Monday, October 19, 2015

Please Write Mayor Today 10-19-15

Dear Neighbor:

The issue of connecting Country Club Hills to the Glenwood Place development is an issue that could affect any neighborhood bordering a new development.
Present zoning rules require a development to connect its streets with the streets of an adjoining neighborhood.  Currently, only City Planning staff can make an exception to this rule.  Text Change 8-15 would allow the City Council, our elected officials, the discretion to also make an exception to this rule.  This change will authorize the City Council to be involved in making decisions whether to require "connectivity," an authority it does not now have.  Without the passage of Text Change 8-15, the City Council will not be able to change a decision by City Planning staff regarding "connectivity."
Over two months ago Text Change 8-15 received unanimous support from City Council, was then referred to the Planning Commission, which approved it, and sent it back to Council for a final decision.  Two weeks ago the discussion broke down and now City Council is split over whether to adopt Text Change 8-15.
If you want City Council to have the possibility to make a decision regarding connectivity, or more plainly, if you want City Council to have any control over a potential cut-through into any  neighborhood then you need to contact Mayor McFarlane today, ahead of tomorrow’s vote at 12:45 (Tuesday, October 20th) and ask her to support the Text Change as she appears to be the deciding vote.  If you personally know other Councilors please ask them to support the Text Change too.
Please email Mayor McFarlane today with this message:  Mayor McFarlane, Out of concern for neighborhoods and the issues that affect and make each unique, please vote yes to adopt Text Change 8-15 into the UDO to give City Council discretion concerning connectivity between a neighborhood and a new development.  

Thank you and please share this information with your neighbors.  Also, things may soon speed up and you will receive more emails.

From Country Club Hills Committee for a Sustainable Neighborhood

Monday, June 8, 2015

Action Alert: Protest Petition | NCGA

Dear Neighbors:

The Senate Commerce Committee will meet tomorrow, Tuesday June , at 11:00 a.m. in Room 423 of the Legislative Office Building.  The agenda for the meeting has not been announced.  Because House Bill 201 (discussed below) could come up at the meeting, please stop what you are doing and communicate with the committee members.  Let them know we oppose the bill and want our protest petition rights preserved.

Thank you. If everyone who receives this message writes to the committee, we might stop this hateful legislation.

Tom Miller

. . .

House Bill 201, the bill that would repeal our right to file a zoning protest petition, has been assigned to the Senate Commerce Committee.  The bill could come up for consideration in the committee as early as Thursday, June 4.  Please take a moment and write to the members of the committee to tell them that you oppose House Bill 201 and that you want the committee to preserve the right to file a protest petition.

House Bill 201 passed the house after considerable debate back in March.  It was then assigned to the Senate Rules Committee as a holding place while the senate worked the budget and on other bills which were facing a deadline.  During that time I did not send you messages because I did not want to wear you out or cause us to peak in our efforts too soon. The legislative deadlines are past now and the senate is beginning to take up bills it has received from the house.  It is time for us to act – now, and without delay.

The e-mail addresses of the members of the Senate Commerce Committee are:

What you can do:

1) Send a short, polite e-mail to the members of the committee telling them to vote against House Bill 201.  Tell them you want them to preserve the right to file a protest petition.  I have repeated the argument for protest petitions below for your reference.  If you use any of the arguments, please express them in your own words.  You should be able to cut and paste the addresses above into a single e-mail message.

2) Share this e-mail message with your neighborhood lists and other neighborhood advocates

3) Let your own state senator know you oppose House Bill 201 if he or she is not a member of the Senate Commerce Committee.

4) Write to Governor McCrory and let him know you oppose House Bill 201.  To e-mail the governor, visit .

Thank you.  Working together we can save our rights.

Tom Miller

The Argument for Zoning Protest Petitions:

  • The right to file a protest petition against a rezoning is a time honored right. 
  • Under NC law, if the owners of 5% of the ring of property 100 feet deep surrounding land to be rezoned file a formal protest petition, it takes a super majority of 3/4s of the members of the city council to pass the rezoning.  
  • The protest petition right in North Carolina is as old as zoning itself.  The right was part of the legislation passed by the General Assembly in 1923 giving cities the right to regulate land use by zoning.  
  • A protest petition right protects a neighbor’s investment in his own property and his reasonable expectations in the stability of the regulatory environment.  It protects neighbors and property owners from sudden, capricious, and wrongfully-motivated zone changes.  
  • When neighbors file a protest petition it is a signal that the proposed rezoning deserves special attention by elected officials.  
  • Relatively few protest petitions are filed and they rarely cause rezonings to be denied.  But protest petitions do often lead to more thoughtful results in zoning cases and better buffering and protections between incompatible uses.  
  • The levels the playing field between ordinary citizens trying to protect their homes and powerful developers who can afford attorneys and land planners to advance their interests. 
  • The right to a protest petition was part of model zoning laws promulgated by the US Department of Commerce in the 1920s.  It is part of zoning law all across the country. 
  • Citizens in states bordering North Carolina have the right to file a protest petition.  Why shouldn’t we?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Last chance for input to neighborhood gas stations ordinance

Reminder: neighborhood gas stations text changes are on the table at 9 am. 

