Senate Bill 704 — Careful Aim But Narrow Miss

On May 4th the N.C. legislature passed Senate Bill 704 (Session Law 2020-3) to address a broad array of problems created by COVID-19. Bill section 4.31(a) amended the Emergency Management Act to add new section 166A-19-24 to authorize local governments to conduct remote meetings during declarations of emergency. Although the detailed procedural requirements create traps […]

Returning to “Normal” Public Hearings – Doing it Right

This past Thursday I appeared before the Asheboro City Council in a quasi-judicial hearing for a conditional use permit. The city’s new template for safe hearings is worth other governments’ consideration. No more than 10 people were allowed in chambers at one time. Only the mayor and four council members – enough for a quorum […]

Moving to Virtual Public Hearings — Lessons Learned

Kudos to the City of Greensboro for boldly keeping land use development projects moving through the approval pipeline despite local and State stay-at-home orders. Last week, while sitting in my living room, I “appeared” before the Greensboro Zoning Commission on behalf of a developer of a 193-acre industrial project. The following night I “appeared” before […]

Coronavirus and the Hospitalization of Participatory Government

In younger days I traveled through African game lands in Uganda and explored an Amazon tributary in Bolivia. Both times I was confronted with the ironic fact that it’s easier to protect yourself against the large, loud, dangerous things you can see than the small things you cannot. If you’re going to be sidelined or […]

Protest Petitions – Wrongful Power, Wrongfully Placed

The zoning protest petition is the greatest unchecked power ever placed in the hands of an unelected citizen in North Carolina.  It’s past time we repealed the statute. North Carolina’s protest petition statute (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 160A-385) grants an anomalous and unjustifiable power to a citizen who owns a mere 5% of a 100 […]

When Power Corrupts

When a law partner poked his head into my office to give me the breaking news about Patrick Cannon, Charlotte’s newly-indicted mayor, my head told me that I should feel some degree of outrage, but my heart only felt sadness. Like all of us, I watched the news unfold to learn what seemed to be […]

Will I die in a Mediocre City?

Several years ago a Guilford County Commissioner told me, chuckling, that he had just heard Jim Melvin, Greensboro’s former mayor, defend some of his ideas for Greensboro’s downtown improvements by saying this: “I don’t want to die in a mediocre city.” The sentiment resonates. Last week WordPress sent me my blog statistics for 2013.  Among […]

Protest Petitions Revisited

It appears that my previous post (Protest Petitions Killed . . . Finally) was premature. The NC House did vote overwhelmingly to repeal G.S. 160A-385 which grants unelected citizens a unique power to control the decision-making authority of a city council engaged in routine rezonings. However, the Senate refused to accept this amendment (called a […]

Legislative Update – Protest Petitions Killed . . . Finally

In an unexpected move the NC House voted last Thursday to repeal the statute that allows citizens to file protest petitions which frustrate a city’s ability to rezone land except upon a favorable 75 percent majority vote. The decision saw little debate, and the N.C. League of Municipalities, whose members were evenly split on the […]

Case Law Update – SCOTUS, Koontz v. St. Johns River Water District, and the Public/Private Tug-of-War

This past week the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion in Koontz v. St. John’s Water District, a case lauded by property rights advocates as a “landmark ruling” and claimed by the permitting/planning communities to be an unreasonable shackle on legitimate governmental powers. It is neither. What were the [true] facts? The facts read differently […]

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