Aug 29, 2008

New Garden Road Neighborhoods Could Use Protest Petition

There is a rezoning case coming before the Greensboro City Council on September 16, 2008 where the use of a Protest Petition should have been allowed by these citizens of Greensboro. But as we know from this blog that the exemption of Greensboro from North Carolina General Statute 160a-385 and 386 is in need of a overhaul and let's get a bill passed to make Greensboro comply.

A new neighborhood organization was formed to fight this rezoning case CLICKHERE , it is time to make a stance to the Greensboro City Council and to say to them it is a total injustice to the citizens of Greensboro that they don't have the right to use a Protest Petition in the zoning process. This case is a great example of this, plus to see the total destruction of garden lake road and new garden road and the creeping in to that neighborhood from a controversial rezoning case. BRING BACK PROTEST PETITIONS TO GREENSBORO.

Stop the Rezoning of New Garden Road
Tuesday, September 16
5:30 (get there early for a seat)

Please join us at the City Council Chambers, Melvin Municipal Building , to protest the rezoning of 1807 and 1809 New Garden Road from residential to commercial zoning.
The owner wants to build an events center in our residential neighborhood, bringing great noise, more traffic and a huge building and parking lot in a residential neighborhood.
For more information or to sign the letter of protest:

Aug 26, 2008

How Greensboro Lost The Protest Petition by Jordan Green Yes Weekly

This article was one of the first reports on this issue in bringing back Protest Petitions to Greensboro. Yes Weekly changed web sites and some information is not there anymore. So here is the article for people to read.

