SESSION LAW 2008-176




AN ACT to provide an express permitting review program for connections to the State highway system, as recommended by the joint LEGISLATIVE transportation oversight committee; and to exempt certain greenhouses located inside the building-rules jurisdiction of any municipality from the building code.


The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:


SECTION 1.  Chapter 136 of the General Statutes is amended by adding a new section to read:

" 136-93.1.  Express permit review program.

(a)       Program Created. - The Department shall develop a fee-supported express permit review program in each highway division. The program is voluntary for permit applicants and applies to permits, approvals, or certifications that allow for a connection to the State highway system through the use of a driveway, street, signal, drainage, or any other encroachment.

(b)       Implementation. - An individual highway division may opt out of the express permit review program created under this section if the highway division routinely reviews and issues special commercial permits within an average of 45 days. Any express permit review program created under this section shall be supported by the fees established pursuant to subsection (e) of this section.

(c)       Procedure. - In reviewing a permit application under the express permit review program, the Department shall undergo the following steps:

(1)       The Department shall, within three business days of receipt, determine whether an express permit review application is complete. If the Department determines the express permit review application is not complete, the Department shall return the express permit review application and all fees to the permit applicant to allow for a complete express permit review application to be resubmitted to the Department.

(2)       If the Department determines the express permit review application is complete, the Department shall, within 45 days, issue or deny the permit based upon its review of the application. Failure of the Department to issue or deny the permit within 45 days is a denial of the express permit review application.

(d)       Staffing. - In order to implement the express permit review program, the Department may utilize either of the following or a combination thereof:

(1)       Existing Department staff and resources.

(2)       Contracted engineering firms supporting each highway division to provide express permit reviews, comments, and recommendations for issuing express permits. If the Department utilizes contracted engineering firms to provide work under this section, any fees received by the Department pursuant to subsection (e) of this section shall be credited towards the cost of the Department utilizing these contracted engineering firms. Any additional costs associated with engaging the contracted engineering firm shall be agreed to by the permit applicant prior to incurring the costs and shall be paid by the permit applicant.

(e)       Fees. - The Department may determine the fees for an express application review under the express review program conducted by highway division staff. Unless a contracted engineering firm is utilized, the maximum permit application fee to be charged under this section for an express review of a project application requiring all of the permits listed under subsection (a) of this section shall not exceed four thousand dollars ($4,000). Notwithstanding Chapter 150B of the General Statutes, the Department shall establish the procedure by which the amount of the fees under this subsection are established and applied for an express review program permitted by this section. The fee schedule established by the Department shall be applicable to all divisions participating in an express permit review program.

(f)        Use of Fees. - All fees collected under this section shall be used to fund the cost of administering and implementing express permit review programs created under this section. These costs include the salaries of the program's staff and costs of contracted engineering firms.

(g)       Reports. - No later than March 1 of each year, the Department shall report to the Fiscal Research Division and the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee on the express permitting review program. The report shall include the cost of administering the program in each division, the number of express permits issued, the turnaround time for permits, the amount of fees collected per division, and the method that divisions use to implement the program."

SECTION 2.  G.S. 143-138(b) reads as rewritten:

"(b)      Contents of the Code. - The North Carolina State Building Code, as adopted by the Building Code Council, may include reasonable and suitable classifications of buildings and structures, both as to use and occupancy; general building restrictions as to location, height, and floor areas; rules for the lighting and ventilation of buildings and structures; requirements concerning means of egress from buildings and structures; requirements concerning means of ingress in buildings and structures; rules governing construction and precautions to be taken during construction; rules as to permissible materials, loads, and stresses; rules governing chimneys, heating appliances, elevators, and other facilities connected with the buildings and structures; rules governing plumbing, heating, air conditioning for the purpose of comfort cooling by the lowering of temperature, and electrical systems; and such other reasonable rules pertaining to the construction of buildings and structures and the installation of particular facilities therein as may be found reasonably necessary for the protection of the occupants of the building or structure, its neighbors, and members of the public at large.

