Diverse perspectives allowed in zoning process
Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam sent the following letter to the Cary Town Council on House Bill 201, which he sponsored. It would eliminate protest petitions in the rezoning process. The length requirement has been waived.
The zoning protest petition empowers a small minority of elected officials to control the will of the majority of their councils.
Today, we have conditional use zoning that allows applicants to tailor their requests to better fit the proposed location. We have instant messaging and a wide array of other communications outlets by which citizens stay connected with both the progress of rezoning cases and their elected officials. They can view the proceedings live on community television and track it through town websites.
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Cary now requires that applicants conduct at least one, if not more, community meetings before a case may be heard. In some cities, such as Raleigh, meetings must be held before the request may even be filed. Applicants are required to not only notify all adjacent property owners but also those within a specified radius of the property. Other cities require the notification of community-wide citizen groups as a part of the community meeting process. This type of broad-based input provides for many diverse points of view to be brought to the process.
Nothing in House Bill 201 zoning changes/citizen input prevents an individual from presenting his or position on the matter to the governing board and individual council members. In fact, it requires that petitions be brought to the attention of the council by the town clerk.
The ability to trigger a 3/4 vote is not a constitutional right, as many believe. The constitutional right to “petition for redress of grievances” is upheld. The bill does, however, take away the power of the minority to control the will of the majority elected by the people. After all majority rule is a fundamental premise of our democracy. Nowhere has democracy meant that the tail gets to wag the dog.
Rep. Paul Stam, Speaker Pro Tem