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NC High Court Upholds Concord's Water And Sewer Development Fees

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Pixabay
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A 2004 Concord city ordinance requires developers to pay the fees before the city registers new subdivisions in land records. Developer JVC Enterprises sued in 2017.

The Supreme Court of North Carolina has upheld the city of Concord's authority to charge housing developers water and sewer connection fees.

A 2004 Concord city ordinance requires developers to pay the fees before the city registers new subdivisions in land records. Developer JVC Enterprises sued in 2017, arguing that the city lacked the authority to charge the fees before providing water and sewer service.

The case hinged on a series of changes to Concord's city charter over several decades, which were consolidated in state legislation.

The state Court of Appeals had sided with the developer in 2019. But the Supreme Court ruled Friday that those changes were "clear and unambiguous in granting this authority to the city."

The court previously has ruled more broadly that some development fees are illegal. But the ruling in this case concerned only Concord's ordinance, said Kara Anne Millonzi, a professor at the UNC School of Government in Chapel Hill.

"The recent Supreme Court decision … involved an interpretation of a series of local acts that applied only to Concord," Millonzi said. "Thus, it is not inconsistent with the court’s prior holdings involving interpretations of general law authority to impose similar fees."

Millonzi said the language the court was interpreting in Concord is different from the general the court interpreted in a 2016 case, Quality Built Homes, Inc. v. Town of Carthage, that made some fees illegal.

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