In January 2018, Greenville County Council amended the Land Development Regulations over the objections of your Home Builders Association of Greenville. More than 30 members attended the meeting to tell County Council “no.” The ordinance was amended six months after six members of your HBA worked for more than three years on an overhaul to the LDR.
Two months later, after a quick review with the help of three members: Jamie McCutchen, Paul Harrison, and Jay Beeson, County Council removed most of the January changes, with the exception of Section 3.1.
In April, the Planning Commission began enforcing Section 3.1 and the flaws in the ordinance, which we pointed out to County Council, quickly became apparent.
In June, the Planning Commission approved a subdivision proposed by Niemitalo, Inc., an HBA member. After some behind the scenes intervention by a member of County Council, the Planning Commission reconsidered their decision in July 2018 and denied Niemitalo’s subdivision, a 30-lot single family development on 30 acres in the unzoned area of Northern Greenville County.
Brian and Bruce Niemitalo, partners in Niemitalo, Inc., appealed their decision in September after receiving written notice of the denial. They were not notified that the Planning Commission would reconsider their earlier decision.
NAHB’s Legal Action Fund Steps in to Help
Your Home Builders Association immediately went to work to help Niemitalo, Inc. We had the county’s Land Development Regulations reviewed by NAHB’s Legal Department. They provided us with several recommendations. They also told us they consider Section 3.1 “unconstitutionally vague.” They also told us they are concerned that allowing an ordinance like ours to go unchallenged could set a precedent for other unzoned areas around the country. Adding to the urgency, a neighboring property owner intervened as a party in the appeal, and she is represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, an nonprofit law firm based in Raleigh that focuses on the environment.
Your HBA of Greenville applied for support from NAHB’s Legal Action Fund and in January 2019 they approved a grant of $10,000 to help Niemitalo, Inc., with their challenge.
The latest and more help from NAHB
After 18 months of legal wrangling, Greenville County and Niemitalo, Inc., came to an agreement to settle with the approval of the subdivision. At that time, the county ceased enforcing Section 3.1 in the unzoned areas. However, the neighbor refused to approve the settlement.
Without an approval for their project, in April Niemitalo, Inc., made their next move and filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of Section 3.1 and last month your HBA of Greenville applied for and received another grant of $10,000 from NAHB in support of Niemitalo, Inc.’s, latest cause of action.
“This situation is just one example of the importance of our Home Builders Association and the support it brings to our industry,” said Bill Kane, APB, President of your Home Builders Association of Greenville and Division Manager of Ryan Homes. “It is also just one of many reasons why every business in the Home Building Industry should support our Home Builders Association.”
Support for Vested Rights
This case also has one other benefit for Home Builders: potential case law in support of the Vested Rights Act. Your Home Builders Association actively lobbied for the Vested Rights Act in 2002. Our Vice President of Government Affairs, Michael Dey, was the lobbyist on that bill.
A decision in this case could benefit all Home Builders both in invalidating Section 3.1 and supporting the Vested Rights Act. All Home Builders owe Brian and Bruce Niemitalo their thanks for challenging Greenville County and their anti-housing and anti-development policies.