The meeting is this morning at 9 AM, a quick short note that states that you support the staff recommendations and where you live in Raleigh will be extremely helpful. 

 Your short guide to the issue: 

1.  Limit the hours of operation of a station; (staff amendment says 6am - 11pm, including deliveries; industry wants 24hrs)

2.  Limit gas pumps to 4 but no more than 8; (industry suggests 12) 

3.  Require a masonry wall to separate stations from residential areas; (staff amendment requires wall; industry reduces this to "fence or wall")

4.  Do not permit car wash or vacuuming amenities in order to reduce noise levels from residents; (staff suggested; industry wants to allow)

5.  Prohibit music from the store to the outside;

6.  Provide proper accommodations for polluted run-off liquids from the site;

7.  Ensure that lighting will not be glaringly bright in residential settings;

8.  Limit the service station store to 1,000 s.f.-1,200 s.f., single story;(industry requests up to 5000 sqft buildings)

9.  Specify when refueling trucks can access the station site, preferably during normal business hours.  (see #1)

We support and appreciate the recommendations of the planning department staff on this issue.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Gas station ordinances and you. It's time to decide. Tuesday April 21.

This will take five minutes. It will save you more than that.

This meeting is coming up:

City of Raleigh Planning Commission Text Change Committee Agenda

Agenda for Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at 9 a.m.
: Raleigh Municipal Building, 222 W. Hargett Street, Conference Room 303, Raleigh,

North Carolina. For information call 919-996-2626

TC-2(B)-15 Amends Sections 6.1.4., 6.4.10.B., and 6.1.11.C. of the Part 10A Raleigh Unified Development Ordinance to amend the Allowed Principal Use Table regarding Fuel Sales to reflect issues and concerns raised during the initial utilization period of the Unified Development Ordinance and during the UDO Citywide Zoning Map Amendment review process. 

Please write a quick note to the Planning Commission before the meeting this Tuesday. At this meeting, a decision will be made about text changes to the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) and it's application to Fuel Stations. It will directly affect the ordinances that apply to any fuel stations that are built adjacent to residential neighborhoods. 

Because of the many ways that a gas station would affect the quality of life and value of property in residential neighborhood, the city planning staff has recommended guidelines to be adopted. It is vital that the planning commission know that residents find these to be reasonable and necessary guidelines. We have provided a draft letter for you to work with, which you may send to the following addresses. Please sign it with your name and address.

Planning Department staff

Planning Commissioners
Eric Braun <> 
Rodney Swink <>

To: Planning Commission, Text Change Committee
CC: Planning Department Staff
Dear Commissioners:
As a property owner in Raleigh, i follow closely the issues related to planning and development.  

I am requesting the Text Change Committee of the Planning Commission to approve City staff amendments to the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) regarding service stations in or adjacent to residential neighborhoods.
Specifically, staff have proposed, and I strongly support, the following compromises:
1.      Operating hours of 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., including fuel and other deliveries;
2.      Maximum square footage of the store to be no more than 1,000 to 1,200 square feet;
3.      A limit of one story for the store;
4.      A maximum of eight gas pumps, or a total of four pumping islands which have two pumps per station;
5.      A solid masonry wall—as opposed to a fence or a less protective wall -- between the service station and adjacent houses; 
6.      Proper handling and treatment, consistent with existing regulations, for polluted run-off liquids from the site; and
7.      Compliance with the City of Raleigh’s current light ordinances to ensure that lighting will not be glaringly bright in residential settings;
I also request approval of the following additional staff amendments:
1.      Prohibit car washing and vacuuming and to reduce noise levels for residents;
2.      Prohibit music and verbal advertisements from inside the store to the outside;
The UDO is a tool for good planning - both for the business owner and the residential property owner. Businesses and residential property owners can and should be good neighbors. Approving the above list of amendments demonstrates prudent judgment in reaching an appropriate balance. Thank you to the planning department for their work to make these recommendations. 

Thank you for your consideration.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Why you care about the right to a protest petition

Tom Miller: Neighbor’s right under attack

03/29/2015 8:00 AM  03/29/2015 12:00 PM

The General Assembly began its 2015 session on Jan. 28, and almost immediately neighborhood leaders were put on notice to expect another bill to repeal a neighbor’s time-honored right to oppose a rezoning with an official protest petition. That bill, House Bill 201, has now cleared the House and is awaiting consideration by the N. C. Senate.

