An update from our workshop on Monday:
We had a very productive conversation around our traffic impact ordinance with the Planning Board, NCDOT, Kimley Horn, and Rep. John Torbett. We decided to explore some adjustments to our ordinance (specifically around in-lieu payments) in order to ensure that we are quantifying traffic mitigation needs consistently from project to project.
In situations where a developer is required (by our ordinance) to provide traffic mitigation measures but is unable to do so (most commonly because the developer doesn’t own the land where the improvements need to be made), our ordinance allows the developer to make a payment to the city in-lieu of providing the required mitigation. However, our ordinance does not currently provide very clear guidance on how that payment should be calculated. One solution we talked through was creating a formula that accounts for all the costs associated with providing the improvement – everything from land acquisition to attorney fees to a growth rate (to account for inflation). The Planning Board will be taking a deeper dive into this over the next few weeks/months.
We also discussed ongoing legal threats to the TIA process in general. In particular, there is a case in Mooresville (currently on appeal) that was decided against the town and centers around the ability to require off-site traffic mitigation. While the NC statutes are fairly clear on our ability to require on-site improvements (i.e. on the land that the developer actually owns), it is less clear on our ability to require off-site improvements (as when a large development impacts not only the immediate roads around the development, but also intersections down the street, etc.).
So, city staff and legal counsel will be working with our legislative delegation to see if there is a way to provide some additional clarification in the law so that this does not become an issue for us down the road. Owing to our unique traffic circumstances (especially on the peninsula), I suggested that we look at obtaining a “Local Act” that would apply just to Belmont. Because they do not affect the whole state, Local Acts/Bills don’t require the governor’s signature to become law and the general custom of the General Assembly is to allow these bills to become law so long as the entire relevant legislative delegation is on board. I think given the situation on South Point Road, we need to be able to continue using the TIA to manage our growth in a sustainable manner. So, I am hopeful that we will be able to work out a solution with our representatives in Raleigh.