Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Protest petitions strangle development?

Ahem, someone needs to get out more. Up in Greensboro, there's a discussion over whether the city should no longer be exempt from the law that allows protest petitions against proposed rezonings. The city council is to vote on Wednesday whether to ask the legislature to lift its exemption, so its citizens can file protest petitions as in most other N.C. cities.


One argument being raised against protest petitions is that they would strangle development. Whoever is saying this clearly has not been to Charlotte, where (until the recession slowed everything) it was quite clear that development here has been anything but strangled.

(What's a protest petition? When a rezoning is proposed, if enough adjoining property owners sign a protest petition, then the deciding body, e.g. Charlotte City Council, must pass the rezoning by a three-fourths vote. And the mayor gets to vote on protest-petition rezonings, unlike other rezonings.)

16 comments:

teegee said...

There is such a widespread perception that the developers, under the guise of "anticipated tax revenues," end up doing whatever they want. The availability of a voice, of forcing a second look, is a very important part of a process that sometimes seems so tilted against the people who will be most impacted. Now, if someone will listen . . .

Still Miffed said...

Note to Greensborites wanting to have the exemption lifted: Save your time and breath. Protests and ethics are worthless wherever the elite, wealthy “we know what’s best for the city” clique gathers. Here's why:

I recall a protest petition filed against a proposed SouthPark area development in 2007. The developer originally wanted to erect a 20-story luxury condo tower on Fairview Road between Park and Wintercrest Lane. Problem was, it was proposed for a neighborhood of one and two-story houses. (To provide perspective, the huge luxury towers at Sharon-Amity and Providence roads in Cotswold are only 7 stories tall.) Before the final council vote, the developer agreed to do his part for the beleaguered neighbors by “scaling it back” to a three-building complex of 10, 6 and 3 stories – a larger intrusive footprint, but to his credit he went from 20 stories all the way down to 19. What a guy!

He offered the neighborhood a reported $20,000 in landscaping money. The majority of adjoining neighbors still refused to drop their protest. They met with the developer in a futile attempt to persuade him to build a much smaller 3-to-4-story luxury project on his properties, similar to other projects in the area.

No success, but the protestors had good reason to believe council would uphold their protest in the final vote. After all, the city’s own professional planning staff was opposed to the development, the city’s zoning committee voted unanimously to recommend to council that it be denied, and the protestors had a petition signed by far more than 50% of the entire neighborhood property owners, who agreed the project was not suitable. That info was forwarded to city council.

Despite all that, Charlotte City Council overwhelmingly and inexplicably voted in favor of he rezoning request. Only the mayor (then considering a run for state office) and Councilman Pat Mumford (who would be leaving council later that year) voted against it. The mayor explained he was opposed because that area’s infrastructure was already overloaded, and because the SouthPark Small Area Plan didn’t call for skyscrapers in that area – there still being plenty of suitable property around the mall for development without disturbing surrounding single-family neighborhoods. Councilman Mumford felt an approval would set a dangerous precedent.

The only other comment came from District 6 Councilman Andy Dulin, a REALTOR who was very much for the proposal in his district. He said in effect he had a gut feeling that this would be good for that neighborhood. Gee, I wish I had his crystal ball.) No one else on council offered an explanation to the protestors as to the rationale for their votes.

Digging into records at the Board of Elections, protestors later discovered that several councilpersons had received substantial campaign contributions from the developer and his associates during the time the project was under consideration. Although the council’s own ethics rules require councilpersons to reveal and recuse themselves from votes in which they have a financial interest, the city attorney later claimed that this was not applicable in this instance. (What else could he say? “Yes, please sue us for unethical conduct for not requiring campaign-benefiting councilpersons to step aside on this vote?”)

Me think he protesteth too much.

Anonymous said...

We don't need anymore zoning or regulations in this city. I like having property rights. Sorry to upset the leftist out there.

Goober said...

I'm looking for land, so please let me know where you live, Anon, then I can build the world's largest hog farm next door to you. Yep, screw those intrusive zoning restrictions. People should be free to build whatever they want, wherever and whenever they want. And the heck with those stupid regulations like speed limits and no drinking while driving.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, and there's a reason why Greensboro's growth is stagnant. Developers aren't the bogey man Mary, but many NIMBY's are.

triadwatch said...

still miffed , thanks for how your area went through the process and noticed the campaign contributions given during that zoning case. Our coalition is trying to restore protest petitions to greensboro for reasons like fairness and they snuck this bill for exemption on Protest petitions in the state legislator without any public input back in 1971. It will be a interesting night where the citizens are going up against the Real estate Lobby called TREBIC.

our site is a blogspot and it is at http://protestpetitiongreensboro.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

"Protest petition?" Is that a politically correct way of saying NIMBY?

Still Miffed said...

Our protest was hardly a “NIMBY”. As mentioned above, we met with the developer, and we stated up front that we were not opposed to his developing his properties in our neighborhood. But we were opposed to an outlandish high-rise development that would probably lower the value of our single-family houses in an area where no high-rises existed, and which would invite future encroachment. We pointed out to him several other luxury developments in the SouthPark area that obviously had made a profit for their developers without exceeding three or four stories in height.

In fact, a few months after our protest was denied, another developer built a four-story luxury condo building a few hundred feet away at the intersection of Park and Fairview. He had no trouble finding buyers. No one in this ‘hood or surrounding ones objected to it because it was reasonable, considerate and smart. So, you can take your cry of “NIMBY” and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine.

Oh, and did I mention that the developer who just had to have a skyscraper instead of something more appropriate was Afshin Ghazi of EpiCenter fame – the golden boy of Center City Partners and Charlotte City Council?

Anonymous said...

Goober I live in South Charlotte. I agree I hate speed bumps and DWI is nothing but a scam.

Anonymous said...

Still Miffed, I'm sure a few residents of Atlanta's Buckhead district voiced the same complaints. When we look back in a couple decades and wonder why Southpark never became Charlotte's Buckhead, we'll know why.

Robert said...

"Still Miffed", we'll look back in a couple of years, when America is still suffering through this second Great Depression caused by all those wonderful right-wing, greedy Republican executives, politicians and stock brokers, and see that Atlanta's Buckhead has deteriorated into a slum, and will thank you for preventing that from happening here in SouthPark.

Naomi said...

Guys, guys guys! The only group in Charlotte that wants SouthPark to emulate Buckhead is the SouthPark branch of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, and their running dog allies like Anonymous. Normal Charlotteans and existing SouthPark area residents could could care less about another Buckhead clone.

But maybe Still Miffed won't have to worry about Ghazi ever building his high-rise "Gateway to SouthPark". He can't even get the EpiCentre completed, and they love skyscrapers uptown.

Anonymous 2 said...

Wait a minute. Don't all the "wonderful right-wing, greedy Republican executives, politicians and stock brokers" live in SouthPark?

Danger, Will Robinson! Danger.

Anonymous said...

Who owns the sunshine?

Anonymous said...

Who owns the sunshine?

Apparently it's the builder who gets to build a skycraper in your backyard to shut out the sunlight from your back deck!

triadwatch said...

update, Greensboro City Council passed the protest petition on a 9-0 vote but want to send up to the legislators a amended compromise because they think the 5% is too low and one councilwomen was adament to pass this exemption then lobby the state but the developer on council hates the law as it is and wants his own version of state law, amazing.