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Right to protest zoning changes survives N.C. legislature

Neighborhood leaders are applauding North Carolina lawmakers for something they didn’t do: take away the right to petition against zoning changes.

A provision to ban so-called protest petitions was in a regulatory overhaul bill passed by the House this month. But after negotiations with the Senate, it wasn’t in the final version of the 59-page bill.

In Charlotte, a protest petition triggers the need for approval by a supermajority of the city council and mayor – nine votes total. Without a petition, a rezoning needs a council majority of six votes to be approved.

Protest petitions have been used by residents to fight development they don’t want or to gain leverage in negotiating with developers.

Last November, a protest petition was filed against a request to rezone land on East Morehead Street for a Walgreens and an office building. Nine council members ended up voting against the project.

“We’re very happy with what the legislature has not done,” said Melanie Sizemore, a board member of the Elizabeth Community Association. “It helps with planning and the overall health of Charlotte.”

The provision was supported by many home builders and other groups.

Rep. Tim Moffitt, a Buncombe County Republican who chaired the House committee that first approved the provision, called protest petitions “antiquated.”

And on its blog, the Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition, or REBIC, said eliminating the petition would help property owners and developers “by removing a burdensome and costly process that effectively allows a small minority of citizens to hold a rezoning case hostage by forcing a supermajority vote.”

Because House-Senate negotiations happen behind closed doors, it’s unclear how the provision failed to make it into the final bill.

Morrill: 704-358-5059
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