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« Dynasty, interrupted | Main | One-state solution »

Jan 22, 2009


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Speaking of the role of the web, I find that one of the benefits of the back-and-forth in local blog discussions is testing arguments and positions. Logic fallacies are exposed, misinformation disabused, facts and perspectives added from others. It's a great "testing ground." The argument that tripped up Perkins was previously exposed as faulty on local blogs. Perkins (and maybe Wells) may already be participating in local blogs pseudonymously, if not, they and other council members should stick a toe in the waters, it would make them more in-touch, more informed, better prepared and thus more effective representatives.


I am so very pleased Council voted 9-0 on this issue. I agree that web based tools helped to organize those interested in re-establishing this process in GSO. I also agree wtih Roch that bloggers have played an important role in vetting arguments, ideas and counter-arguments.


Once again we find that Councilman Perkins is not terribly bright. I am encouraged that a turnout in excess of the usual 20% might unseat him in the coming election, assuming he runs.


I watched the Council meeting on television, and it was a sorry spectacle. I don't think it was the sense of the meeting that the request to restore protest petitions should stand on its own. I think a clear majority of the counsel thought giving the power to trigger a protest petition to the owners of 5% of a 100 foot strip around the boundary of a rezoning proposal (is that really empowering a "neigborhood"?)is too low a threshold and the three-quarters vote is too high a threshold. The problem was that it was a confused, inarticulate and intimidated majority. Had they not thought about this before they got there? With due respect, Councilwoman Wells did not so much "argue" as she said over and over it isn't fair and the people (except people who want to use their land) need their rights. It was clear who held the power in the room, and it wasn't the real estate interests or the council. It was the folks who repeatedly said, "Give us everything we've asked for, and then we'll negotiate." The best the majority of the Council that had concerns could do was a motion to include the item on the legislative agenda but we might supplement it later with whatever these two people out in the audience tell us two weeks from now they've agreed to (change the protest petition standards for the whole state, change them only for Greensboro, get authority for Greensboro to adopt it's own protest petition procedure--I don't think anyone is really sure).

This kind of clear thinking continued into the consideration of the South Elm rezoning request. There is obviously a fairness problem with leasing parking spaces in a lot to a new business owner when you've been refusing for years, by the account of existing business owners, to lease spaces in that same lot to others. The proposed compromise? Approve the new project but promise in the motion to do something really soon for the three business owners who showed up (and lasted for several hours) to complain. Why weren't people satisfied with that? Dr. Wade actually made one of the few cogent, if confounding, observations in the debate--people don't like to use parking decks. Solution from the rest of the discussion: build more parking decks. Anyway, they went on to vote against the proposal and then voted to table it. It'll be fun to see how the manager and the attorney spin that one.

The end of the meeting brought a demonstration of the best legislative tactics when people reject your silly baby-splitting compromise and you don't get your way. When that happens, just move repeatedly and really loudly to adjourn.

Ed Cone

Patrick, when I say sense of the meeting I mean what you said in your comment: that (as was stated by staff, I think the city atty) the request to restore protest petitions stands on its own, and that this was clear even amidst the confusion of who adds what in the weeks ahead.

The choice was between no protest petitions and a petition law that many view as over-strong. As Dr. Wharton has said, given the power of the developers, an over-strong petition is better than no petition.

What a shame the council ducked this for so long. If some compromise version of the petition law is truly viable, they could have made that the focus of their preparation in past months, and worked with the community to make that the goal, and passed it last night.

Instead, they dithered and set themselves up for exactly what they got: the likely restoration of the law as it exists across the state, with some crumbs tossed in to appease opponents.


I was confused by TREBIC's statement that they were trying to protect a property owner's right to rezone.

From N&R story: "Representatives of local real estate organizations spoke against restoring the protest petition, arguing it would deter development and job growth and increase the cost of building in the city. They also argued it takes away the rights of a property owner who wants to rezone."

