee schedules relating to the administration and the enforcement of this Chapter. The administrative and enforcement provisions related to building permits set forth in Article 11 of this Chapter shall be followed for those permits.
(c) Alternative Staff Arrangements. - A local government may enter into contracts with another city, county, or combination thereof under which the parties agree to create a joint staff for the enforcement of State and local laws specified in the agreement. The governing boards of the contracting parties may make any necessary appropriations for this purpose.
In lieu of joint staff, a governing board may designate staff from any other city or county to serve as a member of its staff with the approval of the governing board of the other city or county. A staff member, if designated from another city or county under this section, shall, while exercising the duties of the position, be considered an agent of the local government exercising those duties. The governing board of one local government may request the governing board of a second local government to direct one or more of the second local government's staff members to exercise their powers within part or all of the first local government's jurisdiction, and they shall thereupon be empowered to do so until the first local government officially withdraws its request in the manner provided in G.S. 160D-202.
A local government may contract with an individual, company, council of governments, regional planning agency, metropolitan planning organization, or rural planning agency to designate an individual who is not a city or county employee to work under the supervision of the local government to exercise the functions authorized by this section. The local government shall have the same potential liability, if any, for inspections conducted by an individual who is not an employee of the local government as it does for an individual who is an employee of the local government. The company or individual with whom the local government contracts shall have errors and omissions and other insurance coverage acceptable to the local government.
(d) Financial Support. - The local government may appropriate for the support of the staff any funds that it deems necessary. It shall have power to fix reasonable fees for support, administration, and implementation of programs authorized by this Chapter, and all such fees shall be used for no other purposes. When an inspection, for which the permit holder has paid a fee to the local government, is performed by a marketplace pool Code-enforcement official upon request of the Insurance Commissioner under G.S. 143-151.12(9)a., the local government shall promptly return to the permit holder the fee collected by the local government for such inspection. This subsection applies to the following types of inspection: plumbing, electrical systems, general building restrictions and regulations, heating and air-conditioning, and the general construction of buildings. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, s. 51(a), (b), (d).)
§ 160D-403. Administrative development approvals and determinations.
(a) Development Approvals. - To the extent consistent with the scope of regulatory authority granted by this Chapter, no person shall commence or proceed with development without first securing any required development approval from the local government with jurisdiction over the site of the development. A development approval shall be in writing and may contain a provision requiring the development to comply with all applicable State and local laws. A local government may issue development approvals in print or electronic form. Any development approval issued exclusively in electronic form shall be protected from further editing once issued. Applications for development approvals may be made by the landowner, a lessee or person holding an option or contract to purchase or lease land, or an authorized agent of the landowner. An easement holder may also apply for development approval for such development as is authorized by the easement.
(b) Determinations and Notice of Determinations. - A development regulation enacted under the authority of this Chapter may designate the staff member or members charged with making determinations under the development regulation.
The officer making the determination shall give written notice to the owner of the property that is the subject of the determination and to the party who sought the determination, if different from the owner. The written notice shall be delivered by personal delivery, email, or first-class mail. The notice shall be delivered to the last address listed for the owner of the affected property on the county tax abstract and to the address provided in the application or request for a determination if the party seeking the determination is different from the owner.
It is conclusively presumed that all persons with standing to appeal have constructive notice of the determination from the date a sign providing notice that a determination has been made is prominently posted on the property that is the subject of the determination, so long as the sign remains on the property for at least 10 days. A posted sign shall contain the words "Zoning Decision" or "Subdivision Decision" or similar language for other determinations in letters at least six inches high and shall identify the means to contact a local government staff member for information about the determination. Posting of signs is not the only form of constructive notice. Any sign posting is the responsibility of the landowner, applicant, or person that sought the determination. Verification of the posting shall be provided to the staff member responsible for the determination. Absent an ordinance provision to the contrary, posting of signs is not required.
