Legal and Business Reasons Why Downtown Development Programs Should Involve Secured Loans—Not Grants

Dr. Blaine Beeper is a retired hospital administrator who was recently elected to council [more…]

The Tortoise, the Hare, and Demolition in Historic Districts

A few blocks from downtown in the town’s historic district sit two houses built [more…]

Conveyance of Local Government Property for Affordable Housing

A developer of affordable housing for low and moderate income persons has approached the [more…]

Notice and Hearing Requirements for Economic Development Appropriations

As discussed in a prior post, Session Law 2015-277 requires North Carolina local governments [more…]

The Community and Economic Development program at the School of Government provides public officials with training, research, and assistance that support local efforts to create jobs and wealth, expand the tax base, and maintain vibrant communities. We deploy the resources of the University to support the development goals of communities in North Carolina.

Recent Blog Posts |

  • Tick Tock! The Clock Is Now Running for Zoning Enforcement

    Jimmy lives on a large lot in a residential area of town.  Back in January 2013, he started a small auto repair shop in the garage behind his house.  You can hardly see the shop from the road because of the house and topography, but Jimmy did post a small sign near his mailbox to direct folks around to “Jimmy’s Auto Repair.” The town’s zoning enforcement officer saw the sign in September 2013.  The zoning ordinance prohibits auto repair in residential districts, so the officer sent a letter to seek compliance. Because of limited staff, many other zoning matters, and the lack of complaints about Jimmy’s operation, the zoning officer has not pursued enforcement any further.  This year a new neighbor moved in next door, saw and heard the auto repair shop, and called the town to complain.  Can the town now enforce the zoning ordinance against Jimmy’s commercial business in this residential area?  The law on this is changing.

    A new law sets specific statutes of limitation for land use enforcement litigation.  This blog explores the new limitations and practical considerations for moving forward.  The new law may spark local governments to initiate additional zoning enforcement actions over the next year (in anticipation of the law’s 2018 effective date) and to take a more proactive stance on zoning enforcement generally.

    Read more »

  • Where and How? – The TRF Model for Community Investment

    Of the many challenges in community revitalization, determining how to allocate limited funds is often at the top of the list. Should the dollars be split evenly by focusing on the very worst neighborhoods? Or should there be a form of targeting or some sort of custom-tailored solution? If the latter, how is the solution designed?

    In 2001, the Reinvestment Fund designed a market value analysis system to help this investment decision making process. The Reinvestment Fund (TRF) is a Philadelphia based community development financial institution that brings together individual investors, banks, government officials, private foundations and faith-based and community organizations to invest in communities.

    The market value analysis or MVA is a data-based tool designed by TRF to inform community revitalization and manage neighborhood change. Using spatial and statistical analysis, it identifies and characterizes local conditions throughout a specific locality and creates a typology or index of residential real estate markets. In Philadelphia for example, the MVA categorizes block groups as “regional choice/high value”, “steady”, “transitional”, or “distressed”. Read more »

  • Leveraging Revenues from New Development: Critical Infrastructure Assessment Authority in 2017

    Critical infrastructure assessments are charges levied against property (usually new development) to reimburse a local government for the costs incurred for certain public infrastructure projects that directly benefit the property. In other states this tool offers an alternative to imposing impact fees on new development (that is often preferred by developers) to compensate the local government for the impact of that new development. In North Carolina, local governments do not have authority under general law to impose impact fees (with the limited exception of system development fees for water and sewer infrastructure). Nonetheless, critical infrastructure assessments are among the many tools that counties and municipalities in this state have to fund public infrastructure projects that benefit private development. Like project development financing authority (aka tax increment financing or TIF), the critical infrastructure assessment authority allows a local government to leverage new growth to pay for public infrastructure improvements that are necessitated by and/or benefit the new growth. And it does so without putting all the financial risk on the developer and without directly affecting the local unit’s general fund. For these reasons, it is a potentially attractive tool to both local government officials and developers. That said, of all the methods available to local governments to fund public capital outlay, a critical infrastructure assessment is among the most complex and most costly. Because of that, it is not be the right tool for every circumstance.

    I have blogged about the general contours of a local government’s critical infrastructure assessment authority here, and here. During the past few legislative sessions, the General Assembly has both extended the sunset date (now to July 1, 2020), and made a few (mainly clarifying) amendments to the law. This post reviews the general structure of, and process for levying, these assessments, and for funding and undertaking the underlying project(s), as the law has been amended in recent years. Read more »

  • In Vino, Veritable Impact on Tourism

    Vines at Linville Falls Winery; Source: High Country Press

    As of now, the fires that burned in Northern California’s wine region earlier this month are nearly 100% contained. It has been a dramatic, devastating scene in perhaps the most iconic region for grape-growing and wine-drinking outside of Tuscany or Bordeaux, and the impacts are, and will continue to be, far-reaching. In the wake of the fires lie flattened businesses, torched earth, and the shaken but resurging livelihoods of hundreds of wine growers and vineyard owners. Read more »

  • Equity with a Twist: The Low Income Investment Fund’s Social Capital Tool

    The Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF) is a community development financial institution (CDFI) dedicated to providing innovative capital solutions that create a bridge between private capital markets and low income neighborhoods. The organization strives to create pathways for investors in projects that have high social value, but may not have access to traditional banking services.