Under North Carolina law, if the owners of 5 percent of the ring of property 100 feet deep surrounding land to be rezoned file a formal protest petition, it takes a super majority of three-fourths of the members of the city council to pass the rezoning. 

The protest petition right in North Carolina is as old as zoning itself. It was conceived as part of model zoning legislation promulgated by the U.S. Department of Commerce in 1921 in the early years of President Warren Harding’s administration. The country was rapidly urbanizing, but without stable and reliable systems of land-use regulation, U. S. cities were unsafe for investment. Developers of hotels and new home subdivisions were reluctant to risk the money if someone could build a factory or fish market next door. 

In 1923, the N.C. General Assembly adopted the model zoning legislation promulgated by the Harding administration essentially verbatim. The protest petition right was part of the law here and in nearly every state. A protest petition right protects a neighbor’s investment in his own property and his reasonable expectations in the stability of the surrounding land uses. The key to effective zoning in 1923 and now has been predictability. A landowner who invests in his land trusting in the zoning governing properties nearby becomes a major stakeholder in the regulatory scheme. The protest petition right gives him and other neighbors the ability to protect the regulatory environment by making sure that the zoning on the land next door cannot be manipulated or changed without a high level of public scrutiny and support among the members of the city council. Protest petitions often lead to more thoughtful results in zoning cases and better buffering and protections between incompatible uses. 

The protest petition right also levels the playing field between ordinary citizens trying to protect their homes in a complicated system that often seems stacked against them. A developer who stands to make a considerable profit from the rezoning of his property has months to prepare before he applies for his rezoning. He can afford attorneys, engineers, lobbyists, and land planners to advance his interests. The neighboring homeowner does not have these resources. He frequently has as little as two weeks’ notice of the impending zone change. 

In that time he must consult with his neighbors and try to learn zoning rules and procedures from his city’s zoning code that may be as much or more than 1,000 pages in length. When he speaks at the public hearing before the council, the ordinary citizen is invariably overmatched. The protest petition, if he can organize his neighbors and get the necessary signatures, is frequently the only tool available to him to make the developer and the city council seriously consider his interests and concerns.

In North Carolina, protest petitions are actually submitted in very few cases. According to a survey by the UNC School of Government in 2006, out of the 2,167 rezonings reported, a valid protest petition was filed in only 6 percent of the cases. Even in those cases where a valid protest was filed, the supermajority vote requirement did not affect the outcome in most cases. But even the slim chance that a protest petition might cause a rezoning to be denied is intolerable to the North Carolina’s powerful development interests. 

During the last two sessions of the General Assembly, the N.C. Homebuilders Association and its allies have pressured legislators to repeal the protest petition right in North Carolina. Bills with provisions ending protest rights have almost passed, but at the last minute the right was restored before the final legislation was adopted. Each year, a storm of e-mail messages to legislators from ordinary citizens and neighborhood advocates across the state helped turn the tide. 

This year, the time-honored right of a neighbor to protect his home from a potentially harmful zone change next door is under assault again and the forces arrayed against it are powerful. The bill’s principal sponsor and spokesman is Paul Stam, long-term member from Apex and vice-chairman of the rules committee. In committee debate, Repr. Paul Luebke from Durham put forward a compromise amendment which would have saved the protest petition, but made it much harder to obtain. Luebke’s amendment appeared to pass by voice vote, but the committee chairman ruled that it had failed. On the house floor, a similar compromise amendment submitted by Rep. Marilyn Avila of Wake County failed in a 48-63, bi-partisan vote. Rep. Graig Meyer of Orange County then asked the House to adopt an amendment providing for a minimum of 60 days’ notice before a rezoning could be acted on by a city council – the idea being that if neighbors lose their right to file a protest petition, they deserve time to figure out what’s going on and prepare. The proponents of the bill objected to 60 days’ notice, however, and ultimately, the bill was amended to provide for only a 30-day minimum notice period. 

The bill will now be taken up by the Senate and if it passes there, the ordinary people of North Carolina will be stripped of the only advantage afforded them in complicated legal business of municipal zoning. The whole system of land-use regulation in North Carolina will be out of balance. Without the possibility of a protest petition, developers will have no incentive to be good neighbors. The rezoning process will become more susceptible to manipulation and arbitrary changes. To combat this, city zoning codes will have to be revised to improve buffers and other requirements necessary to protect neighborhoods. City planners and city councils across the state will have an increased responsibility to make sure that ordinary citizens’ investment in their homes will be protected.  

Let us hope that wiser heads in the Senate realize the importance of the protest petition right not only for fairness among the stakeholders, but for stability in the land use regulatory environment and the overall welfare of North Carolina’s cities.

Tom Miller lives in Durham.