DIRT: protest petition

A Rezoning Chronicle How Greensboro Lost The Protest Petition

by Jordan Green

Yes Weekly

A rezoning request heard by Greensboro City Council on Feb. 1, 1971 was so controversial that a local lawyer asked Mayor Jack Elam if the meeting could be moved to a larger room to accommodate an overflow crowd stuck outside of council chambers.
Nine residents of Quaker Acres and other neighborhoods spoke in opposition to Maralee Development Corp.’s plan to build apartments north of Friendly Avenue near Guilford College. If that line of defense were breached, opponents argued in language evocative of the 1781 stand by patriotic militias against General Lord Cornwallis, multi-family development might creep further north, overtaking Horsepen Creek and even Carlson Farms.
The neighbors had a powerful weapon at their disposal: a protest petition that, with the signatures of 5 percent of adjacent property owners, allowed them to force the council to muster a 75 percent “supermajority” to approve the rezoning. Noting at the start of the hearing that the petitions had been found sufficient, Elam explained that the seven-member board would need six affirmative votes to approve the rezoning.
An act by the NC General Assembly before the month was out would strip residents of the protest petition, amending the city charter to exempt Greensboro from a law followed to this day by all seven of the state’s largest municipalities: Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham, Winston-Salem, Fayetteville, Wilmington and Asheville.
Few in Greensboro appear to have been aware of North Carolina general statute 160A-385(a), which requires the 75 percent supermajority for approval in cases where neighbors formalize their opposition — or the fact the city was exempt by the authority of 1971 session law. That is, until Councilman Tom Phillips questioned whether the provision could apply to a controversial rezoning request heard by the zoning commission last year that would have allowed commercial development at the intersection of Lawndale Drive and Lake Jeanette Road. The request was made on behalf of three individuals employed by real estate company NAI Piedmont Triad. One of them, Robbie Perkins, was elected to city council last November. Phillips was unable to persuade his colleagues to support a repeal of the city charter amendment.
“It’s just another tool to give surrounding neighbors,” said Phillips, who has since retired from the council. “It doesn’t stop development. It just requires a supermajority. I haven’t seen a good reason not to have it. If it’s good enough for the rest of the state, it’s good enough for us.”
Talk of reinstating the protest petition arose recently during a contentious rezoning request earlier this month in which Perkins cast a tie-breaking vote to allow a politically connected developer to build three-story apartments south of West Friendly Avenue. The request was defeated by the zoning commission, and then came before the council on appeal. The 5-3 vote would not have met the 75 percent threshold required for approval had Greensboro been subject to the protest petition statute.
The reasons the council of 1970-’71 requested that the General Assembly exempt Greensboro from the protest petition remain murky. Among several players interviewed, including former NC Rep. Henry E. Frye, former Mayor Jack Elam, former Mayor Pro Tem Jim Melvin and former Planning Director Charles E. Mortimore, only one person, former City Attorney Skip Warren, indicated he was familiar with the provision.
Warren said he thought another North Carolina municipality might have previously lobbied to have the protest petition enacted as state law, and that Greensboro’s exemption had represented a return to the status quo. A 2006 treatise by David W. Owens, a professor at the Institute of Government in Chapel Hill with expertise in zoning and in city and county planning, suggests otherwise. Owens writes that the provision for a protest petition was included in New York state’s 1916 zoning ordinance, the first comprehensive law in the nation. North Carolina followed suit in 1923.
“Neither landowner nor neighbors can be given a veto over proposed zoning changes,” Owens wrote. “Yet from the outset of local land use regulation, its proponents have concluded that those most directly affected by zoning need a degree of protection from unwanted changes in the land use policies that have relied upon.”
In any case, Warren said he thought the supermajority requirement was too burdensome.
“When you’re acting in a legislative capacity, even with Congress the higher standard is two-thirds as far as [overriding a] veto is concerned,” he said. “We felt that that wasn’t really intended for Greensboro. It was intended for some other municipality.”
While acknowledging that Greensboro was not unique in 1971 in having a council comprised of seven members, Warren said the protest petition provision “gave two members of your council veto power, which could be a bad thing.” Warren said he could not recall whether the request to amend the city charter was made at the initiative of a particular council member or a staff member.
“I was responsible for drawing up the legislative program,” the former city attorney said. “We developed our legislative program based on suggestions and recommendations and other things. Back then there were some legal technicalities that needed to be clarified. Then we presented our program to city council. It would have been in a briefing that reporters could attend.”
Council approved the legislative program unanimously four days before Christmas 1970. Meeting minutes reflect no discussion.
Frye, the former House representative, said typically the city council would meet with the Guilford County delegation and give them a list of bills they wanted introduced, “and unless there was some really strong objection in the delegation, we would designate somebody to file the bills that they suggested.” He said he had no recollection of the city charter amendment enacted in the 1971 session law.
Warren said there was no particular rezoning case that propelled the city charter amendment through the General Assembly.
“The word ‘urgency’ doesn’t even apply,” he said.
While no one has owned up to a personal interest in exempting the city from the protest petition, council minutes and contemporaneous newspaper accounts suggest that Greensboro land-use politics in the late 1960s and early ’70s were a stew of political connections, alleged and real conflicts of interest, and passionate neighborhood opposition to multi-family residential development.
