Posts Tagged ‘Zoning’

Calculating the Majority Vote Required for Variances and Development Regulation Amendments

Tuesday, December 7th, 2021

North Carolina statutes have specific rules that address calculation of the majority required to approve a variance or to amend a development regulation. The statutes specify how an absent member or a member with a conflict of interest affect the majority required. The statutes also have a special rule that applies to city council members who are present but do not vote on a development regulation amendment.

What Conditions Can Be Included in Conditional Zoning?

Thursday, November 11th, 2021

Conditional zoning is a popular development regulation tool used in North Carolina. Legislative conditional zoning was first used in the state in the 1990s, was approved by the courts in 2001, and was expressly authorized by the zoning statutes in 2005. It is now the most frequently made rezoning in the state. With this widespread […]

Chapter 160D Now Effective

Friday, June 19th, 2020

  The General Assembly enacted legislation — S.L. 2020-25 (S. 720) — making Chapter 160D effective on June 19, 2020. This law also allows cities and counties greater flexibility in the timing for adoption of amendments to conform local development regulations to the new statute. Local governments can enact their amendments now, but they are […]

Regulation of Short-Term Rentals and the Effect of S.L. 2019-73

Monday, September 9th, 2019

Chris McLaughlin and I are excited to announce that our publication Regulation and Taxation of Short-Term Rentals is available for purchase through the SOG website. This publication is aimed at helping local governments decide how to address the growing issue of short-term rentals by analyzing the legal and practical aspects of local government regulation and […]

A Statutory Modification for Plan Consistency Statements

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

NOTE:  Post updated 11/9/21 to incorporate statutory updates. Cities and counties routinely consider proposals to amend their zoning ordinances. Amendments vary from the rezoning of a single parcel of land to major rewrites of the whole ordinance. The decision of whether or not to make a particular amendment is a legislative policy choice left to […]

Advisory Board Review of Quasi-judicial Decisions

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

Note: Post updated 11/16/21 to incorporate statutory amendments, particularly the adoption of Chapter 160D. Acme Development Co. is proposing to build a 200-unit apartment project on a vacant lot. Under the city’s zoning ordinance, this use of the site is allowed only if a special use permit is secured.  The ordinance standards for the special […]

Dealing with Land Uses Not Specifically Addressed in a Zoning Ordinance: The Saga Continues

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

If a person is considering undertaking a particular land use, it is important that they know whether or not that would be allowed by the zoning ordinance. It is usually a simple proposition to determine whether or not the use is allowed. The owner finds out how the property is zoned – what zoning district […]

Can the City Tell Me What My New House Has to Look Like?

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

A  fast-growing suburban town would like to encourage walkable mixed use neighborhoods. The planning board has proposed adding a new zoning district that would allow higher residential densities provided certain standards are met. The proposed standards include requirements for sidewalks, front porches, and that garage entrances be accessed only from the rear of the property. […]

Origins of Legislation to Reorganize and Modernize NC Planning and Development Regulation Statutes

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

UPDATE:  Post updated 11/17/21 to incorporate statutory updates. The bill discussed below was not adopted in the 2015 or 2017 sessions, but a substantially similar bill was adopted in 2019.  It is S.L. 2019-111 (Part II, S. 355) and is now in effect. More details and an annotated version of the adopted legislation is online […]

Meet the Granny Pod: New Zoning Protection for Temporary Family Health Care Structures

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Extended families residing together were commonplace in the early 20th century. In the 1920s most zoning ordinances allowed rooms in single family homes to be rented to boarders. It was also not uncommon at that time for single family homes to have an accessory dwelling unit. These came in a variety of settings – a […]

Requirements for Quasi-Judicial Decision Documents

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

The town council has just voted to approve a highly controversial special use permit for a new apartment complex. Getting to this point was a long process – two lengthy hearings and a third night of debate and deliberation by the council. There was much discussion about the traffic impacts, whether the evidence showed whether […]

Can Outside Material be Incorporated by Reference into Local Development Regulations?

Monday, May 5th, 2014

Simplicity and clarity are laudable objectives when drafting a zoning ordinance or other development regulation.  One way this is accomplished is to cross-reference other material rather than repeating it in the ordinance.  This is often referred to as “incorporation by reference.”  For example, rather than having a detailed definition of “adult businesses” that are subject […]

Can a Property Owner Be Cited for a Zoning Violation by a Tenant?

