Published: Nov 16, 2012 08:56 PM
Modified: Nov 16, 2012 08:57 PM
HILLSBOROUGH - Attorneys for Orange County and the towns will change the rules that help alleviate school overcrowding.
The changes to the Schools Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance will not affect a separate policy that levies impact fees on developers who build new homes, County Attorney John Roberts said. Roberts will meet in early December with attorneys for Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and with the commissioners and town boards, to decide what changes to make, he said.
The N.C. Supreme Court ruled in August that counties do not have the authority to enforce adequate public facilities ordinances. The rules limit new residential development based on the number of students for which local schools have space.
The court’s 5-2 decision in the Cabarrus County lawsuit agreed with builders that the county lacked the authority to approve new developments based on whether the developer paid a fee to subsidize new school construction.
While the justices said they recognize local attempts to meet school building needs, “we believe the General Assembly is best suited to address the complex issues involving population growth and its impact on public education throughout the State,” the ruling said.
“We stress that absent specific authority from the General Assembly, APFOs that effectively require developers to pay an adequate public facilities fee to obtain development approval are invalid as a matter of law,” it said.
The N.C. Court of appeals struck down similar ordinances in Durham County in 2006, Union County in 2009, and Cary last year. Durham and Cary had to repay millions in fees.
Orange County’s situation is different, because it and Chatham County got permission from the state legislature in 1987 to collect impact fees on residential development. The county’s SAPFO rules also are separate from its impact fees, Roberts said.
He expects the group to amend its memorandum of understanding, which governs how the SAPFO rules are implemented, and add other minor provisions, he said.