Watchdog Report – April 9, 2024


For more than year, since a developer floated a 1,200-home neighborhood in the Dacusville area, Pickens County has imposed a moratorium on new subdivisions of 50 lots or more.  That moratorium expired with the adoption of a new Unified Development Standards Ordinance on April 1.  But county council replaced it with a new moratorium on townhomes and apartments.  This is what Pickens County Council did last week:

UDSO Update

The update to the county’s development standards included these changes:

  • Traditional subdivisions are now limited to 10 lots or fewer.  Larger developments must adhere to the Open Space or Master Planned development standards that require substantial set aside of open space within the development.
  • New developments will be required to prepare and follow a traffic impact study, including mitigation of the development’s impact on local roads.
  • A map of county land uses, adopted as part of the Comprehensive Plan, was updated.  You can see the new map here. As a result of this change, the county has effectively zoned nearly all of the county for single-family lots of at least ½-acre or larger.  More than half of the county is zoned for 2 acre lots or larger.

Townhome/Multifamily Moratorium

The county did not act on townhome and multifamily development standards.  As a result, county council approved a six-month moratorium on new townhome communities.  The moratorium also covers multifamily developments and RV parks.  This week, county council clarified that the moratorium does not apply to individual RVs and townhomes that are part of a master planned community that also includes single-family detached housing.

The county continues to work on a proposed ordinance on impact fees.  And this week, the county Planning Commission gave preliminary approval to increasing setbacks for dwelling units.  This is what they agreed to:

  • Front setback from the right of way: 20 feet to 25 feet.
  • Side setback from the property line: 5 feet to 10 feet.
  • Rear setback from the property line: 10 feet to 15 feet.

The Planning Commission agreed that when a lot also fronts on a rear alleyway where parking will be provided, the front setback will be reduced to 15 feet.

What does a moratorium mean?

A moratorium, like the one enacted by Pickens County Council, means that the county will not accept an application for a permit.  In the case of the moratorium enacted by Pickens County Council, they will refuse to accept an application to subdivide for a townhome community as well as for permits to develop a multifamily development like an apartment complex.  The moratorium took effect April 2 and will last for six months.

Department of Labor Rule on Independent Contractor Status

Most Realtors are independent contractors, so NAR has actively lobbied to protect the traditional treatment of Realtors as independent contractors.  The U.S. Department of Labor’s final rule regarding how workers are classified under the Fair Labor Standards Act took effect on March 11, 2024.  It uses an “ABC test” that finds an individual to be an independent contractor if they are:

  1. Free from direction and control applicable both under the contract for the performance of service and in fact.
  2. The service they perform is outside the usual course of business of the employer.
  3. The individual is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business of the same nature as that involved in the service performed.

However, Realtors continue to be protected by an Internal Revenue Code rule, 3508, that states that real estate agents are “statutory nonemployees” if three factors are met:

  1. The real estate agent must be licensed.
  2. Substantially all payments for the licensed real estate agent’s services must be directly related to their sales or other output rather than based on number of hours worked.
  3. The real estate agent’s services must be performed pursuant to an agreement that states the real estate agent will not be treated as an employee for federal tax purposes.

Realtors may hear from other independent contractors that the recent rule change may impact their independent contractor status.  However, 3508 continues to protect Realtors and NAR is supporting legislation to further cement Realtors’ status as independent contractors.

Support RPAC

RPAC is an important element of your Realtors Association’s advocacy program.  RPAC is the way that Realtors collaborate to support candidates who support the Realtor Party Agenda.  I encourage you to support RPAC, and we make it easy to do so—we include a voluntary RPAC contribution on your annual dues renewal.  Simply pay it and you have support RPAC.  If you want to do more that modest amount, that’s easy too

Michael Dey, Director of Government Affairs