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Betty Draper owns a single-family residence.  She rents the property to four tenants.  The zoning ordinance does not allow parking in the front yard and limits the number of cars that can be parked on the property to four vehicles.  The residents regularly park in the front yard and often have eight cars parked on […]

Mandated Notices in Land Development Regulations

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Note:  Post updated 11/19/21 to incorporate statutory updates and make modest clarifications.  Local governments make hundreds of decisions every day under local development regulations.  Permits are issued or denied.  Enforcement actions are initiated.  Ordinance provisions are interpreted.  Property is rezoned.  Ordinances are amended.  Do local governments have to provide notice that one of these decisions […]

The Who, What, and When of Appeals TO the Board of Adjustment

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Consider these three scenarios regarding potential appeals to the zoning board of adjustment.  Scenario 1.  Marge Simpson has worked for decades to improve her neighborhood.  Several years ago the town adopted a new plan that called for the neighborhood to retain its predominately residential character, but to add some appropriately sized retail and office uses.  […]

Demolition and Code Enforcement Involving Historic Districts and Landmarks

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

You know the old Jones house down on 4th Street in the town’s historic district, don’t you? Well, it’s a real shame that it is in such bad shape. I remember when that house was right at the center of a very charming neighborhood. Now? Well, I hear that there is a realty company that […]

Choosing the Right Development Review Process: Factors to Consider

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

The city will soon be making a major land use regulatory decision.  There is a 15-acre site in town that is mostly vacant, but has a few modest, outdated commercial buildings.  The site fronts a major street, so more intensive use is feasible.  The owner has expressed interest in a new mixed use development that […]

Sidewalk Dining: Some Questions and Answers

Friday, September 13th, 2013

Imagine a balmy autumn evening. You and your family or friends have plans to go out for dinner. The restaurant that you have in mind offers you the chance to grab a table outdoors on the sidewalk. Have you ever wondered about what arrangements are made by the restaurant and governmental agencies to make “eating […]

Do You Have to Swear to Tell the Truth to the Board of Adjustment?

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Hector Peabody is fuming.  Several months ago one of his neighbors called town hall and complained that he was running an illegal kennel in his backyard.  Sure, he raised plot hounds, kept them in a pen out back and the dogs barked from time to time.  Even though he occasionally sold some of the hounds, […]

Protest Petitions No Longer Allowed in North Carolina

Friday, July 19th, 2013

UPDATE: Post updated 11/12/21 to incorporate statutory amendments. The zoning protest petition is no longer authorized for use in North Carolina. Even if a zoning regulation still  references a supermajority vote requirement if a protest is filed, that is no longer effective. A simple majority of those eligible to vote is sufficient to adopt a […]

BOA Changes Are Coming

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

Many folks have never heard of zoning board of adjustment, but this is a critically important piece of the local development regulation machinery.  Every year these boards hear and decide hundreds of appeals of the interpretation of ordinances made by staff administrators – such as whether an alleged violation is really a violation or whether […]

A Few Thoughts on Community Appearance and Design Controls

Friday, May 17th, 2013

One of the many bills that has drawn public and media attention this spring has been House Bill 150, a bill dealing with residential “design controls.” With certain notable exceptions it generally prohibits zoning or land subdivision regulations related to “building design elements” from being applied to one- and two-family dwellings. “Design elements” applicable to […]

Rick’s Cafe Experiences Growing Pains

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

A small restaurant on the edge of town has been in operation for many years.  Rick’s Cafe Carolinian was built in the 1940’s by Vic and Ilsa Laszlo at a time when the surrounding land was only woods and fields.  Residential subdivisions gradually grew up around their business.  When the town adopted zoning in the […]

What Do You Mean I Can’t Start Up My Business Again?

Friday, April 19th, 2013

Rick Grimes is a sheriff’s deputy residing in a crossroads community out in the county.  For a number of years he has supplemented his income with a small business repairing RVs.  He usually has three or four old RVs parked in his back yard where he fixes them on nights and weekends.  A few years […]

Is it a land use yet?

