End may be near for protest petitions

The end may be near for protest petitions that help landowners fight off development in their backyard.

Rezoning protest petitions are used for people living within 100 feet of a rezoning project that object to the development. The petitions force local governments to make a decision based on a three-fourth's vote instead of a standard majority.

House Bill 201 would strike down the use of protest petitions in North Carolina, if approved. The bill has been approved by the Senate and is awaiting a decision from the House. It would then need the approval of Gov. Pat McCrory.
 
"I believe this bill is better for the public because it allows anyone to protest or object to a project by filing a written notice to the municipality or other authority and it does not require the individual or group to have to have any property ownership position to do so," Rep. John Fraley said. "I believe it makes it easier for someone to have a voice."

Fraley, a sponsor of the Bill, is opposed by many who are upset that the bill takes away direct action by a petition. Written notices that Fraley mentioned can already be sent by citizens, but provide no definite action on a project. Some worry the end of protest petitions will further dilute conversation between developers and community members.

"A project could be started and built before really most of the community has any understanding of what is going on," President of the Plaza Midwood Neighborhood Association Phillip Gussman said.