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Housing design laws removed

An N.C. House of Representatives bill passed Wednesday will give homeowners more freedom to revamp their homes — but local preservationists are worried the bill might affect the look of Chapel Hill’s historic areas.

The House of Representatives approved House Bill 150 in a 98-18 vote, removing local government’s authority to regulate the appearance of single-family homes and duplexes.

Under the bill, local governments would not be able to create laws that regulate interior layouts, garage doors, types of windows and doors, or the color and materials used on a building’s exterior or roof.

Historic districts, landmarks and” Neighborhood Conservation Districts”: — which have distinctive characteristics that contribute to the identity of the town, but do not fit the requirements to be a historic district — are exempt from the law.

But Cheri Szcodronski, executive director of Preservation Chapel Hill, said the legislation could still create problems locally.

Though Conservation Districts like the Northside and Pine Knolls neighborhoods would be protected under the bill, the areas that surrounding the conservation districts would not be.

“What’s missing is the opportunity to impact the transition from one neighborhood to the next. It could get really disjointed,” Szcodronski said.

“Considering we have so many historic neighborhoods, that could be a really big deal in Chapel Hill.”

And local preservationists argue that governments should be able to regulate home design to ensure a harmonized look for the town.

“It’s more appropriate for the bill to be considered and enacted in the local level,” said Katherine Kopp, a Chapel Hill resident and member of the Historic District Commission.

“Municipalities have a better idea of the needs of local communities.”

Jaye Kreller, a realtor at Tony Hall & Associates, agreed.

“Local governments should have the ultimate say in building ordinances,” Kreller said.

Proponents say the bill would give buyers the freedom to dictate their home appearances, and it could save homeowners from having to pay to meet the town’s design guidelines.

Realtor Sandra Paul said current design regulations might inflate price tags of new homes through renovation and construction costs.

“It’s important for the town to help protect the integrity of neighborhoods, but not at the expense that the buyers cannot make their own personal choices,” Paul said.

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