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

In some scenarios, determining land use is fairly simple.  The ordinance permits a donut shop, the owner establishes and operates a donut shop, and the land use is clear.  But land development over time is not always straightforward, and clear land use categories may grow murky as a place evolves.  Questions arise.  When does a […]

Can We Top Off Our Tower?

Monday, March 18th, 2013

Update:  Provisions substantially similar to the federal provisions discussed in this post were incorporated into state statutes in 2013.  S.L. 2013-185.  See the update at the end of this post for details.   Cell tower construction is a hot zoning topic.  The proliferation of smart phones and tablet devices is substantially increasing the demand for […]

When is That Guy Going to Finish His Remodeling Job??

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

The story goes something like this:  Jones, who is something of an eccentric guy anyway, lives in a relatively good neighborhood. But his house has never really fit into the area. His house looks like a work in progress with no clear design plan. He apparently is in the process of remodeling and expanding the […]

How Much Repair is Too Much Repair?

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Hershel Greene runs a small animal hospital out on the edge of town. When the business first opened thirty years ago, he had a large billboard advertising the business installed out by the road.  Herschel had been heavily involved with other pressing matters recently and the sign has fallen into considerable disrepair.  Hershel had the […]

Exactions and Subdivision Approval

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Can a city require sidewalks for a development? Can a county charge fees from a developer for parks?  In North Carolina, what exactions are allowed? The short answer: It depends upon the type of development approval and the underlying statutory authority.  Following the recent decision of Lanvale Properties, LLC v. County of Cabarrus, there is […]

Can the Board Go Into a Closed Session to Deliberate a Quasi-Judicial Decision?

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

The board of adjustment is hearing a hotly contested appeal.  The zoning administrator interpreted a somewhat ambiguous provision in the zoning ordinance to allow a controversial land use.  Irate neighbors appealed that determination to the board of adjustment.  The case quickly turned into one of the hottest land use disputes in recent town’s history, garnering […]

Which City and County Ordinances Apply in the ETJ?

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

The county zoning inspector received a call from a citizen complaining about a large accumulation of junk in a neighbor’s back yard.  The caller said there are several old refrigerators, some discarded furniture, and “a whole bunch of other junk” scattered about the yard.  The caller said she had politely asked her neighbor to clean […]

“Bah, Humbug” Gamers Say: Video Sweepstakes Statute Upheld

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

If you are looking for a last-minute holiday gift for someone at this time of year, you may want to forego purchasing your friend or relative a gift card at the local video sweepstakes operation (VSO). That gift card may not be worth so much in the new year, if law enforcement personnel in North […]

A Conditional What? Clarifying Some Confusing Zoning Terminology

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

A contemporary zoning ordinance can be a complicated proposition.  A small town or rural county’s ordinance often runs over 100 pages.  Some of the zoning ordinances in our larger cities approach (and if a few instances pass) 1,000 pages.  All of the details can be confusing even for the staff and board members who work […]

School Impact Fees and Development Regulations: Another Round

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

In areas experiencing urban growth and development, two questions often arise for local governments.  Do we have the capacity to provide necessary public facilities to serve this development?  If not, how are we going to pay for the needed additional facilities? A range of public services are needed for development — water, sewer, streets, schools, […]

Quasi-Judicial Zoning Decisions and Property Values: Whose Opinion Counts?

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

How many times have you been to a public hearing and heard opponents to a particular zoning proposal say that it will cause the values of their property to decline? The impact on property values is a theme that runs through most zoning decisions. Developers want to create value in their own real property and […]

When Can a Biased Elected Official Participate in a Zoning Decision?

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

A rezoning petition is pending before the city council.  The parcel involved is zoned for single-family residential use.  The landowner wants to build a retail store on the site, so she is seeking a change in the zoning to a commercial zoning district.  The planning board has recommended approval, noting the adjacent street can handle […]

Can We Consider Ownership in a Zoning Decision?

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

The heart of zoning ordinances are rules on land uses – rules on what uses can go where, standards on building setbacks, the size of structures, required parking, size of signs, and so forth. Sometimes, however, a question is raised about who is proposing a development.  Is the identity of the applicant or the owner […]

Can We Continue this Zoning Hearing?

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

The county board of commissioners is holding a public hearing on a controversial rezoning. The hearing has been going on for an hour and there are many interested citizens waiting to speak. The board chair knows the agenda for the meeting following the hearing is packed with a number of other important items that will […]

Can Time Limits be Imposed on Speakers at a Zoning Hearing?