(c) Duration of Development Approval. - Unless a different period is specified by this Chapter or other specific applicable law, including for a development agreement, a development approval issued pursuant to this Chapter expires one year after the date of issuance if the work authorized by the development approval has not been substantially commenced. Local development regulations may provide for development approvals of shorter duration for temporary land uses, special events, temporary signs, and similar development. Local development regulations may also provide for development approvals of longer duration for specified types of development approvals. Nothing in this subsection limits any vested rights secured under G.S. 160D-108 or G.S. 160D-108.1.
(d) Changes. - After a development approval has been issued, no deviations from the terms of the application or the development approval shall be made until written approval of proposed changes or deviations has been obtained. A local government may define by ordinance minor modifications to development approvals that can be exempted or administratively approved. The local government shall follow the same development review and approval process required for issuance of the development approval in the review and approval of any major modification of that approval.
(e) Inspections. - Administrative staff may inspect work undertaken pursuant to a development approval to assure that the work is being done in accordance with applicable State and local laws and the terms of the approval. In exercising this power, staff may enter any premises within the jurisdiction of the local government at all reasonable hours for the purposes of inspection or other enforcement action, upon presentation of proper credentials, so long as the appropriate consent has been given for inspection of areas not open to the public or an appropriate inspection warrant has been secured.
(f) Revocation of Development Approvals. - In addition to initiation of enforcement actions under G.S. 160D-404, development approvals may be revoked by the local government issuing the development approval by notifying the holder in writing stating the reason for the revocation. The local government shall follow the same development review and approval process required for issuance of the development approval, including any required notice or hearing, in the review and approval of any revocation of that approval. Development approvals shall be revoked for any substantial departure from the approved application, plans, or specifications; for refusal or failure to comply with the requirements of any applicable local development regulation or any State law delegated to the local government for enforcement purposes in lieu of the State; or for false statements or misrepresentations made in securing the approval. Any development approval mistakenly issued in violation of an applicable State or local law may also be revoked. The revocation of a development approval by a staff member may be appealed pursuant to G.S. 160D-405. If an appeal is filed regarding a development regulation adopted by a local government pursuant to this Chapter, the provisions of G.S. 160D-405(f) regarding stays apply.
(g) Certificate of Occupancy. - A local government may, upon completion of work or activity undertaken pursuant to a development approval, make final inspections and issue a certificate of compliance or occupancy if staff finds that the completed work complies with all applicable State and local laws and with the terms of the approval. No building, structure, or use of land that is subject to a building permit required by Article 11 of this Chapter shall be occupied or used until a certificate of occupancy or temporary certificate pursuant to G.S. 160D-1116 has been issued.
(h) Optional Communication Requirements. - A regulation adopted pursuant to this Chapter may require notice or informational meetings, or both, as part of the administrative decision-making process. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, ss. 9, 51(a), (b), (d); 2021-88, s. 1(b).)
§ 160D-404. Enforcement.
(a) Notices of Violation. - When staff determines work or activity has been undertaken in violation of a development regulation adopted pursuant to this Chapter or other local development regulation or any State law delegated to the local government for enforcement purposes in lieu of the State or in violation of the terms of a development approval, a written notice of violation may be issued. The notice of violation shall be delivered to the holder of the development approval and to the landowner of the property involved, if the landowner is not the holder of the development approval, by personal delivery, electronic delivery, or first-class mail and may be provided by similar means to the occupant of the property or the person undertaking the work or activity. The notice of violation may be posted on the property. The person providing the notice of violation shall certify to the local government that the notice was provided, and the certificate shall be deemed conclusive in the absence of fraud. Except as provided by G.S. 160D-1123 or G.S. 160D-1206 or otherwise provided by law, a notice of violation may be appealed to the board of adjustment pursuant to G.S. 160D-405.
