In 2001, the County of Pasquotank adopted an amendment to its manufactured/mobile home units ordinance to provide that, “[m]anufactured homes must have a an attached HUD label and shall not be more than ten(10) years old on the date of application for a building permit for the purpose of permanent set-up.” The Plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that the amendment exceeded the County’s statutory authority and violated its due process and equal protection rights. Specifically, the Plaintiff alleged that it had an inventory of manufactured homes more than ten years old, that it had entered into a contract to sell and set up a 23-year old manufactured home shortly after the ordinance was adopted, that its permit requests were denied by the County based on the age of the unit. The Plaintiff argued that the County exceeded its authority by restricting the location of manufactured homes based solely on age.
The North Carolina Appeals Court agreed, and held that municipalities are preempted from enacting regulations regarding the siting of manufactured and mobile homes in a manner inconsistent with State law. Specifically, N.C. Gen. Stat. §160A-383.1 (2001) finds that manufactured housing offers affordable housing opportunities for low and moderate income residents that zoning ordinances may severely restrict the placement of these homes, and that the General Assembly intends for cities to reexamine their land use practices to both assure compliance with state law and also to consider allocating more land area for this type of housing. Further, the statute provides that “A city may adopt and enforce appearance and dimensional criteria for manufactured homes. Such criteria shall be designed to protect property values, to preserve the character and integrity of the community or individual neighborhoods within the community, and to promote the health, safety and welfare of area residents.” The Court said that “A county may not therefore use its broad police powers as a guise to enact zoning regulations for manufactured homes inconsistent with N.C. Gen. Stat. §160A-383.1.
Although the County argued that at the time of adoption the intent of the ordinance was to increase the tax base by requiring manufactured homes to have a certain value, the Court said that “This wealth based criterion is neither an appearance nor dimensional criteria” as allowed for in State statute, and therefore the County exceeded the power given to it by the General Assembly with regard to zoning regulations for manufactured homes, and noted that the County “cannot accomplish by indirect legislation what it cannot achieve by direct legislation.”
Five C’s, Inc. v. County of Pasquotank, 2009 WL 365645 (N.C. App. 2/17/2009).
The county has indicated it will not appeal the decision (read more).
The opinion can be accessed at: http://www.aoc.state.nc.us/www/public/coa/opinions/2009/pdf/080771-1.pdf