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

The county board of commissioners is holding a public hearing on a controversial rezoning. A sizable contingent of neighbors who oppose the project are present. Many have signed up to tell the commissioners just how terrible it would be if the rezoning were to be approved. Anticipating that opposition, the developer has brought nearly as […]

Can a Group Home be Zoned Out of the Neighborhood?

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Most zoning ordinances have residential zoning districts. One of these is usually a district where the primary permitted land use is single family detached housing. Multifamily housing and group living arrangements (as well as commercial and industrial land uses) are usually not allowed in these zoning districts. Use of these zoning districts presents the question […]

Land Use Regulation of Internet Sweepstakes Cafes

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Regulating video gaming and gambling of one sort or another has vexed state and local governments in North Carolina for the better part of two decades. A recent court opinion held the current version of the state’s ban on internet sweepstakes to be unconstitutional, violating First Amendment rights to free speech. A second case held […]

Does the County Have to Comply with City Zoning?

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Ralph Kramden is working his way through the morning paper, waiting for his second cup of coffee to kick in. He suddenly jumps up, knocking his coffee to the floor in the process. “Alice, did you see what those yahoos in the county did last night?” The query is to his wife of forty years, […]

Tolling Ends, But Permit Extension Law Leaves Many Approvals in Place

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

The recession that began in 2008 hit the real estate market particularly hard.  Many projects that had been approved lost their funding or had little market for the housing, offices, and shops that would have been built.  One response to this was a decision by the General Assembly in 2009 to extend the life of […]

Preoccupied with Occupancy Certificates: Part I

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

My current preoccupation (a temporary one, I hope) is certificates of occupancy. I don’t mean those permissions necessary to occupy public property in the Raleigh, New York, or Washington demonstrations that have been in the news. No, I mean those ordinary certificates of occupancy that local governments issue to allow new buildings to be occupied […]

Can We Prohibit Offensive Signs?

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Malcolm Tucker runs a small nightclub. He recently put up a billboard advertising his business on the main road leading into town. The billboard is garish to say the least. It is bright orange and uses suggestive language and photos to advertise the entertainment offered at his club — drinking, dancing, and video sweepstakes games. […]

Signs of the Times: The Regulation of Political Signs

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Earlier this year it was reported in an Arizona newspaper that a prominent community activist (Ms. Smith) might face misdemeanor charges after witnesses saw her stealing campaign signs that Ms. Smith said were illegal and “negative” in their message. It seems that the signs made reference to the husband (Mr. Abbott) of an incumbent town […]

Amending an Approved Project

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

A developer proposes a multi-phased residential development. The developer secures a rezoning from low-density residential to a higher-density residential zoning district in order to build the project. A site plan for the development is approved. The project is very successful, with sales exceeding the developer’s expectations. Since the original plan of development had more open […]

What If a Proposed Rezoning Is Inconsistent With Our Plan?

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

NOTE:  Post updated 11/9/21 to incorporate statutory updates. A proposal to rezone a 15-acre tract is pending before the town council. The tract is near the edge of town. It fronts one of the town’s major roads and is occupied by three vacant residences. It is zoned for medium density residential use. The owner seeks to […]

Local Governments and the Special Status of Bona Fide Farms

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

UPDATE September 2013:  In 2013 the General Assembly expanded the scope of the bona-fide-farm exemption in several respects.  S.L. 2013 – 347 amends G.S. 153A-340 to provide that exempt activity includes agricultural activity associated with a farm “and any other farm owned or leased to or from others by the bona fide farm operator, no […]

Is the Mayor Doing Her Job or Improperly Receiving Evidence?

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Mayor Juanita Beasley was stuck in the checkout lane at the supermarket. She was wondering why she always managed to pick the slowest line when she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned to find her old high school friend Clara Edwards smiling and leaning in. After a quick exchange of pleasantries, Clara says, […]

Rezoning Conditions Done Right

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

NOTE:  Post updated 10/27/21 to incorporate statutory updates and other recent developments. A developer proposes rezoning a parcel from a low density residential zone to a commercial zoning district. The neighbors would be satisfied with some of the uses allowed in the more intensive district, but are wary about others. The staff has several concerns […]

Can We Add a Condition to this Rezoning?

