While all of us are still firmly entrenched within the early stages of the global response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, I’m already thinking about “what’s next”.  The land use world must roll on, after all, but it must do so differently and appropriately.  To that end, these next few posts will focus on how the land use scape in North Carolina will look as we “open back up”, in whatever way, shape, or form.  We begin with the extension in duration of development permits and statutory vested rights.

Development approvals and statutory vested rights have time limits.  If the permitted work is not performed, the permit expires and the applicant must proceed anew for that same permit.  Likewise, if necessary permits are not yet obtained, and the statutory vested right expires, then the project is subject to existing laws.  Well, that’s difficult when the credit markets freeze, for example.  Remember the Development Permit Extension Act of 2009?

It turns out development work is also difficult during a global pandemic.  In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and the accordant declaration of emergency in North Carolina, our legislature is accommodating the likely “pauses” in the development cycle.  Specifically, thanks to S.L. 2020-3 (Section 4.40), “For any development approval that is current and valid at any point during the period beginning March 10, 2020, and ending April 28, 2020, the expiration date of the period of the development approval and any associated vested right under G.S. 153A-344.1 or G.S. 160A-385.1 is extended for five months.”  So, if you have a development approval or a statutory vested right that is valid and necessary for the completion of your incomplete (but active) project, the duration of that approval and right is extended for five (5) months.

Note that the law defines “development approval”, and only applies to those development approvals.  That said, also note that the law is rather broad, and even contains a mandate that the law “shall be liberally construed to effectuate the purposes.”  On the other side, the law spells out what it does not do, which is a funny collection of things.

While we don’t know, I would expect this five (5) month period to extend, much like it did in 2010.