(b) Stop Work Orders. - Whenever any work or activity subject to regulation pursuant to this Chapter or other applicable local development regulation or any State law delegated to the local government for enforcement purposes in lieu of the State is undertaken in substantial violation of any State or local law, or in a manner that endangers life or property, staff may order the specific part of the work or activity that is in violation or presents such a hazard to be immediately stopped. The order shall be in writing, directed to the person doing the work or activity, and shall state the specific work or activity to be stopped, the reasons therefor, and the conditions under which the work or activity may be resumed. A copy of the order shall be delivered to the holder of the development approval and to the owner of the property involved (if that person is not the holder of the development approval) by personal delivery, electronic delivery, or first-class mail. The person or persons delivering the stop work order shall certify to the local government that the order was delivered and that certificate shall be deemed conclusive in the absence of fraud. Except as provided by G.S. 160D-1112 and G.S. 160D-1208, a stop work order may be appealed pursuant to G.S. 160D-405. No further work or activity shall take place in violation of a stop work order pending a ruling on the appeal. Violation of a stop work order shall constitute a Class 1 misdemeanor.
(c) Remedies. -
(1) Subject to the provisions of the development regulation, any development regulation adopted pursuant to authority conferred by this Chapter may be enforced by any remedy provided by G.S. 160A-175 or G.S. 153A-123. If a building or structure is erected, constructed, reconstructed, altered, repaired, converted, or maintained, or any building, structure, or land is used or developed in violation of this Chapter or of any development regulation or other regulation made under authority of this Chapter, the local government, in addition to other remedies, may institute any appropriate action or proceedings to prevent the unlawful erection, construction, reconstruction, alteration, repair, conversion, maintenance, use, or development; to restrain, correct or abate the violation; to prevent occupancy of the building, structure, or land; or to prevent any illegal act, conduct, business, or use in or about the premises.
(2) When a development regulation adopted pursuant to authority conferred by this Chapter is to be applied or enforced in any area outside the planning and development regulation jurisdiction of a city as set forth in Article 2 of this Chapter, the city and the property owner shall certify that the application or enforcement of the city development regulation is not under coercion or otherwise based on representation by the city that the city's development approval would be withheld without the application or enforcement of the city development regulation outside the jurisdiction of the city. The certification may be evidenced by a signed statement of the parties on any development approval.
(3) In case any building, structure, site, area, or object designated as a historic landmark or located within a historic district designated pursuant to this Chapter is about to be demolished whether as the result of deliberate neglect or otherwise, materially altered, remodeled, removed, or destroyed, except in compliance with the development regulation or other provisions of this Chapter, the local government, the historic preservation commission, or other party aggrieved by such action may institute any appropriate action or proceedings to prevent such unlawful demolition, destruction, material alteration, remodeling, or removal, to restrain, correct, or abate such violation, or to prevent any illegal act or conduct with respect to such building, structure, site, area, or object. Such remedies shall be in addition to any others authorized by this Chapter for violation of an ordinance. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, s. 51(a), (b), (d).)
§ 160D-405. Appeals of administrative decisions.
(a) Appeals. - Except as provided in G.S. 160D-1403.1, appeals of administrative decisions made by the staff under this Chapter shall be made to the board of adjustment unless a different board is provided or authorized otherwise by statute or an ordinance adopted pursuant to this Chapter. If this function of the board of adjustment is assigned to any other board pursuant to G.S. 160D-302(b), that board shall comply with all of the procedures and processes applicable to a board of adjustment hearing appeals. Appeal of a decision made pursuant to an erosion and sedimentation control regulation, a stormwater control regulation, or a provision of the housing code shall not be made to the board of adjustment unless required by a local government ordinance or code provision. Appeals of administrative decisions on subdivision plats shall be made as provided in G.S. 160D-1403.
(b) Standing. - Any person who has standing under G.S. 160D-1402(c) or the local government may appeal an administrative decision to the board. An appeal is taken by filing a notice of appeal with the local government clerk or a local government official designated by ordinance. The notice of appeal shall state the grounds for the appeal.
(c) Repealed by Session Laws 2020-25, s. 10, effective June 19, 2020.