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

NOTE:  Post updated 10/27/21 to incorporate statutory updates. A developer needs a rezoning to increase permissible densities on a tract in order build a project that may well be good for the community. The neighbors have legitimate concerns about the impact this more intensive development would have on quality of their neighborhood and their property […]

This Letter Deserves More Attention

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

You are interested in starting a new land use on some property you own. Since you are not sure if the zoning allows that use, you ask the town zoning administrator if it would be permitted. You get a letter telling you it is. How much can you rely on the letter? Is the town […]

Subdivision Ordinances: What’s Regulated, What’s Not

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

One of my colleagues once said that the law of land subdivision control had to be one of the most obscure and arcane areas of the law that one could imagine. After initially taking offense (since I took some proprietary pride in my knowledge of this subject), it occurred to me that what was needed […]

Can a City Really Zone Land Outside the City?

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Frank Graham inherited a 600-acre wooded tract located about a half mile outside a small town in rural North Carolina. With the economy turning around he is considering moving forward with development of the tract. He has been thinking a residential subdivision and shopping center would fit nicely on this tract. He thinks a portion […]

Outdoor Advertising: Winning the Preemption Game

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

UPDATE September 2013:  Legislation adopted by the 2013 General Assembly extends state law preemption to existing outdoor advertising signs that conform to state rules and local ordinances.  Section 8(b) of S.L. 2013 – 413 adds a new G.S. 136-131.2 to provide as follows:             § 136-131.2. Modernization of outdoor advertising devices. No municipality, county, local […]

Zoning and Satellite Annexations

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

One of these days the developer of a proposed new energy-efficient open-space development (Greenfields) will come calling on the city. It will propose that the city satellite annex the Greenfields property, located almost a mile outside of town. Greenfields will need city water and sewer and will be prepared to pay for its extension. City […]

Is this letter worth the paper it’s printed on?

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

You have an official letter from a responsible town official responding to your query about zoning. Can you rely on that letter? What legal effect does it have? Consider this situation.

Snakes with Too Much for Dinner: Conforming to the Transportation Plan

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

UPDATE September 2013:  The North Carolina Department of Transportation has adopted rules and policies concerning the size, location, direction of traffic flow, and the construction of driveway connections into State Highway System roads.  In exercising this authority under G.S. 136-18(29), NCDOT  may require the construction and public dedication of acceleration lanes, deceleration lanes, traffic storage […]

But I Already Bought the Lot and Had the Plans Made

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Malcolm Tucker’s troubles continue. Last year, shortly after he opened his new nightclub, Wally’s-A-Go-Go, the town revoked his permits because a former town staff person had erroneously issued zoning approvals. Although convinced it was a raw deal, Tucker reluctantly concluded that the law just might be on the town’s side so he closed the club […]

Zoning Variances: Is It Better to Ask for Forgiveness than Permission?

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

UPDATE September 2013:  The 2013 legislation revising the board of adjustment statutes codifies the “self-created-hardship” standard for granting variances that is common in many ordinances.  S.L. 2013 – 126 provides that the hardship may not result from actions taken by the applicant or the property owner. In addition, it expressly provides that “the act of […]


Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Do two wrongs ever equal a right in a zoning dispute? Suppose someone starts a business that is not allowed at that site under the zoning ordinance. One wrong. Suppose further that this was done after the town zoning inspector had mistakenly issued a permit for that use. Second wrong. Add the fact that the […]

Hardship, Reasonable Use of Land, and Zoning Variances

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

UPDATE September 2013:  The 2013 legislation revising the board of adjustment statutes affects the standards for granting variances.  S.L. 2013 – 126 repeals the reference to “practical difficulties” and provides that to grant a variance unnecessary hardship must result from the strict application of the ordinance. Moreover, G.s. 160A-388(d1) is added to provide that “(i)t […]

If We Can’t Collect a Fee, Can We Just Say No? Use of Impact Fees and Adequate Public Facility Regulatory Requirements

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

UPDATE September 2013:  The North Carolina supreme court subsequently ruled that counties do not have statutory authority to impose school impact fees. That 2012 case is discussed here. The population of Partition County has grown dramatically over the past several decades. The county has struggled to keep up with provision of public facilities to serve […]

Yer Cheat’n Heart, Tattoos, the First Amendment, and Preemption

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

“Where do you go in this town to get a tat, to find someone who can sling some ink? I wanna find somebody like they have on L.A. Ink that can do some real work on me. You know, a real artist. Might try one with my woman Marlene sitting on a fire-breathing dragon. Maybe […]

How Much is Too Much for That Application Fee?