Both the city’s daily newspapers, the ***Greensboro Daily News*** and the ***Greensboro Record*** carried stories in the first week of January 1971about an announcement by Mayor Elam that he had found no impropriety on the part of any city official in a 1969 rezoning case that allowed Urban Systems Development Corp. to move forward with plans to build single and multi-family housing in northeast Greensboro. Neighbors had fought the rezoning, the ***Record*** noted; its morning competitor reported that an allegation of a council member holding ownership of the subject property surfaced in a lawsuit involving the developer.
Elam himself abstained from a vote taken on Feb. 1, 1971 request by an unnamed applicant to rezone property at the southeast intersection of Yanceyville Street and Cone Boulevard for public housing because of “a personal interest.” That request also met opposition from neighbors whose protest petitions were found to be sufficient. The request went down in defeat by a vote of 5 to 1.
In another case, involvement by an elected official in a rezoning matter was more direct, although not legally a conflict of interest. Rep. W. Marcus Short, Frye’s colleague in the House, appealed a decision by the zoning commission to deny his request to rezone property at the southwest corner of Cornwallis Drive and Battleground Avenue. Again, protest petitions by neighborhood opponents were found to be sufficient and the 75 percent supermajority came into play. Short requested a continuance and the request was defeated unanimously two weeks later.
No rezoning battle raised the social temperature higher in the first two months of 1971 than the request by the Maralee Development Corp. to rezone property purchased from the Coble and Ballenger families north of Friendly Avenue between King George Drive and Stage Coach Trail. Although a protest petition had been found sufficient, Elam would say 37 years later that he had no recollection of the tool being used by opponents. Warren, the former city attorney, would say that to his knowledge the case had no influence on the city’s successful efforts to do away with the protest petition.
And yet Elam’s comments at the outset of the hearing revealed a tension in city land-use politics: Both commercial pressures on individual members’ decisions and opposition by neighbors appeared to bear an impact on the council’s land-use decisions.
“The mayor further stated that the council is far from satisfied with the zoning process itself; that the council often finds itself in the position of having pressure applied by people who are in a position to make money simply because of rezoning, and at the same time, facing the ire of people who have moved into areas expecting the zoning to remain the same and finding that there is a movement afoot to rezone; that some members of the council feel that this matter can be better handled by zoning well in advance of development so that anyone moving into the area will know just what the zoning will be,” the meeting minutes read. “The mayor stated that no conclusion has been reached with regard to this matter but that he wanted those present to know that the council was concerned.”
Whether or not the protest petition was part of the council’s dissatisfaction with the zoning process, the provision would be eliminated in Greensboro in a little over three weeks by an act of the General Assembly.
Minutes reflect that John Russell, the development company’s president, told the council that “the land was not purchased with this project in mind, but that after study it was determined that there was a need for quality multi-family housing and that this would be the highest and best use of the land.”
The rezoning request was doomed; council voted unanimously to defeat it on Feb. 1. When Russell asked that council reconsider the request on March 1, it failed by a 4-3 vote, with Elam joining the nay column.
Today, the councilmember most familiar with the protest petition is Robbie Perkins, who said he has encountered it in other North Carolina municipalities in his role as a real estate developer. He said he planned to consult with Warren to learn more about the reasons for Greensboro’s exemption.
“I think this is something that deserves debate,” he said. “The outcome of the debate is pending. I’m interested in doing my research before I take a position.”
Perkins pointed to several potential downsides of restoring the protest petition, including that it could discourage infill development.
“We’ve got to look at this closely before we go ahead and put a protest petition in place,” he said. “It may have some negative consequences as well. We have enough problems attracting investment. Do we want to make it that much harder? You’ve got big picture stuff…. We’ve got hit pretty good by job loss and loss of tax revenue. We need to think from a strategic point of view. How much leverage do you want to give that individual who lives next door?”
Mayor Yvonne Johnson said she was interested in learning why the city was exempted, but currently does not hold an opinion about whether Greensboro’s unique arrangement is preferable to the ground rules followed by other cities across the state.
Planning Director Dick Hails recently wrote to Keith Brown, a High Point man campaigning to restore the protest petition in Greensboro, that the idea had been proposed several times by council members in the past few years. “In each case,” he said, “there was not a sense that the majority of council wanted to pursue the matter, and there was not any follow up on the issue.”
Three other sitting council members — Sandra Anderson Groat, Dianne Bellamy-Small and Goldie Wells — indicated they would be hesitant to tinker with the current practice of approving controversial rezoning requests by a simple-majority vote.
At least one current member of the Guilford County legislative delegation has indicated sympathy with those who wish to restore the protest petition in Greensboro.
“I did not know about the protest petition exemption, but I see no merit in it if the rest of the state has similar relief,” Rep. Pricey Harrison wrote in a recent e-mail. She said she agreed with Phillips, the former Greensboro councilman “that if the infill proposal is a good one, it will win approval of the necessary majority. It is imperative, particularly in what is quickly becoming a carbon-constrained environment, that we adopt better land use management plans and stick to them.”
To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at

