State Politics

NC House wants end to protest petitions

The state House voted after a long debate Tuesday to eliminate a tool landowners use to control development around their property.

In an 81-31 preliminary vote, the House decided to do away with protest petitions in rezoning cases. The House must take another vote, which will likely come Wednesday, before House Bill 201 goes to the Senate for consideration.

Supporters of the change said protest petitions give landowners too much power over how nearby property is used. Opponents said the petitions protect homeowners from destructive development.

“You do not have the fundamental right to tell other people what to do with their property,” said Rep. Paul Stam of Apex, one of the bill’s sponsors.

Protest petitions are a way for neighbors to formally challenge proposed land-use changes. If enough neighbors sign a petition, the re-zoning needs a 75 percent city council vote for approval.

The bill’s opponents raised the specter of 14-pump gas stations, a 10-story building, and a fast-food restaurant going up near homes.

Though she didn’t mention Publix by name, Rep. Marilyn Avila, a Wake County Republican, talked about a large grocery store proposed for a subdivision entrance off Falls of Neuse Road. Facing neighborhood opposition, the developer modified its plan to include a smaller store.

“We have to give homeowners a chance to defend their property,” she said.

Avila proposed an amendment that would make it easier than now for developers to win approval in protested rezoning cases.

House members who want protest petitions to survive said the procedure gives property owners leverage with developers.

Rep. Graig Meyer of Hillsborough said a McDonald’s was built behind his modest family home when he was 6. He thought it was wonderful, until all the restaurant trash started flying into the backyard.

“This is one of those laws that protects the individual,” said Meyer, a Democrat.

Members who want protest petitioning to end said that rezoning opponents can make their views known in public hearings. And elected officials making rezoning decisions have to answer to voters, they said.

“Throw them out of office if they’re not protecting neighborhoods,” Stam said.

Bonner: 919-829-4821;

Twitter: @Lynn_Bonner