In my understanding there is no implicit right to be able to rezone your property. You can't be deprived of some beneficial use of your property, but I'll stand corrected if someone can point out that property owners have a "right to rezone." Further, rights assigned to a property are only there because the broader community has bestowed those rights (via legislation, zoning, etc.) upon it in the first place.


newtogso, you may also be new to Anglo-American thought about property ownership and limited government. The presumption runs the other way--rights are not "assigned to a property" by the beneficence of "the broader community." Rights may be taken away from property owners, with due process of law, only for specific, limited purposes. See the fifth amendment to the federal constitution and Article 1, Section 19 of the Constitution of North Carolina. Any person who resides or owns property within the City of Greensboro is entitled to petition the City to amend the zoning map (Code, section 30-3-12.2). That "right" would seem of necessity to extend to owners who wish to have their property rezoned.

David Wharton

Patrick, the development community believes in the right to rezone only in those cases where it benefits them. At the same time they are complaining that everyone should have equal rezoning rights, they are writing deed restrictions and protective covenants into their own developments which will keep those properties from ever being rezoned.

If they were really full-throated libertarian property rights advocates, they wouldn't be writing legal restrictions that impose regulations on all future property owners.


Dr. Wharton, I have no ties to the Greensboro development community (other than the fact that I live in a house and shop for things), so the only libertarian represented by my comments here is me. I will say, though, that deed restrictions and protective covenants are matters of private contract, entered into voluntarily by sellers and purchasers of real estate, and carry none of the coercive governmental authority of zoning regulations, which rest for their legitimacy on the police power of the state, delegated by statute to the city.


Patrick, this is merely a hyperbolic, strawman-next-door scenario, but what if the homeowner living beside you decided to open up an open-all-night, indoor-outdoor, house-music-thumping, liquor-by-the-drink nightclub on his property?

David Wharton

Patrick, there is some distinction between private contracts and public policy, but not as regards the police power of the state. Contracts are enforced by law and the civil courts, which also use police power.

There's a case to be made that deed restrictions and covenants in some ways more coercive than zoning regulations, in that they are binding on all future generations. There are huge swaths of Greensboro that can never change their use, and the building and real estate industry has built that feature into our city because it profits them to do so.

Thus I find their arguments about freedom to rezone and change uses inconsistent, to put it politely.

Good public policy can also be coercive, but it also goes through a fair and democratic process (if it's done right). That's why I urge EVERYBODY to review the new zoning ordinance that will be coming up for public review in the next several weeks.

On another subject ... I'd like to request that everyone stop calling me "Dr. Wharton" (unless you're one of my students). It's making me feel old. "David," "Dave," or "hey you" are just fine with me.


The right to petition (or, ask) to rezone is different than the right to the granting of a rezoning which was more to my point. Perhaps a minor point, but law bends on such things. So, just because someone wants to rezone their property for a different use, doesn't mean that they have a right to the rezone, only the right to ask for a rezoning.


sc, I'd hate that. I'd call the owner and try to talk him out of it. I'd join my neighborhood group to organize, write and call the planning staff, zoning commission and council, and testify at the public hearing. If they approved it anyway, I'd probably sue. If I lost, I'd probably sell my property to a nightclub developer and move. I'm not sure that's what we were talking about, but you acknowledged it as a hyperbolic strawman.

Dr. You, well, no. The police power of the state is vested in the General Assembly pursuant to Article II of the state constitution. The authority of the judiciary to adjudicate private contractual disputes is independently established in Article IV.

The purchase of land encumbered by restrictive covenants is always a volutary act, which makes it even better than fair and democratic, and not the least bit coercive. The city can rezone your land, or your neighbor's, whether you or your neighbor like it or not. That's coercion, whether or not it is fair and democratic.


all right ed will take a bow but want to be clear on my observation of what went down last night. There is something that stinks about the whole situation. As you have stated they have known for over a year on this whole issue and now have this plan that Greensboro needs to compromise on this state law, at last minute and a week before it goes to the state.

I don't get it.

To think that a donna from the neighborhood congress and marlene from trebic are experts in North Carolina Zoning law in how a % should be written in to law and the state changed it back in 2005 which is not that long ago. I just don't see it.

There is something that's not right and Trudy Wade and Zack MAtheny said not a word on Protest Petitions last night.


I too watched the city council meeting last night and whole heartedly agree that it was a sorry spectacle. I was watching, not for the protest petition, but to see what kind of action the council would take on the proposed development on South Elm. I was rooting for the project and I hope the city council members haven't done sufficient damage to stall this and other developers from investing in downtown.