Aug 9, 2008


Greensboro City Manager Mitchell Johnson sent out a memorandum to the Mayor of Greensboro Yvonne Johnson and the whole Greensboro City Council and item #3 had to do with PROTEST PETITIONS.

DATE: August 1, 2008
TO: Mayor & City Council
FROM: Mitchell Johnson, City Manager
In response to City Council requests, I have attached memorandum and reports on the following items:
1. Update on Fire Department – I have attached memorandum from Deputy City Manager Robert Morgan that provides updated information on the Fire Study and Fire Chief recruitment.
2. Flexible Work Schedules – In recent months, the idea of providing for a more flexible work schedule has come from employees as well as citizens. We believe this policy will meet the need but I have asked each department head to make sure that we continue to provide service and accessibility consistent with our normal working hours. This attachment has been communicated to all Department Heads reviewing our established guidelines, through City Policies, of flexible work schedules. These policies could assist in addressing not only the City of Greensboro, but our employees’ use of the nation’s fuel resources.

3. Protest Petition – I have attached memorandum from Planning Director Dick Hails providing information related to Protest Petitions. The memorandum covers background information, issues and staff recommendations.

4. Streetlight Outage – There has been some discussion on how to handle the reporting and repair of Streetlights. Interim Transportation Director Adam Fischer has provided the attached information for your review. This information contains Greensboro Streetlight Outage Policy, a survey of other municipalities’ streetlight practices, and the most recent DPCO Thoroughfare Lighting Spreadsheet documenting outages. Also, Mr. David Montgomery with DPCO will be present at the August 4th, 2008, City Council meeting to address concerns.

Memorandum from Dick Hails Planning Director

July 24, 2008

Memo to: Mitchell Johnson, City Manager
From: Dick Hails, Planning Director
Subject: Information Related to Protest Petitions

Background – There has been much discussion within the Greensboro community in recent months about whether to reinstitute the protest petition provisions on rezonings in the City that were prohibited in 1970 by the General Assembly, at the request of the City Council. This memo reviews some of the issues associated with this zoning provision.

Protest petitions have been eligible for use by nearly all NC cities from the time of the original state zoning enabling act in 1923. The provisions in the General Statutes note that if a sufficient petition is filed, a ¾ majority vote of “all the members of the city council” is required for approval. This would have the effect of requiring the Greensboro City Council to cast at least 7 affirmative votes to pass any rezoning request, versus the 5 affirmative votes now required to approve a rezoning. Original zoning requests associated with annexations are exempt from protest petitions. A change to this prohibition to use protest petitions in Greensboro would require approval by the General Assembly.
Issues - The petition provision is generally mandatory for all NC cities and prohibited for all counties, unless an express exception is authorized by the General Assembly. This has occurred, for example, for the City of Greensboro (exempted) and the County of Durham (included). A memo from the City Attorney recently noted that this change was endorsed by City Council in 1970 and approved by the General Assembly in 1971. A 2008 School of Government report on zoning practices in the state notes that Greensboro’s exemption from these provisions is rare, and that there are very few other cities not authorized to use protest petitions.

However, the report also notes that there are limited direct impacts in different communities from protest petitions. The report tallied only about 5% of zoning decisions that had valid protest petitions received more than a simple majority but less than a ¾ majority vote. Rezonings approved by the Greensboro Council in the past year echo this trend, with no cases approved with a simple majority but not ¾ majority vote. The report also shows that protest petitions are utilized more in larger municipalities than in smaller ones.
The report notes, however, that there appear to be indirect impacts from such petitions, such as only a 52% approval rate reported for requests with protest petitions, as compared to a 76% approval for cases without such petitions. The presence of a protest petition option may also lead to greater amounts of communication between the requesting party and property owners surrounding the site on some rezonings.

The statutes lay out specific guidelines on how to judge a valid protest petition. Signatures of owners of either 20% of the subject property or 5% of property within 100 feet of the exterior of the subject property (not including public ROW’s) are necessary to validate a protest petition. Such petitions must be submitted at least two working days prior to the scheduled public hearing, to allow for adequate time for staff review and verification of the petitions.

Recommendation – Staff recommends that Council receive this report on various issues pertaining to use of protest petitions for the City of Greensboro.

It is great to see that someone at City Hall is wanting to get some information on Protest Petitions for Greensboro. One of the best observations from Planning Director Dick Hails is when he said this"The presence of a protest petition option may also lead to greater amounts of communication between the requesting party and property owners surrounding the site on some rezonings". That is precisely what our coalition has been pointing out and what has not been happening for well over 37 years in Greensboro. Also, Mr Hails states that Greensboro's exemption is rare. To say that it is rare is an understatement , how about a total injustice to the Citizens of Greensboro that might be a better statement.

