by: Catherine Bilkey Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A bill in our state Legislature could hinder the ability of neighbors to fight big stores or businesses when they want to move to the area. The bill would repeal the right of residents to file a protest petition against rezoning.
"Senate Bill 112 has something like 14,700 words to it, and these 20-25 words that are in it have a profound impact not only on Charlotte, but all of North Carolina," Dilworth resident Jill Walker said.
A small section of the bill would repeal protest petitions statewide. In Charlotte, residents are allowed to file protest petitions in rezoning cases. If there are a significant number of neighbors who sign, three-fourths of city council members have to approve the request instead of a simple majority.
"It's like the get-out-of-jail card that the neighbors can use as a last resort for a project that for clear, consistent reasons… there is a general consensus of opinion in the neighborhood about," Walker said.
She was a member of the Dilworth Community Development Association for 26 years and fought against Walgreens coming to an area in Dilworth.
Neighbors were worried it would bring in too much traffic. She told Channel 9 the protest petition helped them win. And she believes without it, there would be a Walgreens at the corner of Kenilworth Avenue and East Morehead Street.
"Most definitely would be," Walker said.
But there's strong support for the small section of the bill as well.
According to a blog post by the Real Estate & Building Industry Coalition (REBIC), the elimination of the protest petition process would impact "property owners and developers, by removing a burdensome and costly process that effectively allows a small minority of citizens to hold a rezoning case hostage by forcing a super-majority vote."
If the bill becomes law, it would immediately take away the ability to start a protest petition but those that have already been filed would be unaffected.