Mayor on Duty

I’m always on alert while the North Carolina legislature is in session, especially in April when new bills are being proposed. There is one proposed bill, SB 349/HB401-Increase Housing Opportunities, that really causes me concern. It sounds so good, who wouldn’t want more housing opportunities amid the current state and national housing crisis?

But, upon further review, I see the bill as another effort by the legislature to preempt local government. 

The proposed legislation would overturn R1 and other single-family zoning in all the municipalities of North Carolina. Under this law, local R1 zoning would have to permit duplexes, triplexes, quadriplexes, and town homes. 

Accessory dwelling units would also be permitted. Communities could not have ordinances that only permitted single-family dwellings on residential  parcels. Furthermore, with the addition of units, there could be no parking limits for added units, nor could a town set limits on future density levels.

If that were not enough, there are barriers in the proposed legislation to curtail neighborhood legal disputes involving developments. In other words, if a developer decided to put multiple dwellings on a 1-acre lot and could meet soil and water requirements, neighbors in a subdivision would have little or no legal recourse. For that matter, municipalities would be in the same situation.

The North Carolina League of Municipalities has come out against SB 349/HB401. The bill does have bipartisan sponsors, Senators Edwards, Newton, and Fitch. 

The League of Municipalities position is that a sweeping one size fits all bill does not address the unique situations of individual communities. There is also the concern about yet another preemptive piece of legislation that erodes a town’s ability to respond to residents’ needs and desires.

Ironically, in some quarters this bill is being touted as a way to address affordable, workforce housing. In fact, the bill has no provisions for workforce housing. A developer could build in residential zones extremely expensive homes near the business district of Highlands, even VRBO them at premium rates, under this legislation.

Anyone who has concerns about this pending legislation should contact our senator and state representative. Contact Senator Kevin Corbin at, and Representative Carl Gillespie at

On another topic, I have received complaints about folks continuing to use nonconforming trash cans that are not bear resistant nor toters. The town does enforce the bear-resistant toter ordinance. 

Nevertheless, a person can have a regular trash can at their residence. I have several around and in my pottery studio and outdoor fireplace, but I don’t put household, kitchen garbage in them.

The ordinance prohibits residents from placing household garbage in these regular trash cans and placing them on the street curb for garbage pickup. Our sanitation crews report violations to our police officer who oversees code enforcement.

If a resident sees a violation, feel free to call it into the police department at 828.526.9341.

The code enforcement officer will be dispatched to investigate the complaint. The bears are stirring now that it is spring time, so it is important that we all secure our household garbage. 

Speaking of trash, I hope to see everyone at the Highlands Plateau Pickup on Saturday. Call the Highlands Chamber of Commerce at 828.526.2112 to sign up. Volunteers will gather at Founders Park at 8:30 a.m. for instructions and assignments.

  • Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor

Leave a Reply