Jan 22, 2009

The Speech That You Didn't Hear Last Night

*MADAM Mayor, City Council Members

The North Carolina General Assembly can create new law and destroy old law. Cities like Greensboro are subject to state control which is exercised by laws enabling or directing the local units to act in the manner desired by the state.

In 1971, local elected officials passed a bill under a cloud of politics to exempt Greensboro from North Carolina General Statute,160a 385 and 386 called a “Protest Petition”. This exemption never should have been made in the first place.

But it is bad public policy when you have politicians secretly putting in these exemptions without any public input.

To hear Gary Rogers from the Triad Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition (TREBIC) state that Greensboro back in 1971 had the foresight to exempt themselves from this statute is condescending to the citizens of Greensboro. No, Mr. Rogers, it was not foresight. It was an effort to take away a right of the citizens of Greensboro to use the petition power against unwanted rezoning development in established neighborhoods.

Let’s get a few facts straight on the 5% rule. Back in 2005 the State Legislature made a change to the statute and every city in North Carolina except Greensboro abides by this change to the 5% rule, and as stated by David Owens from the Institute of Government the league of municipalities for over 5 straight years has tried to abolish this statute to no avail.

Please don’t deny the citizens of Greensboro this right to Protest Petitions when to change the 5% rule it will have to come at the state level. You might not like the 5% rule but if only 5% of the neighbors are against the rezoning and it be one owner than I hope you as a council will call them out on that point and vote accordingly.

What about the 30 to 40 to well over 60% of property owners who would like to use Protest Petitions in Grensboro zoning cases against these land owners or developers.You have taken their right away by not allowing them the use of Protest Petitions.

Such parties argue that if Protest Petitions are brought back to Greensboro then in-fill development will be a problem. They suggest that the exemption will aid growth, and not having the exemption will hurt growth, isn’t that countered by the fact that Raleigh & Charlotte which have Protest Petitions have grown faster than Greensboro over the time period the exemption has been in effect?

Protest Petitions level the playing field for residents, especially when pro-development members of the City Council are making rezoning decisions.

Because I live in High Point and not Greensboro my neighborhood had the right to use a Protest Petition against Blue Ridge Companies who is a gold star member of TREBIC, not once but twice in a highly contested rezoning case off of Highway 68 and Wendover Avenue. As a witness as to how Protest Petitions work in the zoning process citizens in Greensboro should also like to have this powerful tool as their voice against encroaching development, which was the case in Blue Ridge Companies and what they had planned.

It is not fair to the citizens of Greensboro that every other city in this state abides by Protest Petitions but Greensboro is exempted. This makes no sense. It is time for a bill to be passed to make the City of Greensboro be consistent with all the other municipalities all over this state. From Charlotte to Wilmington to Greenville to Raleigh to Asheville to Winston Salem to High Point.

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