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  It’s past time we repealed the statute.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 […]

Fixing a Screwed up City

I live in a city that’s pretty screwed up. In many ways. But last month a cavalry rode into town with sabers drawn and bugle blaring, and our salvation may be at hand. In land use planning there is no official category termed “screwed up city” but it fits. I grew up – and returned […]

A Culture of Local Government Corruption

This past Sunday’s New York Times had a fascinating article on the culture of corruption in Spain and other southern European countries – countries which for centuries allowed local mayors and magistrates to enrich themselves through graft and bribery. Three short paragraphs were harsh: Spain is by no means Europe’s most corrupt nation — Greece […]

In Search of a Civil Government

Two nights ago I attended a public hearing in Asheboro where Randolph County considered approving a new landfill next to its old landfill. Granted, landfill hearings generate their share of emotion, but civility is civility and this hearing was in short supply. [Fair disclosure: the county is my client] According to the Courier Tribune article, […]

Is it Really the Zoning? Or Do You Just Not Like “Those People”?

            As a quarter-century veteran of land use battles in every corner of this state there’s little I haven’t heard.  But this much I know. What people think is often not reflected in what they say at the public podium.               And being a veteran Southerner in my mid-fifties, I have decently honed skills in […]

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