March 2015 Updates
· Four North Carolina Republican Representatives introduced a bill this month that would allow renewables developers to bypass utilities and sell power directly to customers. HB 245, or the Energy Freedom Act, would legalize the third party ownership (TPO) financing that has driven a rooftop solar boom where it is permitted. A coalition of businesses supports the proposed legislation. The bill is expected to be opposed by Duke Energy Carolinas, Duke Energy Progress, and Dominion North Carolina Power, the state’s dominant utilities, although a spokesperson said Duke Energy could support TPO in the context of broader energy legislation, like it did in South Carolina.
· After North Carolina eliminated many tax credit programs in 2013, some legislators want to restore some of the more popular credits. Here's what's on the table this session:
o Historic preservation: Heavily supported by Gov. Pat McCrory and mayors' groups, this program expired on Dec. 31 and rewards property owners who fix up historic buildings. McCrory's effort to restore the program last year fell short, but he included $12.2 million in his budget proposal this week for a scaled-back program that would offer smaller credits. The House Finance Committee on 3/24/15 approved plans to restore a tax credit for historic preservation projects, despite a few objections from Republicans.
o Jet fuel: This provision caps sales taxes on jet fuel at $2.5 million per year. Only one airline buys enough fuel to hit that cap and avoid further taxation: American Airlines, which has a hub at the Charlotte airport. The credit is estimated to cost the state $10 million a year and is set to expire at the end of 2015. A provision in the House economic development bill would extend the program, and funding is in McCrory's budget.
o Motorsports: The motorsports industry, including NASCAR, also receives a credit on fuel tax. McCrory's budget includes $1.2 million to keep the credit from expiring.
o Data centers: The House economic development bill also includes an expansion of electricity sales tax credits for technology data centers. House Republicans want to apply the existing break to centers housing equipment for multiple companies. To qualify, centers would need to involve at least $75 million in private investment.
o Renewable energy: Tax credits for renewable energy projects are set to expire at the end of the year. Owners of solar farms and other renewable energy facilities receive a tax credit equal to 35 percent of the project's cost. An industry report says the credit has paid out $182.6 million from 2007 to 2014. McCrory's budget proposal includes $7 million to extend the program, but it would no longer apply to solar projects. That industry has grown substantially, and McCrory's budget director says it doesn't need the boost anymore.
o Research and development: This credit is slated to cost $58 million in McCrory's budget proposal. Companies’ spending money on research and development can receive tax credits for those expenses, and the credit is largest when the business paid a North Carolina research university for the work.
o Democrats' plan: House Democrats have filed a 61-page economic development bill that restores numerous credits they say "were proven to work in the past." House Bill 89 reinstates credits for historic preservation projects, film productions, professional motorsports teams and cigarette exports, among others.
- A group opposed to the planned Chatham Park development wants the Chatham County Board of Commissioners to insert itself into the planning process for the 7,000-acre project.
- Information on the Durham-Orange Light Rail project is available at Triangle Transit’s “Our Transit Future” website, nando.com/dolr.
- A survey on the “five key questions” currently before planners, and a form for submitting general comments, is available at nando.com/12f.
- Orange County Solid Waste Director Gayle Wilson presented two options: a $103 flat fee charged countywide or a two-part fee that charges $94 a year to urban owners of developed property and apartment dwellers, and $118 a year to rural property owners and residents.
- Apex officials voted 3-2 to rezone 165 acres, making way for a mixed-use development known as Sweetwater that residents and officials say could drastically alter western Apex. The town has approved mixed-use developments before, but Sweetwater is especially large in size and ambition.
- LAND DEVELOPMENT ORDINANCE AMENDMENTS - Round 31- Specific chapters and sections proposed for amendment are listed and other related items, chapters and sections may also be considered for amendment. Substantial changes to the amendments proposed may result from the hearing process.
- Shortbread property owners Larry Short and Roy and Bill Piscitello are looking east to build a new, 10-story apartment building with ground-floor retail and offices at 322 W. Rosemary St. A concept plan submitted to the town says the project would replace the site’s current occupants – Breadman’s Restaurant, which the Piscitellos operate, and Amity Apartments. A concept plan is an unofficial look at a project so the developer can get feedback. The plan for Amity Station shows 140 to 175 apartments in a 10-story building, with 1,200 to 1,500 square feet of retail and office space on the ground floor
- A one-cent rise in the property-tax rate could be part of the city’s 2015-16 budget, if the fire and police departments show “data and strategy” to support adding firefighters and officers. A possible tax increase to pay for the new personnel is among the City Council’s guidelines for staff to follow in drafting a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Otherwise the guidelines hold the line on the current property-tax rate of 59.12 cents per $100 valuation. Adding a penny would raise the tax on a $250,000 house and lot by $35. Formal adoption of the guidelines (nando.com/guide) is scheduled for the April 6 council meeting.
- For Fiscal Year 2016, Town Manager Eric Peterson is recommending no change in property tax or water rates. An 8.8 percent increase in sewer rates is included, which is intended to be the last of a multi-year plan of raised sewer rates since FY12 to pay for the Wastewater Treatment Plant’s completed Phase 1 expansion and the projected loss of Efland-Cheeks sewer customers in the upcoming fiscal year. The draft budget also recommends continuing to lower the monthly minimum water usage for which Hillsborough charges, providing some savings to low-volume users.
- Three Wake County senators filed a bill March 19 that would allow Morrisville to charge townhouse and apartment developers a fee to help the town acquire open space for parks and recreational uses. This bill addresses one of four issues the Morrisville Town Council identified as priorities during the current legislative session.
- New pipeline will curb wastewater overflow problem in Crabtree basin. At 54 inches in diameter, the 21,000-foot line will run along Crabtree Creek from just outside the Beltline near Glenwood Avenue to just east of Capital Boulevard a bit south of the Beltline. Construction of the $30 million to $35 million pipeline is slated to kick off this spring and last until 2018, bringing with it rolling road and greenway closures. The project has a dedicated website (crabtreepipeline.com), phone number, email and Twitter hashtag. All residents within 1,500 feet of the project are expected to receive letters in the coming weeks with information about it.
- Water and Sewer Rate Hikes? - The Raleigh City Council now is considering the first of those hikes, which also will affect Garner and Rolesville. Scheduled for July, the initial increase would add about 7 percent to a typical Raleigh residential bill, or about $3 on the average $49 monthly charge.
- The Raleigh City Council today approved a contract with Kimley Horn, Inc. for an amount not to exceed $630,000 to conduct a comprehensive transportation and land use planning study for the southeastern portion of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s planning area. The region includes southeastern Wake County and western Johnston County. The study will also require an interlocal agreement with the North Carolina Department of Transportation for funding and project management purposes.
- Town Commissioners recently talked town project priorities and cited Wendell Park. Town leaders will have a further discussion and residents may soon be asked to vote on proposal. Other priorities include: installing fiber optic cable throughout the downtown and creating a transportation improvement plan.
- Major setback in UDO Update. The town broke ties with consulting group.