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

In her regular budget update for the town council, Mayor Juanita Beasley advised the council that the budget cuts implemented for the 2010-11 fiscal year appeared to be adequate. She cautioned, however, that while the economy seemed to be stabilizing, the town’s budget outlook for 2011-12 was still bleak. After some grim discussion about just […]

A Shot across the Bow of the Zoning Ship?

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

A shot across the bow of another ship at sea can provoke an international incident if the action is improperly interpreted, or the matter can be resolved quickly. But in either case a shot across the bow tends to get the attention of those on the receiving end. A recent zoning decision by the North […]

Zoning Religious Land Uses

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

From the nation’s largest city to North Carolina’s smallest towns, land use regulation of religious uses can be particularly contentious. While the siting a mosque in lower Manhattan morphed from a local zoning dispute into a national political and policy debate in the past few weeks, the town of Coats (population 2,126) in Harnett County […]

Can the Town Require This Religious Use to Get a Special Use Permit?

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Eddie Haskell, a Maycomb town council member, dropped in on town manager Paul Proteus. After chatting a bit, he ventures “Quick question for you, Paul. I vaguely recollect that when we adopted the downtown revitalization plan last year, the council agreed that only commercial uses should go in that four block area. Right?” Paul replied […]

Local Historic Preservation Districts and Landmarks: Three Frequently Asked Questions

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

UPDATE September 2013:  The 2013 law that revises the zoning board of adjustment statutes (S.L. 2013 – 126) affects appeals of certificate of appropriateness decisions of historic preservation commissions. Section 1 of the act adds G.S. 160A-388(b1)(9) to provide that the board’s review  of such appeals must be based on the record made by the […]

A Topless Bar in Our Fair Town?

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Paul Proteus, the town manager of Maycomb, leaned back in his chair with a deep sigh. It was a quiet Friday afternoon. All of the week’s crises had passed. The parks staff and chamber of commerce folks just reported that final arrangements for the weekend BBQ festival were complete. The weekend weather forecast was great. […]

Zoning and North Carolina’s Fair Housing Act

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Suppose that a town council holds a public hearing on a proposal to rezone one of the last vacant tracts of land in the northwest area of town from a single-family residential district to a multi-family residential district. Suppose also that this area of town is comprised predominately of single-family houses on larger lots. The […]

Does Zoning Have to Provide a Place for Everything?

Monday, May 10th, 2010

 Folks in the small town of Maycomb are riled up. The state recently funded construction of a new expressway that passes near the town. Most everyone in town likes that, as the new road will cut time off the trip up to Raleigh. What has them riled up is a proposed asphalt plant. A big […]

Campaign Signs and Local Land-Use Ordinances

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

UPDATE September 2013:  In 2011 the General Assembly adopted legislation establishing standards for political signs within the right-of-way of NCDOT roads and highways, giving NCDOT the authority to enforce them.  The adopted statute (G.S. 136-32) does, however, allow municipalities to retain authority to regulate political signs within the rights-of-way of streets inside city limits that […]

Singled Out. A Problem in Enforcement?

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

The city has just issued you a notice of zoning violation. Other folks are doing the same thing you are and none of them have been cited. You believe the citation was prompted by the personal animosity of a city official rather than a concern about protecting the neighborhood or community. If your suspicions are […]

Can We Hit the Pause Button on Development Approvals?

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

On Monday morning the River City newspaper contains a story on the new phenomenon of internet sweepstakes cafes – how they operate, how they are technically different from video poker, and their rapid proliferation around the state. Towards the end of the article there is a brief quote from the owner of a chain of […]

Fixing an Error on a Zoning Map

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

 The mayor is finishing lunch with a couple of friends at the diner downtown. Just as she is about to dig into the best banana pudding in the state, an irate constituent barges in. Reaching the mayor’s booth, the red-faced constituent blurts, “I’ve really had it. Your gross incompetence is costing me thousands. Somebody needs […]

Administrative Decisions by the Planning and Zoning Staff: Who is in the Loop?

