May 9, 2009

Preserving the Written Minutes of The Meeting Where Protest Petition's Were Put on Legislative Agenda on 1-23-09

BELOW THE FOLD IS THE OFFICIAL MINUTES FROM THE January 23, 2009
Greensboro City Council meeting where Protest Petitions for the citizens of Greensboro was put on Legislative agenda for the State Legislators. It was a impressive show of force to see the Coalition of Concerned Citizens of the Triad, League of Women Voters of the Piedmont Triad, and Greensboro Neighborhood Congress come together to make this happen for the citizens of Greensboro. It was also a real rude awakening to see the Triad Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition (TREBIC), Greater Greensboro Realtors Association,Greensboro Homebuilders Association, Triad Apartment Association, National Association of Industrial & Office Properties try to deny the citizens of Greensboro the right to use Protest Petition in the zoning process. This post is here to record the history of Protest Petitions for Greensboro and what happened on January 23, 2009.

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Mayor Johnson indicated that Numbers 11-20 would be skipped to address Number (21) of Item #28, theProtest Petition segment of the 2009 Legislative Agenda. Mayor Johnson introduced and read into the record that
the City will seek legislation to repeal a local act passed in 1971 exempting the City from state law concerning petitions of protest on zoning matters.



Repeal of the law will subject the City to the provisions of 160A-385, which
will require rezonings to pass by a three-quarter vote of Council, rather than a majority vote, when a proper protest petition is submitted. Mayor Johnson indicated that speakers would have twenty minutes for and against the
category and conversely, five minutes of rebuttal.


Mayor Johnson asked if anyone wished to speak in support of Number (21) of Item #28, the 2009Legislative Agenda:


Jack Masarie, 3 Garden Lake Circle, spoke in favor of the protest petition; the importance of providing
clear procedural and representation items for property owners in close proximity to development; and the
importance of representation, communication and procedure.


Art Davis, 910 Ross Avenue, representing the Greensboro Neighborhood Congress, indicated that theprotest petition process was essential to effective communication for residents involved in controversial rezonings;
encouraged reinstatement of the protest petition to ensure neighborhood development; and supported utilizing theprotest petition as a participation tool for residents.


Kathleen Sullivan, 5302 Lange Trail, representing the Greensboro Neighborhood Congress, requested Council reinstate the protest petition tool which would act to check-and-balance development; and cited the example
of the Twin Oaks Golf Course infill development project.

Sharon Hightower, 6 Bells Court, spoke in support of the protest petition process because it emphasizedinclusion within the development process, allowed community input into the development process, and that stated
that Greensboro’s regulations should reflect protest petition regulations of other municipalities.


David Wharton, 667 Percy Street, spoke in support of the protest petition with a PowerPoint presentation,concern regarding the proportion of representation of real estate members on city boards; legal representation of
real estate industry; funding of industry professionals by regional and national firms; lobbyists intervention into landuse public policy; and to correct the imbalance between political and regulatory interests. (A copy of the
PowerPoint presentation is filed as #R-2 which is hereby incorporated by reference and made a part of these
minutes.)


Willie Taylor, 808 Sea Carriage Crossing Lane, representing the League of Women Voters, spoke torestore the protest petition in the spirit of collaboration and trust between developers and residents.


Colin Kelly, 3614 Gainsboro Drive, spoke in favor of the protest petition process and the need for itsreinstatement.


Susan Taaffe, 2511 Wright Avenue, spoke in favor of the protest petition and requested audience membersto stand in support thereof.


Donna D. Newton, 1 Gwyn Lane, representing the Greensboro Neighborhood Congress, spoke to the rightof the protest petition to the citizens, emphasized the rights of transparency and equity; and mentioned that the right
had been removed by the former Council in 1971 without any public discourse.


Mayor Johnson then asked if anyone desired to speak in opposition to Number (21) of the 2009 LegislativeAgenda:


Algenon Cash, 405 Battleground Avenue, spoke in opposition of the protest petition; stated that duringeconomic downturns, the protest petition would be counter-productive relevant to inefficient regulation; that the
current rezoning process was not broken and did not require fixing; that passing a protest petition regulation would weaken private property rights by allowing as few as one person to impact majority rule; and that strengthening
regulations would deter economic growth.


Jeff Yetter, 905 Cornwallis Drive, spoke in opposition to the protest petition stating that infill developmentwould be the focus of protest petitions; North Carolina was on a national target list for development; requested
Council to not deter smart growth and infill development; and expressed his concerns regarding the impact of theprotest petition regulation on job creation.


Steve Batts, 4804 Thacker Dairy Road, representing the Greensboro Homebuilders Association, spoke inopposition to the protest petition.


Betty A. Smith, 3907 North Elm Street, representing the Greensboro Regional Realtors Association, spokein opposition to the protest petition; stated that the current rezoning process was effective; cited the rezoning case of the Lake Jeanette area; expressed her concerns for private property rights; and stated that realtor attendance was low due to the council meeting conflicting with the North Carolina Association of Realtors’ quarterly meeting.


