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.

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