    In its latest venture to connect low income communities to private capital, LIIF, in partnership with JPMorgan Chase & Co., created Equity with a Twist (EQT) in February 2016. EQT is a social capital product that provides flexible, low-cost financing to support and incentivize solutions to poverty in low income neighborhoods. It is advertised as providing high social return and modest financial return to its investors, and projects are geared towards mixed-income housing to provide families with affordable homes, K-12 education, and early childhood education. Read more »

  • What @sog_ced is reading online: October 2017

    The following are articles and reports on the web that the Community and Economic Development Program at the UNC School of Government shared through social media over the past month. Follow us on twitter or facebook to receive regular updates.

    Items of interest related to CED in North Carolina:

    Charlotte, like other North Carolina cities, is using city-owned property to develop affordable housing: http://bit.ly/2hMAOja 

    WRAL’s analysis of One North Carolina Fund and JDIG business recruitment economic development incentives. http://bit.ly/2yzA05i 

    Other CED items:

    New working paper provides a comprehensive review of inclusionary housing programs and policies – 1,379 total – across the US aimed at creating more affordable housing: http://bit.ly/2hLoLTa

    Do larger cities adapt better than small metros to economic disruption from automation and trade? http://nyti.ms/2g0Zct8 

    NY Times article highlights creative adaptive reuse projects in northeast US, including a converted prison: http://nyti.ms/2xyo7LD

    Low-income Americans aren’t moving to high-opportunity areas as often as in the past. Are housing costs one reason? http://theatln.tc/2iePC6N

    Read more »

  • Multiplex in Morganton: The Mimosa Theatre

    At the corner of Union and Green in Morganton’s historic downtown sits the Marquee Cinemas Mimosa 7 multiplex movie theater. You would be hard-pressed to find a 7-screen first-run downtown movie theater in this day and age in a North Carolina town with a population of about 16,000. You would also be hard-pressed to find a location more distinctly “Downtown Morganton” than the Mimosa. A historic theater combined with new construction, the Mimosa is right around the corner from the Historic Burke County Courthouse, down the street from the Burke County Register of Deeds and a stone’s throw away from The Morganton Main Street Department, a community and economic development organization that was instrumental to the theater’s survival.

    Movie theaters are some of the most unique and iconic historic buildings in city downtowns. North Carolina is home to many such historic movie theaters, and the CED has featured some of these examples and the challenges inherent in redeveloping and reusing historic theaters in past posts (Don Gibson Theater, Redeveloping Historic Downtown Theaters, The Challenges of Movie Theater Redevelopment). The Mimosa Theater in Morganton was no exception with respect to design and history – featuring a vintage Art Deco exterior and interior seating capacity for 600, it initially began operating as a movie theater in the 1940s, with Carmike Cinemas serving as its final operator prior to closing its doors in the late-90s. Read more »

  • Catawba County’s Innovative Water Service Partnership Model

    It seems like almost everyone, including regulators and utility organizations, recognize the benefits and need for expanded partnerships and collaboration in the water and wastewater sector. Small towns are finding it difficult to meet their growing infrastructure and regulatory needs and are talking with each other and their larger neighbors about different regional service models. Partnerships are not limited to small systems; the cost of new water and wastewater supply is so great, that even large, financially healthy systems are increasingly working together to share costs and partner on  large facilities. Most of these partnerships involve two or more utilities working together, but in at least one North Carolina county, one of the key partners in many of the region’s recent water partnerships is a local government (Catawba County) that is not a direct utility service provider.  For more than 20 years, Catawba County has assisted many of the municipalities in the County install Read more »

  • How Asheville Revitalized its Downtown: Part I

    Asheville, North Carolina – “New Age Mecca,” “San Francisco of the East,” “Land of the Sky,” “New Freak Capital,” and “America’s Happiest City.” These are just some of the nicknames that Asheville enjoys, due to its more recent prominence in the social, economic, and political domains of North Carolina and larger southeast region. It is difficult to ignore this meteoric rise to fame, particularly for those who enjoy majestic mountain views, craft beer, vegetarian eats, and homegrown arts and crafts. But just what factors explain this downtown renaissance and revitalization Asheville is current experiencing? Who shapes downtown Asheville, and what can we learn about urban governance and downtown revitalization from their success? This blog post will explore the former question, and a subsequent blog post will examine the latter.

    Elizabeth Strom and Robert Kerstein explore Asheville’s revitalization in the 2017 edition of Urban Affairs Review. In their article, titled “The Homegrown Downtown: Redevelopment in Asheville, North Carolina,” Strom and Kerstein attempt to pinpoint just what exactly went right in the “successful transformation of Asheville’s downtown from desolate to vibrant.” With emphasis placed on the post-1980 period, this article illustrates how successful redevelopment coalitions have shaped the downtown, and how these “social-entrepreneurial” coalitions could be replicated in downtowns similarly rooted in an architecturally-significant historic built environment and an economy reliant on independent business. Strom and Kerstein argue that Asheville’s “social-entrepreneurial” activity in the business, creative, and philanthropic sectors offers insights into the larger concepts of downtown revitalization, urban governance, and city development policy. Read more »

  • Lessons for CED from Europe: Inclusive Communities and a New City-Run Food Pantry

    The photo was eerily familiar to anyone interested in CED.  The headline from the New York Times article on September 20, just days before the German national election, read, “Merkel Says Germans ‘Never Had It Better.’ But Many Feel Left Behind.”  The accompanying photo by Gordon Welters, shown here, features Read more »

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