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 […]

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 […]

Cell Towers, Elections, Land Lines and Crystal Balls

            Swing state voters in 2012 – including the good people of North Carolina – got a taste of what it’s like to live in Iowa and New Hampshire every four years, and for most folks in my generation it wasn’t fun.  You see, folks my age still use land lines to make phone calls […]

Postcard Florence — The Anatomy of a Great City

When it comes to the amoebic growth and prosaic functionality of the urban civitas, I am, to put it bluntly, a nerd.  I was last in Florence in 1982, the same week Italy won the World Cup in a sport I could barely play and certainly didn’t follow, but it didn’t stop me from climbing […]

Regulating Billboards at the Tipping Point

            As a general proposition, I support billboards.  As a general proposition.  Billboards help ME when I need to find an interstate exit with my favorite fast food and a bathroom.  Billboards help me find hotels when traveling long distances. Yes, sometimes the blue signs with 6 different hotel or restaurant logos work just fine, […]

Land Use, Jules Verne and Marty McFly

             In the final scene of the movie Back to the Future III, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) stands on the train tracks as Doc Brown and his wife Clara arrive on a locomotive from 1884 fitted with folding wings and an engine from an unknown but distant future.  As they prepare to return to […]

A Primer on Power

            In my last post I commented that House Bills 652 and 687 assume all powers exercised by local governments are clear and precise, noting the mischief created because “implied powers” are neither clear nor precise. One reader has asked me to define “implied powers.”  Let’s return to Civics 101.             Power flows in two […]

Speaking of Solar Farms, Landfills and New Zoning Codes . . .

             2,000 years ago all roads, it was said, led to Rome.  Today, all roads – or at least all major societal trends – lead, eventually, to changes in local zoning codes.  Like when we adopted entirely new zoning codes to adjust to being an automobile dependent society.  Like when communities adopted regulations controlling placements of […]

Darwin, Chimps and the Next New Subdivision

            Five years ago I was a guest lecturer at UNC-Chapel Hill.  My anthro-laden topic was “territoriality” in the land use context.  This past month, researchers in Uganda’s Kibale National Park published a paper stating “Tom Terrell was right.”  Well . . . not in those specific terms, but close enough for me to exclaim […]

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