Recent Blog Posts

  • Drawing Electoral Districts to Help Minority Voters and Their Favored Candidates

    Authored by: on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

    A problem springs up every 10 years, with the new census numbers, in cities, counties, and school units that elect their council members, commissioners, and school board members from districts:  how, and how much, to take race into account in drawing district lines. Read more »

  • Signing Minutes and Ordinances

    Authored by: on Friday, October 30th, 2009

    We occasionally get phone calls from local government officials who are concerned that the mayor – or in the case of a county, the chair of the board of commissioners – has not signed an ordinance or has not signed the minutes of the meeting.  In one instance the ordinance had been adopted several years earlier, and the mayor at the time was no longer in office.  What to do? Read more »

  • Can the Opinions of Neighbors be Considered in a Zoning Hearing?

    Authored by: on Thursday, October 29th, 2009

    A national retailer plans to locate a new big box store on a large vacant lot adjacent to an existing single-family neighborhood. The town council is holding a hearing on a special use permit application for project. The zoning ordinance requires that the project not have a significant adverse impact on public safety and not have a significant adverse impact on neighboring property values. A large group of the neighbors appear at the hearing to vigorously oppose the application. A spokesperson for the neighbors testifies that she firmly believes that traffic generated by the project would pose a substantial danger to the neighborhood children as they walk, bike, and play on adjacent streets. Another neighbor who is a real estate agent testifies that everyone knows the value of their houses will go down if this project is approved. He presents a petition signed by 80 nearby property owners who agree with this contention. Can the council base a permit decision on either’s testimony? New legislation clarifies the use of lay-person testimony in these situations. Read more »

  • Priority of Local Government Liens

    Authored by: on Thursday, October 29th, 2009

    Assume you are a county attorney who gets a call from the tax collector asking your advice on whether the tax office should start foreclosure proceedings on Parcel A.  The property is valued at $25,000 and the county holds a tax lien of $4,000, so at first glance a foreclosure action looks promising.  But then the tax collector lets you know that her staff did a quick title search and learned that the local bank has a $10,000 mortgage on Parcel A. What’s more, two years ago the I.R.S. recorded a $30,000 lien for unpaid federal income taxes, and just last week the N.C. Department of Revenue recorded a lien for $8,000 of unpaid state income taxes.  Do you tell the tax collector that this foreclosure would be a waste of time? Read more »

  • I Second that Amotion

    Authored by: on Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

    UPDATE September 2013:  A superior court judge affirmed the power of amotion for removal of a county commissioner. The judge’s order is summarized here.

    With apologies to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and with assurances that I haven’t left out the space in “a motion,” this post addresses a question about whether a North Carolina local governing board has authority to oust one of its members. Read more »

  • Valid Cash Incentive or Illegal Tax Rebate?

    Authored by: on Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

    One news outlet reported that in exchange for constructing a data center in North Carolina, Apple Inc. will be reimbursed by North Carolina local governments for “50 percent of tax revenue on real estate property — buildings and land — and 85 percent of tax revenue on business property — computers and other equipment — for the next 10 years.” How do we determine whether this is an improper tax exemption or a valid incentive? I’m afraid there’s no “app for that.” Read more »

  • Protests and ARRA and Bears, Oh My!

    Authored by: on Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

    Now that local governments are digging in to the requirements that apply to American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants, I’ve started to get questions about developing bid protest procedures.  Are these procedures required?  If so, what should the procedures look like?  And where can I find a sample bid protest procedure? Read more »