(d) Time to Appeal. - The owner or other party has 30 days from receipt of the written notice of the determination within which to file an appeal. Any other person with standing to appeal has 30 days from receipt from any source of actual or constructive notice of the determination within which to file an appeal. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, notice given pursuant to G.S. 160D-403(b) by first-class mail is deemed received on the third business day following deposit of the notice for mailing with the United States Postal Service.
(e) Record of Decision. - The official who made the decision shall transmit to the board all documents and exhibits constituting the record upon which the decision appealed from is taken. The official shall also provide a copy of the record to the appellant and to the owner of the property that is the subject of the appeal if the appellant is not the owner.
(f) Stays. - An appeal of a notice of violation or other enforcement order to the board of adjustment and any subsequent appeal in accordance with G.S. 160D-1402 stays enforcement of the action appealed from and accrual of any fines assessed during the pendency of the appeal or during the pendency of any civil proceeding authorized by law or related appeal. If, however, the official who made the decision certifies to the board after notice of appeal has been filed that, because of the facts stated in an affidavit, a stay would cause imminent peril to life or property or, because the violation is transitory in nature, a stay would seriously interfere with enforcement of the development regulation, then enforcement proceedings are not stayed except by a restraining order, which may be granted by a court. If enforcement proceedings are not stayed, the appellant may file with the official a request for an expedited hearing of the appeal, and the board shall meet to hear the appeal within 15 days after the request is filed.
Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, appeals of decisions granting a development approval or otherwise affirming that a proposed use of property is consistent with the development regulation does not stay the further review of an application for development approvals to use the property; in these situations, the appellant or local government may request and the board may grant a stay of a final decision of development approval applications, including building permits affected by the issue being appealed.
(g) Alternative Dispute Resolution. - The parties to an appeal that has been made under this section may agree to mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution. The development regulation may set standards and procedures to facilitate and manage voluntary alternative dispute resolution.
(h) No Estoppel. - G.S. 160D-1403.2, limiting a local government's use of the defense of estoppel, applies to proceedings under this section. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, ss. 10, 50(b), 51(a), (b), (d); 2022-62, s. 59(a).)
§ 160D-406. Quasi-judicial procedure.
(a) Process Required. - Boards shall follow quasi-judicial procedures in determining appeals of administrative decisions, special use permits, certificates of appropriateness, variances, or any other quasi-judicial decision.
(b) Notice of Hearing. - Notice of evidentiary hearings conducted pursuant to this Chapter shall be mailed to the person or entity whose appeal, application, or request is the subject of the hearing; to the owner of the property that is the subject of the hearing if the owner did not initiate the hearing; to the owners of all parcels of land abutting the parcel of land that is the subject of the hearing; and to any other persons entitled to receive notice as provided by the local development regulation. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the local government may rely on the county tax listing to determine owners of property entitled to mailed notice. The notice must be deposited in the mail at least 10 days, but not more than 25 days, prior to the date of the hearing. Within that same time period, the local government shall also prominently post a notice of the hearing on the site that is the subject of the hearing or on an adjacent street or highway right-of-way. The board may continue an evidentiary hearing that has been convened without further advertisement. If an evidentiary hearing is set for a given date and a quorum of the board is not then present, the hearing shall be continued until the next regular board meeting without further advertisement.
(c) Administrative Materials. - The administrator or staff to the board shall transmit to the board all applications, reports, and written materials relevant to the matter being considered. The administrative materials may be distributed to the members of the board prior to the hearing if at the same time they are distributed to the board a copy is also provided to the appellant or applicant and to the landowner if that person is not the appellant or applicant. The administrative materials shall become a part of the hearing record. The administrative materials may be provided in written or electronic form. Objections to inclusion or exclusion of administrative materials may be made before or during the hearing. Rulings on unresolved objections shall be made by the board at the hearing.
(d) Presentation of Evidence. - The applicant, the local government, and any person who would have standing to appeal the decision under G.S. 160D-1402(c) shall have the right to participate as a party at the evidentiary hearing. Other witnesses may present competent, material, and substantial evidence that is not repetitive as allowed by the board.
