Raleigh, N.C. — A bill to repeal the law allowing neighbors to protest a rezoning has passed the state House.
A protest petition is a way that property owners in a neighborhood can slow down a request to rezone a property, usually for commercial development. If one is filed, a super-majority of a city or town council must vote in favor of the rezoning to allow it to move forward.
Critics of the repeal say the protest petition is one of the only tools homeowners have to fight big developers or projects that will lower the value of nearby properties. But repeal backers say the process is unfair to the owner of the property seeking the rezoning.
After a vigorous debate Tuesday, the House made two small changes to the proposal before giving it final approval Wednesday.
One amendment, by Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Orange, would give the owners of surrounding properties 30 days' notice of a rezoning hearing, instead of just 10 days.
"If we’re going to abolish the right to a protest petition, we should give adjacent landowners enough time to prepare themselves before a rezoning hearing," Meyer said.
He said developers come to such hearings with "considerable resources," while area homeowners may need more time to assess a project's impact and talk to their neighbors about it.
The second amendment the House passed, by Rep. Marilyn Avila, R-Wake, would allow protest petitions that have already been filed to continue. The repeal would apply only to actions initiated after May 1.
"We think that’s fair since they were following the law at the time," Avila said. "It only stands to reason that we should let them complete the process."
The amended measure passed on a voice vote. It now goes to the Senate.