While I agree that it is not fair that this developer would get to lease parking spaces while other downtown businesses didn't, I don't understand why this project couldn't have moved forward at the same time the city attempts to reach a resolution on parking. I personally believe that if the success of these downtown businesses hinges on whether or not customers can drive right up and walk right in, maybe what they're offering isn't worth it. I know that if I want something or want to go somewhere, I would find a way to get there, even if that meant parking in deck.

And speaking of decks, we all know what those business owners were thinking last night but refused to say in public: that their customers are too lazy to park in a deck and hoof it a few blocks. Sadly, it really isn't even that far. Most of the business owners who were huffing and puffing last night have 3 or 4 decks that are within a 4 block radius of their shops. Maybe instead of reliving parking wars from years past, downtown business owners should offer some alternatives, like validating parking for customers who park in decks or lobbying the city for downtown circular bus service. God forbid people might have to abandon their cars. The horror! Will someone please silence the lambs!

Last, but certainly not least, I too would like to expound on Trudy Wade's enlightenment last night. While people may not like parking in decks, she certainly did not need to say that she felt unsafe in them. If she's looking to attract new businesses and residents to Greensboro, suggesting that they're certain to get robbed or raped in a city owned parking garage will surely do the trick.

I'm a UNCG graduate and I currently live elsewhere in NC while I attend graduate school. And since leaving, I've wanted to return to Greensboro when grad school is over. But spectacles like last night make me wonder whether I should move back to Greensboro or give up on the city all together. I just don't think our city leaders get it. I don't think that they realize that Greensboro is getting left behind by Raleigh and Charlotte and other cities. I don't mean to say that Greensboro should be like those cities. Certainly not. I live in the Triangle and I can speak from personal experience that Raleigh sucks. Its sprawl is much worse than Greensboro. But at least Raleigh's downtown is starting to see more development.

Greensboro's downtown has done well over the last several years. But it seems to be moving at a glacial pace compared to other cities.

I'm going to stop writing now because the whole situation pisses me off. Greensboro and its residents deserve much better than what they got last night.

Take it from me, a 23 year old. If our city leaders don't get it together and start making some changes, Greensboro is going to die a slow, agonizing death. Because people my age, what many people would consider the future generation, aren't going to want to live in Greensboro. It already happens. Ever think about where the thousands of college students in Greensboro live when they graduate? Obviously not in GSO otherwise the city's population wouldn't be moving at a snail's pace.

Tony Wilkins

ATM, what's wrong with Trudy's statement about the parking decks? Greensboro has the highest crime rate in NC.
Maybe I should use this Jack Nicholson line..."you can't handle the truth!"

Tony Wilkins

Keith, I agree with you that GNC and TREBIC are going to have nothing to do with how the law is written. It was a nice show though.


I hope the Guilford Delegation will see through this tony


Tony: I believe that as a prominent representative of Greensboro, Councilwoman Wade should have refrained from making such ominous public statements about safety in downtown. While I think she is free to express how she feels privately, I don't think her public comments are the best way to promote Greensboro to current residents and businesses or prospective businesses and residents for that matter.

And in claiming that Greensboro has the highest crime rate in North Carolina, I presume you are referring to the recently released rankings by CQ Press. However, that study is based on information that municipalities report to the FBI, which Winston-Salem and Durham both did not do. Therefore, the study was not complete and any conclusions the rankings reached shouldn't be given neither the merit nor the media attention it received. Those two cities together represent more than 5% of NC's population. Would you accept the Census survey for North Carolina if it left out more than 5% of the state's population? Below is the link from CQ explaining W-S and Durham's absence from the survey.


Tony Wilkins

ATM, so two cities were left off the survey and that makes you safe to go walking downtown at night? Enjoy the stroll and let me know how that works out for you. You appear to advocate for Wade to lie about local conditions for the sake of a dollar.
Hopefully as you age you will deal more in reality.
If I didn't know better I'd think you were Dave Ribar posing as a 23 year old.


Tony: your youth envy is showing.

Tony Wilkins

No denying that, beelze.

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