Objections regarding jurisdictional and evidentiary issues, including, but not limited to, the timeliness of an appeal or the standing of a party, may be made to the board. The board chair shall rule on any objections, and the chair's rulings may be appealed to the full board. These rulings are also subject to judicial review pursuant to G.S. 160D-1402. Objections based on jurisdictional issues may be raised for the first time on judicial review.
(e) Appearance of Official New Issues. - The official who made the decision or the person currently occupying that position, if the decision maker is no longer employed by the local government, shall be present at the evidentiary hearing as a witness. The appellant shall not be limited at the hearing to matters stated in a notice of appeal. If any party or the local government would be unduly prejudiced by the presentation of matters not presented in the notice of appeal, the board shall continue the hearing.
(f) Oaths. - The chair of the board or any member acting as chair and the clerk to the board are authorized to administer oaths to witnesses in any matter coming before the board. Any person who, while under oath during a proceeding before the board determining a quasi-judicial matter, willfully swears falsely is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
(g) Subpoenas. - The board making a quasi-judicial decision under this Chapter through the chair or, in the chair's absence, anyone acting as chair may subpoena witnesses and compel the production of evidence. To request issuance of a subpoena, the applicant, the local government, and any person with standing under G.S. 160D-1402(c) may make a written request to the chair explaining why it is necessary for certain witnesses or evidence to be compelled. The chair shall issue requested subpoenas he or she determines to be relevant, reasonable in nature and scope, and not oppressive. The chair shall rule on any motion to quash or modify a subpoena. Decisions regarding subpoenas made by the chair may be immediately appealed to the full board. If a person fails or refuses to obey a subpoena issued pursuant to this subsection, the board or the party seeking the subpoena may apply to the General Court of Justice for an order requiring that its subpoena be obeyed, and the court shall have jurisdiction to issue these orders after notice to all proper parties.
(h) Appeals in Nature of Certiorari. - When hearing an appeal pursuant to G.S. 160D-947(e) or any other appeal in the nature of certiorari, the hearing shall be based on the record below, and the scope of review shall be as provided in G.S. 160D-1402(j).
(i) Voting. - The concurring vote of four-fifths of the board shall be necessary to grant a variance. A majority of the members shall be required to decide any other quasi-judicial matter or to determine an appeal made in the nature of certiorari. For the purposes of this subsection, vacant positions on the board and members who are disqualified from voting on a quasi-judicial matter under G.S. 160D-109(d) shall not be considered members of the board for calculation of the requisite majority if there are no qualified alternates available to take the place of such members.
(j) Decisions. - The board shall determine contested facts and make its decision within a reasonable time. When hearing an appeal, the board may reverse or affirm, wholly or partly, or may modify the decision appealed from and shall make any order, requirement, decision, or determination that ought to be made. The board shall have all the powers of the official who made the decision. Every quasi-judicial decision shall be based upon competent, material, and substantial evidence in the record. Each quasi-judicial decision shall be reduced to writing, reflect the board's determination of contested facts and their application to the applicable standards, and be approved by the board and signed by the chair or other duly authorized member of the board. A quasi-judicial decision is effective upon filing the written decision with the clerk to the board or such other office or official as the development regulation specifies. The decision of the board shall be delivered within a reasonable time by personal delivery, electronic mail, or first-class mail to the applicant, landowner, and any person who has submitted a written request for a copy prior to the date the decision becomes effective. The person required to provide notice shall certify to the local government that proper notice has been made, and the certificate shall be deemed conclusive in the absence of fraud.
(k) Judicial Review. - Every quasi-judicial decision shall be subject to review by the superior court by proceedings in the nature of certiorari pursuant to G.S. 160D-1402. Appeals shall be filed within the times specified in G.S. 160D-1405(d). The governing board of the local government that is a party to the judicial review of the quasi-judicial decision shall have the authority to settle the litigation, subject to Article 33C of Chapter 143 of the General Statutes. (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, s. 51(a), (b), (d); 2021-168, s. 3(a).)