Update 7/22/15, 12:20 p.m.: We just received word that the Governor has signed the protest petition repeal, so it is now law.
In an 82-28 vote the North Carolina House today (7/15/15) voted to concur with the Senate’s final version of H201, a bill that eliminates protest petitions in North Carolina. It will now go to the Governor who has already indicated he will sign it. The bill takes effect August 1, 2015 and affects rezonings initiated on or after that date.
To get an idea why this was good for our members, and why it was a key issue we worked with the Apartment Association of North Carolina to address, just read some of our talking points from our discussions with state legislators:
Protest Petitions in North Carolina city and town re-zoning cases raise the bar to a Super-Majority 3/4 vote requirement by City Councils to overcome. This seems unreasonable given how easy it is for a Protest Petition to be triggered. Think about how common it is for neighbors to disfavor a proposed land use change (Not in My Back Yard). This currently results in an inordinate empowerment on local land use decisions placed in the hands of a few.
Zoning Protest Petitions are favored by a number of groups in North Carolina cities who stand to gain by the higher-level of negotiations/concessions/exactions that the Super-Majority vote requires of the land developer: neighborhood groups, planning staff, commercial property owners, and re-zoning consultants. All have vested interests in the filing of a protest petition and delaying, adding cost to, or killing a development proposal. The approval rate for projects subject to a protest petition is 52 percent, compared to a 76 percent approval rate for rezoning petitions overall – according to the UNC School of Government.
In H201, A simple majority City Council vote would instead be needed to defeat a re-zoning proposal; meaning that all proposals would be fully vetted before the elected officials take a vote, with a majority deciding. We know of no other Super-Majority vote requirement in municipal administration; even a City Council’s vote on their Fiscal Year Budget only requires a simple majority vote.