North Carolina’s Division of Water Quality also requires developers and municipalities to reduce impervious surfaces. The purpose is to curtail nitrogen runoff into local watersheds, as dictated by stormwater management plans. However, several of the proposed LDC changes would have significantly increased impervious surfaces in Rocky Mount.
In addition, developers would have had to increase the size of their lots to meet minimum lot size requirements and satisfy proposed LDC changes. That would have reduced the number of usable lots per tract — as well as profits. “Where you could get 50 lots out of a tract under current codes, you would get just 45 or less lots under the proposed rewritten codes,” Davis said.
Deanhardt & Davis owns a 60-acre tract consisting of 115 lots that the company hadn’t planned to develop for another two years. The project went through the city’s zoning and plan review process and received approval. Land development estimates were based on the existing LDCs. Under the proposed code rewrites, however, the project’s profitability would have been greatly impacted.
The rewritten LDCs were slated to go into effect last December.
The Solution: Davis Forms Coalition to Defeat Proposed LDCs
Davis discussed the dilemma with local Realtor® Ken Sikes and other industry professionals and concluded that they needed to form a coalition before approaching city officials. Sikes convinced Jeff Osborne, president of the Rocky Mount Area Association of Realtors®, to join. Davis discussed the coalition with 2003 Rocky Mount Home Builders Association president Tim Freeman, who saw the need for a coalition, as well. Osborne and Freeman each appointed three members to the coalition from their respective organizations.
Davis had been involved with similar groups in the past and knew how a coalition should be structured. He also knew that builders and Realtors® in Charlotte, NC, facing some of the same issues, had formed the Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition (REBIC) to combat them.
Davis contacted REBIC Executive Vice President Mark Cramer for help. He also contacted Tim Minton, director of political affairs for the North Carolina Home Builders Association, who helped put together a strategic plan for Davis and his peers who formed the group, the Building Industry and Real Estate Coalition (BIREC).
Each member contributed seed money. They also received contributions from the Rocky Mount Realtors® and the local home builders association. BIREC hired an attorney who helped the group establish 501(c)(3) non-profit status.
BIREC’s first task was to inform the Rocky Mount Planning Board that it wanted to be involved in the LDC discussions. The planning board’s response was lukewarm at first. Then Davis brought a BIREC prepared statement to a city council meeting.
“It was hot with facts,” he said. Davis had collected information about all the construction permits Rocky Mount had issued in the past four years and then given that information to David Crowe, NAHB’s senior staff vice president of federal regulatory and housing policy.
“David crunched the numbers and gave us some data to put in the statement that explained the income, tax revenue and jobs the construction industry had contributed to Rocky Mount’s economy,” Davis recalled. BIREC’s statement also offered soundly researched alternatives to the problematic LDC rewrites.
As he read the document to meeting attendees, Davis stressed repeatedly that the coalition wanted to work with the planning board and the city, not against them. He asked that BIREC be consulted on all future planning and growth issues.
The Payoff: Rocky Mount Removed the Adverse Stipulations
After attending more than 30 planning board and city council meetings on the LDC, BIREC convinced the City of Rocky Mount to remove the sidewalk, street widening and landscaping stipulations, among others, from the rewritten LDCs. Land development costs did not increase and builders did not have to pass higher costs on to home buyers. What’s more, BIREC is a force involved in all the city’s development and real estate related issues.
“They took notice of us,” Davis said. “Now they consult us first when they have planning issues. It’s a win-win for us, the city and especially the general public.”
What You Can Do
“Small builders generally are not positioned to work with municipalities,” Davis observed, “but if a community or industry, in our case, is not united in its efforts, it will lose.”
He offers the following advice for NAHB members facing local issues that could threaten their businesses:
- Consult your local HBA membership; do you have the expertise and contacts to organize a coalition? If so, tap into that resource.
- Go to your state HBA. Typically its regulatory and legislative department will help you get established. In turn, your local grassroots efforts help the state HBA when it has to deal with similar issues on a statewide level.
- Check out the land development, community planning, and business management publications available at BuilderBooks.com.
- In addition, NAHB has several related resources to combat this type of problem:
- Don’t give up. “The only way to survive is to work with your local government and show them how big a gorilla you, as an industry, really are,” says Davis.
Have you or someone you know developed a smart solution to help the industry? If so, contact Jill Tunick at 800-368-5242 x8461 so we can share your solution.
The NAHB University of Housing Offers Courses on Business Management
The NAHB University of Housing offers a course on business management designed to help builders improve their business and profitability. For a list of current offerings, click here. Search keywords: “Introduction to Business Management.”
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