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A periodic series in which we’ll visit neighborhoods going through change, big and small.

Protest Petitions To Effectively End? NC Senate Tentatively Says Yes

North Carolina General Assembly

Protest petitions are a major way citizens can object to zoning changes in their neighborhoods. The North Carolina Senate has tentatively approved a measure to effectively kill that tool.

If you’re not familiar with protest petitions, here’s the basic tutorial. If enough property owners around a proposed new development or an area slated for a zoning change sign a petition and submit it to a city council, they can often stop that project. Democratic Sen. Mike Woodard says a protest petition "is frequently the only tool available to ensure that the developer and city officials seriously consider property owners interest and concerns."

Once filed, it takes a three-quarters vote by a city council to override that petition.

This bill would not specifically end these petitions, but it lowers the bar on that override vote, says Republican Sen. Andy Wells, from a super-majority to a simple majority. That's fair, Wells says, because, "We don’t even require a super-majority vote for tax votes in this state, at least not yet."

A simple majority, by the way, is all that’s needed for most zoning changes in the first place. And that’s why this measure, which passed 39 to 9, would effectively kill protest petitions. The senate’s final vote on the bill is expected Thursday. The House, which passed an earlier version of bill, must approve the Senate's changes.

Tom Bullock decided to trade the khaki clad masses and traffic of Washington DC for Charlotte in 2014. Before joining WFAE, Tom spent 15 years working for NPR. Over that time he served as everything from an intern to senior producer of NPR’s Election Unit. Tom also spent five years as the senior producer of NPR’s Foreign Desk where he produced and reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Haiti, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon among others. Tom is looking forward to finally convincing his young daughter, Charlotte, that her new hometown was not, in fact, named after her.