It is time to see where the Greensboro City Council stands on this issue. In the following months they will start preparing for their legislative agenda for 2009 and bringing back Protest Petitions to Greensboro should be on the top of the agenda. But we will see if they want to be for the citizens of Greensboro or are they going to take the side of the special interest group called Triad Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition also known as the TREBIC CARTEL .

Time is now to understand what this means for you as a citizen of Greensboro and to write you Greensboro City Council to let them know how you feel.

Here is the link to e-mail your Greensboro City Council CLICKHERE

Below is the ordinance that Durham North Carolina uses for Protest Petitions


Durham City And County Unified Development Ordinance on Protest Petitions

Durham City-County Unified Development Ordinance

3.5.13 Protest Petition Sufficiency and Procedures
Protest Petition

A petition in opposition to a zoning map change shall be considered a "valid protest petition" if the petition meets the requirements of applicable state or local law.


The petition must meet the substantive requirements of GS 160A-385(2), and in particular must be signed by the owners of either:
20% or more of the area included in the proposed change or
5% of the area of a 100-foot wide buffer extending along the entire boundary of each discrete or separate area proposed to be rezoned. In evaluating the sufficiency of a protest under this provision:
A discrete or separate area shall be calculated for any non contiguous part of an area proposed for zoning map change that is physically separated from other areas proposed for change by property (not including right of way) that is not part of the requested zoning map change;
A street right of way shall not be considered in computing the 100 foot buffer area as long as the street right of way is 100 feet wide or less.
When less than an entire parcel of land is being rezoned, the 100 foot buffer shall be measured from the property line of the entire parcel.


In particular, the petition shall be submitted on time and contain the following:
Signatures of property owners comprising of 20% of either:
The area of the property under consideration; or
The area within 100 feet of either side or the rear of the subject property; or
The area directly across the street from the subject property and extending 100 feet from the street frontage of the properties across the street.

Both City and County

Property Ownership Property ownership shall be determined based on available recorded property records. In the event of records that are incomplete or in conflict, County tax listings may be used to determine ownership.
Other Required Information The petition shall contain all information required on the form supplied by the Planning Director or designee or the City Clerk or the Clerk to the Board of Commissioners, as appropriate.

A form for a protest petition shall be available from the Planning Director, or designee, or the City Clerk or the Clerk to the Board of Commissioners, as appropriate.
Completed petitions shall be submitted to the appropriate Clerk's office (City Clerk or Clerk to the Board of Commissioners) at least four working days prior to the day of the public hearing.
The Planning Director, or designee, in consultation with the Attorney for the jurisdiction shall determine if the petition meets the criteria for classification of "valid protest petition". The Clerk shall inform the governing body that a petition has been filed and indicate the determination by the Planning Director, or designee, whether the petition is valid or invalid. The Planning Director, or designee, shall notify the petitioner as to the validity of the protest petition.
Where a substantial modification to a zoning map change application that requires resubmission to the Planning Commission has been submitted, the Planning Director, or designee, shall notify the petitioner, in writing, that a new protest petition is required.
Petitions for zoning map change for which a protest petition has been determined to be valid shall require a ? vote of the governing body for approval rather than a simple majority. In the City, vacant positions on the Council and members who have been excused from voting because of a conflict of interest shall not be considered in computing Council membership.

Withdrawal Persons or entities who have signed protest petitions may withdraw their signatures at any time prior to the vote on the proposed map change. Any withdrawal must meet standards established for such withdrawals by the Planning Department. Withdrawals submitted less than two working days prior to the public hearing may result in a continuance of the hearing if the effect of the withdrawal on the validity of the protest cannot be determined prior to the public hearing.

Exemption The foregoing provisions concerning protest petitions shall not be applicable to any zoning map change that establishes the City's zoning designation on property that has been added to the City's jurisdiction as a result of annexation, except as provided by general or local law.