Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Still More About Protest Petitions

Professor David Owens of the UNC School of Government came to Greensboro to talk about the origin and use of the protest petition, and he drew a crowd of influential Greensboro people.

In attendance at the luncheon sponsored by the League of Women Voters were State Senator Don Vaughan, State Representative Maggie Jeffus, Councilwoman Goldie Wells,  the N&R’s editorial page editor Allen Johnson, the Rhino Times’s editor John Hammer, and Zoning Commission members Mary Skenes and Cindy Hayworth, along with about 70 other interested citizens.

I’ve scanned Prof. Owens’ handouts (click the thumbnails below for larger versions), which give a pretty complete picture of the petition process. But his last paragraph tells the story:

A valid protest petition can ... affect the zoning process in an indirect but significant manner. The approval rate for projects subject to a protest petition was reported to be 52%, compared to a 76% approval rate for rezoning petitions overall. This lower approval rate indicates that the depth of opposition reflected by a protest petition frequently convinces a majority of the city council to oppose a rezoning. In addition, an actual or threatened protest petition may encourage the landowner, the neighbors, and the city to negotiate prior to a vote on the rezoning, which can in turn lead to project revisions. So the informal impacts of  a protest petition are typically more substantial than its formal impacts [emphasis mine].

I know that TREBIC is scared to death of the protest petition, but it needn’t be. Owens’ research shows that protest petitions are used quite infrequently, and they certainly haven’t hampered growth in Raleigh and Charlotte, where they are used most often. But they have encouraged developers, neighborhoods, and cities to cooperate more.

Isn’t that what everyone wants?

Rep. Jeffus indicated that she would introduce legislation to give the protest petition back to Greensboro whether or not the City Council endorsed it, and I believe Sen. Vaughan is also in favor. But a request from the City Council would help ease the petition through the state legislature.


Unknown said...

thanks david for this post , I also linked on protest petitoin site. It was great to see you at the luncheon.

Cara Michele said...

David, is it OK to upload these images to the Protest Petitions page on Facebook?

David Wharton said...

Yes, it's OK. Dr. Owens was happy to have them available online.

David Wharton said...

Keith, good seeing you too!