Commissioners ease impervious land rules
by Staff Writer
HUNTERSVILLE – Someone once said that the primary function of local government is to remember that water flows downhill. Managing storm water and runoff is a fundamental role for local government, one that plays a large role in shaping most communities’ development regulations.
On Monday, May 7, Huntersville commissioners tweaked one of those regulations, making it easier for homeowners whose lots exceed the maximum impervious coverage allowed by law to come back into conformity.
Impervious coverage generally refers to areas that don’t absorb water and includes homes, driveways, patios and outbuildings such as sheds. Areas that are not built, such as lawns, gardens and wooden decks, which allow water to drain to the ground, and the water areas of swimming pools and uncovered hot tubs, which prevent water from running off, are considered pervious.
Under the existing law, homeowners with too much impervious coverage had a few options to comply with the law. Homeowners could remove the center portion of a concrete driveway and fill it in with gravel. They could acquire an impervious coverage allowance from another property in the subdivision, essentially trading off for an acceptable amount of pervious land in the vicinity. This generally involves begging a neighbor or neighbors to donate some of their pervious area, which lowers their own allowable impervious coverage. Or landowners could get a variance from the town, arguably the most difficult of the three remedies.
Most residents don’t know what level of impervious coverage they have or are restricted to. Developers have to comply with local regulations, and if a new house passes inspection, it can be safely assumed that it’s in compliance. But developers also have an incentive to build the biggest house allowable on a lot, meaning that in most subdivisions, each lot is pretty close to the allowable limit of impervious coverage. So relatively small projects, like the widening of a driveway or construction of a patio, can put homeowners over their limit. They may not discover that fact until they attempt to sell their home and must resolve the issue before the sale can go through.
Huntersville resident Rich Zitnick shared his own experience of this issue at the town board’s meeting April 2. When Zitnick tried to sell his home in Birkdale to move to another house in the same neighborhood, he discovered he was 2,100 square feet over his impervious coverage limit. It took six months and the generosity of five different neighbors for him to assemble enough impervious coverage allowances to bring his property into compliance. The delay nearly caused the sale to fall through.
The amended law now allows homeowners to acquire an impervious coverage allowance from anywhere within the watershed, including undeveloped land. Property owners, however, still can’t acquire an impervious coverage allowance from a less-restricted area within the watershed, and the two parcels also should be in the same drainage area of the watershed. But it is much less daunting to acquire an impervious coverage allowance from a property owner who is not approaching their own impervious coverage limit.
Such arrangements will be subject to approval by the Board of Adjustment.
Board of Adjustment
To acquire an impervious coverage allowance, call Town Hall at 704-875-6541 or find contact information for your Board of Adjustment member at Huntersville.org under Town Government, Boards & Commissions, Board of Adjustment.