The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday January 15th

Opinion: The loss of protest petitions is a blow to democracy

The North Carolina House of Representatives passed House Bill 201 on March 25, potentially eliminating a tool that community members have used to fight destructive development initiatives.

Protest petitions signed by at least 5 percent of a community near proposed development require those rezoning initiatives to gain the approval of three-quarters of a city council.

According to WRAL, Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake) argued that this gives disproportionate power to small groups of community members. But those groups need protest petitions to prevent their neighborhoods from coming under attack by community-negligent developers

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Raleigh and Durham residents have recently used protest petitions to protect their neighborhoods from auto-centric strip mall development. In Raleigh, Publix dropped its development plans after a group of residents filed their protest petition, likely responding to the pressure before the plan could go to the city council. Despite successfully filing a protest petition in Durham, other community activists failed to prevent the 751 South rezoning project.

We’d propose an amendment that would require 20 percent of surrounding property owners to approve a development. City councils should maintain their three-quarters requirement to approve development.

Increasing the threshold would recognize the potentially harmful motivations of those who would resist equitable, smart growth while keeping it low enough to respect minority concerns.

Protest petitions are a necessary tool for precisely this reason.



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