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NC Bill Targets Design Codes

Thursday, April 30, 2015

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RALEIGH, NC—Lawmakers in North Carolina are considering a bill that would prevent cities and towns from regulating home designs.

The state Senate approved Senate Bill 25 on Monday (April 27). An identical version of the bill, House Bill 36, is awaiting review by the House Committee on Local Government.

The measure comes in response to some cities placing restrictions on home aesthetics, such as the type of roofing, windows and paint colors, according to local news reports.

© / YinYang

The measure comes in response to some cities placing restrictions on home aesthetics, such as types of windows and paint colors, according to local news reports.

“They’re putting these requirements on developers, but they are not willing to share in the financial risk involved in adding a house and possibly pricing it out of the market,” the bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Rick Gunn (R), said in a statement provided to a local Time Warner Cable News affiliate.

“This should be a market-based decision for builders and developers,” he said.

Bill Details

Under the proposed law, zoning and development regulation ordinances relating to building design elements would not apply to one- or two-family dwellings.

Exceptions would be made for homes in local, state or federal historical districts or those designated as landmarks.

Official Photo
Official Photo

The bill is sponsored by North Carolina State Sen. Rick Gunn.

Design elements include exterior paint colors and cladding materials, according to the draft bill.

Opponents Want Compromise

Opponents of the bill say the change would harm homeowners who rely on the guidelines to prevent substandard new construction from popping up in their established neighborhoods, according to local news reports.

“[Property owners] want to maintain that character of their home,” N.C. League of Municipalities’ lobbyist Rose Vaughn Williams told the  

The League is requesting that the legislation include a compromise provision that would limit cities from mandating design in new neighborhoods, but would maintain some regulations governing construction in established neighborhoods, according to the report.

Architect’s ‘Dream Home’ Debate

The legislation comes a year after a North Carolina architect sparked a national debate over new construction in historic neighborhoods.

Louis Cherry had nearly completed his 2,100-square-foot modern house in Raleigh’s Historic Oakwood District, when the city’s Board of Adjustment revoked construction permits and a previously issued “certificate of appropriateness.” The city's Historic Development Commission had issued that certificate.

The board acted in response to a complaint from a neighbor, who said the modern house was inappropriate for the historic neighborhood, reports said.

Louis Cherry Home

This two-story, contemporary home in Raleigh was at the center of a national debate over new construction in historic neighborhoods.

In September 2014, a Superior Court judge ruled that the local board was wrong to have halted the construction.

'Uniformity is Rarely Desirable'

In commenting on the proposed legislation, Cherry said that such controls excluded both good and bad designs.

“Prescriptive design and style guidelines assure mediocrity and prevent architecture and creativity,” he told D+D News.

“I believe that there are legitimate restrictive covenants with regard to size, height, set backs, etc., but not to style. I have encountered many developments where my client could not build because their taste in architecture was not allowed within the covenants. I support the rights of a property owner to build to their own preferences.

“Uniformity is rarely desirable and precludes the necessary diversity for a vibrant and authentic community within a neighborhood,” he said.


Tagged categories: Aesthetics; Architecture; Building codes; Color + Design; Design; Developers; Home builders; North America

Comment from Anita Brack, (4/30/2015, 5:10 PM)

About time this was brought up. I live in Raleigh in a neighborhood that has traditional houses build in the 60s to my house, a very modern house. It makes the neighborhood very interesting and it sure has not hurt the selling of any homes. As a matter of fact house in my subdivision sell within a week at asking price.

Comment from Barry Lamm, (5/4/2015, 10:32 AM)

I have often said that if Oak Park, Illinois had design guidelines for architecture in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Frank Lloyd Wright would never have been able to get his designs built there. Now Oak Park hosts thousands of visitors every year just to visit Wright's houses and that pumps lots of tourist money into Oak Park. So, good design matters and it doesn't hurt to have diversity in house designs in neighborhoods as long as quality of design and construction are in place.

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