In addition, the Code may regulate activities and conditions in buildings, structures, and premises that pose dangers of fire, explosion, or related hazards. Such fire prevention code provisions shall be considered the minimum standards necessary to preserve and protect public health and safety, subject to approval by the Council of more stringent provisions proposed by a municipality or county as provided in G.S. 143-138(e). These provisions may include regulations requiring the installation of either battery-operated or electrical smoke detectors in every dwelling unit used as rental property, regardless of the date of construction of the rental property. For dwelling units used as rental property constructed prior to 1975, smoke detectors shall have an Underwriters' Laboratories, Inc., listing or other equivalent national testing laboratory approval, and shall be installed in accordance with either the standard of the National Fire Protection Association or the minimum protection designated in the manufacturer's instructions, which the property owner shall retain or provide as proof of compliance.

The Code may contain provisions regulating every type of building or structure, wherever it might be situated in the State.

Provided further, that nothing in this Article shall be construed to make any building rules applicable to do not apply to (i) farm buildings that are located outside the building-rules jurisdiction of any municipality.municipality, or (ii) farm buildings that are located inside the building-rules jurisdiction of any municipality if the farm buildings are greenhouses. A "greenhouse" is a structure that has a glass or plastic roof, has one or more glass or plastic walls, has an area over ninety-five percent (95%) of which is used to grow or cultivate plants, is built in accordance with the National Greenhouse Manufacturers Association Structural Design manual, and is not used for retail sales. Additional provisions addressing distinct life safety hazards shall be approved by the local building-rules jurisdiction.

Provided further, that no building permit shall be required under the Code or any local variance thereof approved under subsection (e) for any construction, installation, repair, replacement, or alteration costing five thousand dollars ($5,000) or less in any single family residence or farm building unless the work involves: the addition, repair, or replacement of load bearing structures; the addition (excluding replacement of same size and capacity) or change in the design of plumbing; the addition, replacement or change in the design of heating, air conditioning, or electrical wiring, devices, appliances, or equipment, the use of materials not permitted by the North Carolina Uniform Residential Building Code; or the addition (excluding replacement of like grade of fire resistance) of roofing.

Provided further, that no building permit shall be required under such Code from any State agency for the construction of any building or structure, the total cost of which is less than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000), except public or institutional buildings.

For the information of users thereof, the Code shall include as appendices

(1)       Any rules governing boilers adopted by the Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessels Rules,

(2)       Any rules relating to the safe operation of elevators adopted by the Commissioner of Labor, and

(3)       Any rules relating to sanitation adopted by the Commission for Health Services which the Building Code Council believes pertinent.

In addition, the Code may include references to such other rules of special types, such as those of the Medical Care Commission and the Department of Public Instruction as may be useful to persons using the Code. No rule issued by any agency other than the Building Code Council shall be construed as a part of the Code, nor supersede that Code, it being intended that they be presented with the Code for information only.

Nothing in this Article shall extend to or be construed as being applicable to the regulation of the design, construction, location, installation, or operation of (1) equipment for storing, handling, transporting, and utilizing liquefied petroleum gases for fuel purposes or anhydrous ammonia or other liquid fertilizers, except for liquefied petroleum gas from the outlet of the first stage pressure regulator to and including each liquefied petroleum gas utilization device within a building or structure covered by the Code, or (2) equipment or facilities, other than buildings, of a public utility, as defined in G.S. 62-3, or an electric or telephone membership corporation, including without limitation poles, towers, and other structures supporting electric or communication lines.

In addition, the Code may contain rules concerning minimum efficiency requirements for replacement water heaters, which shall consider reasonable availability from manufacturers to meet installation space requirements.

No State, county, or local building code or regulation shall prohibit the use of special locking mechanisms for seclusion rooms in the public schools approved under G.S. 115C-391.1(e)(1)e., provided that the special locking mechanism shall be constructed so that it will engage only when a key, knob, handle, button, or other similar device is being held in position by a person, and provided further that, if the mechanism is electrically or electronically controlled, it automatically disengages when the building's fire alarm is activated. Upon release of the locking mechanism by a supervising adult, the door must be able to be opened readily."

SECTION 3.  This act is effective when it becomes law.

In the General Assembly read three times and ratified this the 16th day of July, 2008.



                                                                    s/ Marc Basnight

                                                                         President Pro Tempore of the Senate



                                                                    s/ Joe Hackney

                                                                         Speaker of the House of Representatives



                                                                    s/ Michael F. Easley




Approved 2:59 p.m. this 4th day of August, 2008