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Editorial: TREBIC vs. protest petition

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It came as news to most people in Greensboro when they found out earlier this year they do not have the same rights as every other municipality in North Carolina and haven’t since 1971.

That’s when the state legislature, by request from Greensboro City Council, stripped our citizens of our right to have a say in the land use of our neighborhoods.

North Carolina general statute 160A-385(a) gives residents of a neighborhood an opportunity to protest rezoning and land use requests by acquiring signatures of 5 percent of adjacent property owners, requiring city councils to then muster a 75 percent majority vote as opposed to a simple majority to pass.

It was nullified in Greensboro amid a storm of property development in 1970, but in the wake of development in the northeast quadrant of the city, interest has surged in getting the protest petition reinstated.

The movement has created some strange bedfellows, to be sure: NC Rep. Pricey Harrison is on board, as is Sen. Katie Dorsett and Guilford County Commissioner Bruce Davis – all Democrats, by the way. The Coalition of Concerned Citizens and the League of Women Voters have also expressed support for the change.

GOPers have gotten into the act, as well, including Jim Rumley, a Republican candidate for the NC House, NC conservative think tank the John Locke Foundation, former Greensboro City Council member (and it’s most consistent conservative voice) Tom Phillips and a slew of conservative bloggers including Dr. Joseph Guarino and our old friend Bubbanear.

Noticeably inactive on the issue is Greensboro City Council, which made no mention of protest petitions in its state legislative agenda in March.

But the Triad Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition let their voices be heard last week with a letter to 11 area elected officials with the lede: “We are very concerned at the discussion of instituting rezoning Protest Petitions in the Greensboro. We urge you NOT to pursue this.” The caps are theirs, not ours.

Protest petitions should not be reinstated in Greensboro, the letter holds, because we have in place a Citizens’ Initiative Petition (which didn’t seem to work so well in the case of the minimum wage campaign). Also, they fear that giving three city council members the power to override real estate development to be “patently absurd.”

But the meat of the argument is that, because we live in the “information age,” protest petitions are no longer necessary.

“Frankly,” the letter reads, “the protest petition is antiquated and should be repealed statewide.”

Good luck with that one TREBIC. We’d like to see a draft of the letter suggesting to the rest of North Carolina that citizens should have no role in the development of their neighborhoods, and that the benevolent hands of builders and developers should have unfettered access to our neighborhoods and communities.

YES! Weekly chooses to exercise its right to express editorial opinion in our publication. In fact we cherish it, considering opinion to be a vital component of any publication. The viewpoints expressed represent a consensus of the YES! Weekly editorial staff, achieved through much deliberation and consideration.

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