Protest Petitions have been in place in the United States since 1916 and in North Carolina since 1923.
The original purpose of the Protest Petition was (and is) “a device for the protection of the property owner” and that its purpose was “to prevent easy or careless changes in the zoning regulations. . . . The 20 percent protest will often prevent impulsive or improper map changes.” Edward M. Bassett, Zoning 38 (1940). Zoning is law. It should never be too easy for anyone to change local zoning laws.
A UNC School of Government Study in 2006 (link) revealed the following:
- In the state of North Carolina only 5% of all rezonings had their outcomes changed due to the presence of a Protest Petition. That is, only 5% failed to be adopted as a result of having a Protest Petition. That is a total of 4 statewide. Thus proving that Protest Petitions are NOT a manipulative or dominant tool in the development process.
- In North Carolina a total of 134 legitimate Protest Petitions were filed, representing a total of 6 percent of all rezoning petitions filed that year. Again, only FOUR resulted in changing the outcome of the city council’s vote.
What is the purpose of a Protest Petition?
When a Protest Petition is filed and is proven legitimate (not an easy task), it requires that when city council reviews and votes on a rezoning request, three-fourths of all of its members (including the mayor) must vote favorably for the rezoning to pass. Typically, a simple majority of council members is all that it takes.
The effect of a Protest Petition is to give concerned neighbors a rare seat at the table (time to speak at council meeting) and to get city council to sit up and pay special attention to a request to change the zoning law.
What is happening?
The NC House and Senate Bills below propose to entirely repeal the legal rights and protections as provided by the 1923 Protest Petition law. No compromise, no alternative. Once repealed, there will be no statewide legal framework to protect property owners against impulsive or improper map changes, severely impacting neighborhoods and small business communities throughout North Carolina.
Read below for historical, legal, and academic perspectives on the 1923 NC Protest Petition law:
The News & Observer (03/29/15):
Neighbor’s right under attack
* Tom Miller is an attorney and lives in Durham, NC
Protest Petition for Greensboro Blog (06/20/14):
The Argument for Protest Petitions
* Ben Kuhn is owner of The Kuhn Law Firm and practices law in Raleigh, NC
UNC School of Government (06/14):
Planning and Development Regulation: Protest Petitions
* David Owens is a Gladys Hall Coates Professor of Public Law and Government at UNC Chapel Hill. His publications include the basic legal reference, Land Use Law in North Carolina, and the widely used guide for citizen boards, Introduction to Zoning.
NCGA House Bill 201 Official Page:
H201 – “Zoning Changes/Citizen Input”
Primary Sponsors: Stam; Goodman; Jackson; Fraley
Sponsors: Bradford; Elmore; Hamilton; Jordan; Millis; Setzer; Watford; Wray
Decision Vote: March 25, 2015 – PASSED 89-28 with 3 absent (continues to Senate)
NCGA Senate Bill 300 Official Page:
S300 – “Zoning Changes/Majority Rule”
Primary Sponsors: Andy Wells; Michael Lee; Jane Smith
Sponsors: Brent Jackson
Decision Vote: TBD