State lawmakers might take away a tool Clayton residents have used to fight rezonings.
Under current law, North Carolinians can use so-called “protest petitions” to oppose land-use changes. In Clayton, residents have used the petitions in recent years to fight rezonings for new subdivisions.
If owners of enough contiguous land sign the petition, three-fourths of a town council must OK the land-use change. That’s a higher bar than the simple majority required in other council votes.
Bills filed in the state House and Senate would repeal protest petitions.
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Sen. Brent Jackson, a co-sponsor of the Senate bill, is a Sampson County Republican whose district encompasses part of Johnston County. Acy Watson, a research assistant in Jackson’s office, said the senator thinks it’s critical for North Carolinians to have a voice in land-use decisions.
“However, he does not believe that a single individual should be able to bring the wheels of economic development to halt by filing a protest petition that may or may not have any real substance,” Watson said.
In Clayton earlier this year, one resident forced 75 percent of the Town Council to approve a proposed subdivision. Janet Daniel owned enough land around the planned ParkView subdivision to call for the three-fourths vote.
The council unanimously approved the rezoning change for ParkView, which will go up on 82 acres along City Road next to the Clayton Civitan Club.
Also in Clayton, more than two dozen residents have petitioned against Steeplechase, where the plans call for 2,200 homes near ParkView on the north side of town. That’s enough to force another three-fourths vote to win approval.
Karen Spicer lives in Ole Mill Stream, one of two subdivisions next to the Steeplechase land. She said her neighbors filed the formal petition to make sure town leaders heard their concerns.
“It is amazing to me that lawmakers wouldn’t want municipalities to know citizens’ thoughts and opinions,” Spicer said in an email. “I realize that new developments bring new residents and taxpayers, thus increasing the tax base. Therefore, municipalities are eager to approve.”
“In our situation, we agree that progress needs to take place,” Spicer continued. “What we are asking is that the growth is managed with long-term impact in mind.”
The Clayton Town Council has yet to vote on the Steeplechase rezoning request.
In recent years, other formal petitions filed in Clayton have challenged a Sheetz on U.S. 70 Business near N.C. 42 East. Neighbors also petitioned against rezoning land for Bristol at Cobblestone subdivision. The council approved both.
Town spokeswoman Stacy Beard said protest petitions haven’t led to a denial of a request in at least the past five years.
The Senate has approved the bill Jackson co-sponsored, and the House is considering the measure. The House bill hasn’t advanced past committee meetings.
Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104