What’s a city charter and why is it so old?

I get periodic calls asking me to send a copy of the charter for a particular city. North Carolina law defines a city charter as “… the entire body of local acts currently in force applicable to a particular city, including articles of incorporation issued to a city by an administrative agency of the State …” (G.S. 160A-1(1)). In this post, I try to set out for the 20 largest municipalities the  most recent legislative enactment of a revised charter, and also links to private compilations of the amendments.

For many cities then, the “charter” is not just one document, but an original charter, some or many direct amendments that refer to the charter, and even a mess of uncodified local acts made applicable to that named city or perhaps to all cities in a particular county.

Periodically, many cities come in and get a new charter enacted, revising and consolidating the old one, incorporating uncodified local acts and repealing outdated ones.  Charters older than 1971 often can have large volumes of material deleted since the 1971 General Assembly enacted Chapter 160A of the General Statutes, which greatly modernized municipal law. Mancy cities contract with the Municipal Code Corporation to compile and publish their charters either in loose leaf and/or online versions, incorporating legislative and home rule amendments (see G.S. 160A-101 through 111 for home rule charter amendment authorizations. The Municipal Code Corporation (Municode) compilations do not have the force of law.

For the 20 largest cities in the State , below are listed and/or linked the most recent general rewrite of their charters. NOTE: We only have local acts as far back as 1959 in our online database so the most recent charter consolidations of Asheville (1923 and 1931) , Raleigh (1949) , and Winston-Salem (1927) are not online. I also link to the Municode compilation, which cover all those municipalities other than Cary and Greenville which appear to not contract with Municode. I express no opinion on whether a particular Municode compliation is either current or correct. In the case of most Municode compilations, I carry links to two different versions. In the first, you will need to click on “Charter” near the top of the left menu bar and expand (+) or contract (-) the charter or articles or sections of it to read the text. In the second link, which I call “direct view” there is either the entire charter in one viewable document, a table of contents to the charter with hyperlinks to the text of the sections, or a document that has both.

Municipalities below are in order of decreasing population:

Charlotte: S.L. 2000-26, June 29, 2000. Municode compilation, direct view.

Raleigh: Chapter 1184, Session Laws of 1949, April 23, 1949. Municode compilation, direct view.

Greensboro: Chapter 1137, Session Laws of 1959, June 18, 1959. Municode compilation, (no direct view available).

Winston-Salem: Chapter 232, Private Laws of 1927, March 3, 1927. Municode compilation, direct view, last updated 1995.

Durham: Chapter 671, Session Laws of 1975, June 18, 1975. Municode compilation, direct view.

Fayetteville: Chapter 557, Session Laws of 1979, May 16, 1979. Municode compilation, direct view.

Cary: S.L. 2005-117, June 28, 2005. (No municode compilation available)

Wilmington: Chapter 495, Session Laws of 1977, June 8, 1977. Municode compilation, no direct view available.

High Point: Chapter 501, Session Laws of 1979, May 1, 1979. Municode compilation, no direct view available.

Jacksonville: Chapter 911, Session Laws of 1967, June 23, 1967. Municode compilation, no direct view available.

Asheville: Chapter 16, Private Laws of 1923, January 26, 1923, and Chapter 121, Private Laws of 1931, March 30, 1931.  The 1931 charter revisal was not a complete consolidation, it enacted new material as well as repealing parts and reenacting parts of the 1923 charter simply by referring to section numbers of the 1923 act, so both documents must still be consulted. Municode compilation, direct view.

Greenville: Chapter 272, Session Laws of 1981, April 27, 1981. (No municode compilation available)

Gastonia: Chapter 557, Session Laws of 1991, July 4, 1991. Municode compilation, direct view.

Concord: Chapter 861, Session Laws of 1985, July 1, 1986. Municode compilation, direct view.

Rocky Mount: S.L. 2003-327, July 18, 2003. Municode compilation, direct view.

Chapel Hill: Chapter 473, Session Laws of 1975, June 4, 1975. Municode compilation, direct view.

Wilson: Chapter 136, Session Laws of 1969, March 27, 1969. Municode compilation, (no direct view available).

Burlington: Chapter 119, Session Laws of 1961, March 28, 1961. Municode compilation, (no direct view available).

Kannapolis: Chapter 191, Session Laws of 1983, enacted April 18, 1983, incorporated the City of Kannapolis subject to referendum, and created a charter commission, which was to adopt a charter and file it with the clerks to the boards of commissioners of Cabarrus and Rowan Counties. No direct legislative enactment of the charter exists, but municode has it: Municode compilation, (no direct view available).

Hickory: Chapter 323, Session Laws of 1961, May 2, 1961. Municode compilation, direct view.


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