Ron Guerra, 115 South Westgate Drive, representing TREBIC, spoke in opposition to the protest petition; stated the real estate industry was already heavily regulated; indicated that neighbors meetings with developers was
an essential part of the TREBIC credo; and stated that the threshold percentages are too high.


Marlene Sanford, 115 South Westgate Drive, representing TREBIC, the Triad Apartment Association, the Greensboro Landlord’s Association, spoke to the fairness of the protest petition whereby rezoning opponents have
an unfair advantage over the applicant in lieu of the applicant being considered guilty until proven innocent; protest petition represents a tyranny of the minority; public policy should not be conducted based on the fact that everyone
else is doing it; and spoke her opposition to the statistics presented regarding the Boards and Commissions’ members backgrounds.


Mayor Johnson called for speakers in rebuttal, supporting Number (21) of the Legislative Agenda:


David Wharton, 667 Percy Street, spoke to the role of communication and cooperation between government, residents and developers; stated that the current economy is affecting homeowners’ equity; denied that one person could prevent a rezoning; opposed evidence that the protest petition would create sprawl by stating Greensboro currently has sprawl; and supported the statistics presented in his PowerPoint presentation.


Mary Burritt, 2016 Fleming Road, spoke in support of the protest petition and emphasized constituent support and expressed her apprehensions concerning the rezoning process.


Mayor Johnson responded that Council was attempting to find a compromise between the real estate industry and property owners.


Mayor Johnson then called for speakers in rebuttal, opposing Number (21) of the Legislative Agenda:


Ron Guerra, 115 South Westgate Drive, spoke to the negative perception of negotiations relevant to development projects; and the lack of statistics indicating the number of rejected projects based on protest petitions;
and stated his opposition to the five percent threshold.


Betty A Smith, 3907 North Elm Street, reiterated her opposition to reinstating the protest petition.


Marlene Sanford, 115 South Westgate Drive, spoke to sprawl, density and geography; and expressed willingness to work with the Greensboro Neighborhood Congress and the League of Women Voters to discuss
different standards for the protest petition in the case that Council voted for its reinstatement.


Councilmember Matheny moved to close the public hearing; Councilmember Wade seconded the motion which was adopted by voice vote of Council.


Council discussion mentioned the need for affordable housing in Greensboro for first-time homebuyers; expressed the concern of the protest petition’s impact on community relations; encouraged favorable methods of urban planning with residents, staff and developers; the necessity of a communication tool between residents and government; questioned the appropriateness of the five-percent threshold; expressed concerns about infill development, redevelopment and residential deterioration along major corridors; and the need to compromise
between real estate and residential interests.


Attorney Wood detailed the protest petition process consisting of the developer meeting with protesters to discuss conditions; subsequently, the project could proceed or not; finally the project would be presented to Council for voting.


Donna D. Newton stated that the Neighborhood Congress would be willing to discuss amending the protest petition with the real estate community after the protest petition right had been reinstated in Raleigh. Council discussion emphasized the lack of public records of discourse regarding the exemption that was adopted by the City Council in 1971.


Councilmember Wells indicated that the protest petition was a state law that Greensboro citizens should be allowed the basic right along with rest of the populous; and that the threshold percentages could be amended by the
Legislature.


Mayor Johnson commented that if Number (21) passes, ask that the State Legislature revisit the whole area of protest petition, and the percentages, and the standards, because the rezoning criteria and process has changed;
you could add that if you pass this as a request of the Legislature.

Councilmember Bellamy-Small moved that we send this forward with the Mayor’s comment added to it, leaving it for us to tweak the percentages and the number of votes whatever, but giving us some flexibility; so you reinstate it but give us still the opportunity to work with folks who put it to make it fit for Greensboro. Attorney Wood proceeded to summarize Council’s intentions. Councilmember Barber interjected with an option to ask the Legislature to allow Greensboro to establish a local ordinance. Councilmember Wells made a motion to send it, Number (21), so that it be repealed so that the citizens
would have their right. Councilmember Barber’s friendly amendment that supplemental language subsequent to the protest petition being reinstated that we take your (TREBIC, Neighborhood Congress, League of Women Voters)
collective proposal on percentages and detail to the Legislature, as well. Attorney Wood clarified that if Council voted tonight to include this in the Legislative Agenda Packet, it would go to Raleigh then we could send a related
bill within the timeframe for local bills to the Legislative Study Commission to be considered. Councilmember Barber summarized that the expectation is that you mail it by February 3rd, and that the protest petition goes and the
recommendation goes at the same time. Mayor Johnson added that a local bill to be structured and be consistent to their agreement. Councilmember Wells accepted the friendly amendment and moved Number (21) remain on the
Legislative Agenda. Councilmember Bellamy-Small seconded the motion which was approved on the following roll-call vote: Ayes: Barber, Bellamy-Small, Groat, Johnson, Matheny, Perkins, Rakestraw, Wells and Wade.
Noes: None.