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

UPDATE September 2013:  In the summer of 2013 the General Assembly enacted legislation that will enable an owner whose property is subject to a decision or interpretation by the zoning administrator or subdivision ordinance administrator to post a sign on the property that a “zoning decision” or “subdivision decision” has been made by the local […]

Wireless Telecommunications Facilities: Can North Carolina Communities Avoid Shot-Clock Violations?

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

UPDATE September 2013:  Click here for an update on federal law as of March 2013.  New North Carolina legislation adopted during the summer of 2013 makes conforming changes to North Carolina law with respect to recent federal legislation and Federal Communications Commission rulings and adds features that are peculiar to this state.  See S.L. 2013 […]

Placing conditions on a conditional or special use permit approval.

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

The town council is holding a hearing on a special use permit application that would allow a small shopping center. The proposed site is on a major road and is adjacent to an existing residential neighborhood. At the hearing detailed information is presented on the traffic impacts of the project, including a required traffic impact […]

Do We Have to Hold Another Hearing on this Zoning Case?

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

The city council is holding a public hearing on a petition to rezone a parcel of land that fronts a highway leading into town. The owner has asked that the zoning be changed from a low-density residential district to a highway commercial district. The planning board recommended approval as the town’s plan calls for this […]

Are Adequate-Public-Facility Ordinances Adequate?

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

UPDATE September 2013:  In December 2012 the North Carolina Supreme Court invalidated the adequate-public-facilities program for public schools in Cabarrus County in the case of Lanvale Properties, LLC v. County of Cabarrus, ___ N.C. ___, 731 S.E.2d 800 (2012).  The county had allowed developers to avoid the consequences of inadequate school capacity by paying voluntary “mitigation […]

Wouldn’t It Be Nice? Agreements on Large-Scale Development

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Note: In 2015 the General Assembly amended the development agreement statute discussed below to remove the requirement for a minimum acreage and the limit on the maximum term of an agreement.  The agreement can not be for a project of any size and for a length deemed reasonable by the parties. S.L. 2015-246, Section 19. […]

Just Say No: The Denial of a Rezoning Petition

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

The proposed rezoning makes poor planning sense.  The neighbors oppose it.  The petitioner is unpopular.  So the governing board votes down the proposal.  How may the petitioner challenge this action (or lack of action)?  If adoption of a zoning amendment is a legislative action, then how can a petitioner challenge the refusal of the governing […]

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

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 […]

Cyber-Sweepstakes Anyone?

Monday, October 12th, 2009

UPDATE September 2013: In December 2012 in the case of Hest Technologies, Inc. v. State ex rel Perdue, the North Carolina Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the statute that makes it a criminal offense to conduct video sweepstakes games “through the use of an entertaining display.” (G.S. 14-306.4(b)). See here for an analysis of […]

What needs to be in the notice of a zoning hearing?

Friday, September 25th, 2009

State law requires a public hearing before a zoning ordinance can be amended. Notice of the hearing must be published twice in a local paper. If the amendment proposes to change the zoning of property, notice of the hearing must also be mailed to the property owner and owners of adjacent property (and for good […]

The Land Development Permit Extension Legislation: Some Applications and Examples

Monday, September 14th, 2009

UPDATE Septemeber 2013:  Land development permit extension was extended in 2010 for one additional year.  The suspension period ended December 31, 2011 rather than December 31, 2010. For an analysis of this change see here my blog of August 3, 2010.   The recently passed legislation concerning land development permit extensions (Session Law 2009 – 406 […]

New Life for Old Development Approvals

Friday, August 28th, 2009

UPDATE September 2013: The permit extension law was subsequently extended an additional year. For a review of the extension, click here.  The law has now expired. For a review of the impacts of the expiration, click here. One consequence of the depressed economy of the past few years was the demise of previously approved development […]

Local Police-Power Ordinances: Whatever Has Happened to Them?

Monday, August 10th, 2009

UPDATE September 2013:  Click here for an analysis by my colleague Trey Allen of the general police power as interpreted by the 2013 North Carolina Court of Appeals case of King v. Town of Chapel Hill.              In North Carolina some of these ordinances may be in peril, at least to the extent they are […]