tag: North Carolina Land Use Litigator: January 2011

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Friday, January 28, 2011, 9:39 AM

My Kid Could Paint That: Zoning Dispute Between Artist and Surrounding Landowners


Land is land, disputes are disputes, and neighborly sensitivities are neighborly sensitivities. The only thing that seems to change with jurisdictions is the applicable law.

In my home county in New York -- Rockland County, a once relatively rural but now-burgeoning bedroom exurb of Manhattan -- "art" is intersecting with "land use" and "zoning." We've addressed this topic before within this space here.

The landowner is a fellow named James Garvey, a blacksmith and artist. Mr. Garvey's metal works grace a midtown Manhattan subway station and Central Park to name the more significant locations. Mr. Garvey lives on 2.5 acres in the historic hamlet of Sparkill, which is located in the Town of Orangetown. In order to better ply his trade, Mr. Garvey filed a building application with the Town for an art studio and multiple sheds, which would be in addition to the two-story residence already located on the property. The Town denied Mr. Garvey's application for a building permit, citing that the "forging and welding" Mr. Garvey would conduct in the studio are not part of a permitted use or "otherwise in compliance with [the zoning laws applicable to] the neighborhood." According to one report, the administrative official charged with the denial stated: "I felt that what he was doing was more than what was typical of an artist. He's doing more of commercial operation. That's how I viewed it." So, then, regardless of the building permit, is Mr. Garvey violating the Town's zoning ordinance? On the other hand, is it proper that an administrative official is determining what constitutes "art" and what constitutes "more than what [is] typical of an artist"?

The lawyer for a group opposing Mr. Garvey's proposal is gumming up zoning and police power issues, which may be causing the Town some pause. The group takes the layered position that Mr. Garvey is seeking the construction of a "commercial foundry" upon property zoned residential, and, even if that's not the case, the use to which he will put the buildings "would be an immediate threat to the health, safety and welfare of residents" due to almost certain groundwater contamination.

Mr. Garvey has appealed the denial to the Town's Board of Zoning Appeals, which heard the matter earlier this month in a quasi-judicial setting. The Appeals Board continued the conclusion of the hearing for a date uncertain.

If Mr. Garvey should fail before the Appeals Board, we'd think a lawsuit, with the inevitable First Amendment claim, would follow. If Mr. Garvey wins, it will be interesting to see if the neighbors can establish standing to sue; counsel has already started those wheels in motion, it seems.

Mike Thelen is a lawyer in Womble Carlyle's Real Estate Litigation practice group. He regularly represents a wide variety of clients in land use and land development issues, from local governments to businesses, in both state and federal venues throughout North Carolina.

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Saturday, January 22, 2011, 11:39 AM

North Carolina Court of Appeals Addresses Liability of Corporate Officers In Construction Context


While I was still renting, a homeowner friend once told me that, since buying, he was never able to look at any living space the same way. I, the renter, saw a roof, a faucet, and a bunch of windows. He, the owner, saw potential leaks, an aging water heater and potentially shoddy pipes, and glass vortexes that kick your energy bills in the you-know-whats.

A recent North Carolina Court of Appeals decision is certain to change the way builders -- and perhaps corporate concerns, generally -- see work opportunities. In the briefest form, corporate officers and members of limited liability companies can be held individually liable for their own torts on a construction project. Individually liable!

In White v. Collins Building, Inc., plaintiffs brought a negligence suit against builder company, builder's president/sole shareholder in his individual capacity, the developer company, and certain subcontractor companies. Plaintiffs alleged that their newly-built oceanfront home -- which developer contracted with builder to construct -- suffered broken pipes, water intrusion, and buckling floors and required and required window replacement. In other words, plaintiffs alleged that builder constructed the Mets franchise of homes.

Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed builder company, developer company and subcontractor companies from the lawsuit, but maintained their claim against builder's president/sole shareholder for "failure to properly supervise the construction of Plaintiffs' home." The trial court dismissed plaintiffs' claim against builder-individual for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and plaintiffs appealed.

The Court of Appeals conducted a de novo review "of the pleadings to determine their legal sufficiency and to determine whether the trial court's ruling on the motion to dismiss was correct." In doing so, the Appellate Court determined that the trial court was not correct. Let's turn to the reasoning.

As an initial matter -- a great turn of phrase, by the way; almost as solid as "in any event" -- the Court steamrolled any argument that the lack of privity between Plaintiffs and the builder precluded a negligence claim against builder. Turns out Plaintiffs had contracted with the developer for the house, and the developer, in turn, contracted with the builder. The Court wasn't having any of this "privity" argument: "The law imposes upon the builder of a house the general duty of reasonable care in constructing the house to anyone who may foreseeably be endangered by the builder’s negligence, including a subsequent owner who is not the original purchaser."

The Court then deftly moved on to the heart of the matter. Predictably, Defendant took the position that his individual liability is limited because "any action that he took was done on behalf of, and as agent for, [his building company]." In doing so, Defendant relied on an unpublished North Carolina Court of appeals decision, Nudelman v. J.A. Booe Bldg. Contractor, 2003 N.C. App. LEXIS 509 (2003). The Court first pointed out the lack of "controlling authority" enjoyed by an unpublished decision like Nudelman, and then proceeded to distinguish the facts of that inapposite case: "the Nudelman Court addressed Booe's liability solely under a piercing the corporate veil theory and did not discuss Booe'spersonal liability fot negligence under the common-law rule ...."

The Court is able to discern at least two "methods of establishing personal liability in a business setting": (1) piercing the corporate veil and (2) individual responsibility for torts. According to the Court, no published opinion in North Carolina addresses the individual tort liability of a corporate officer in a construction context; that said, North Carolina courts have addressed such tort liability in the context of the contamination of water wells and the conversion of a construction crane. So, I take it this is not a "corporate veil" case. Thus, turning to Connecticut and Georgia caselaw in an effort to buttress North Carolina law, the Court sets the stage for builder's individual liability in negligence, at least for surviving Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal: "That one is personally liable for all torts committed by him, including negligence, notwithstanding that he may have acted as agent for another or as an officer for a corporation. Furthermore, the potential for corporate liability, in addition to individual liability, does not shield the individual tortfeasor from liability. Rather, it provides the injured party a choice as to which party to hold liable for the tort." Strang v. Hollowell, 97 N.C. App. 316 (1990).

Maybe there are Met fans on the Court. Or people with leaky pipes. Who knows. All we can say at this point is that even in the absence of a contractual relationship, and despite the otherwise warm embrace of a business role, corporate officers need beware.

Mike Thelen is a lawyer in Womble Carlyle's Real Estate Litigation practice group. He regularly represents a wide variety of clients in land use and land development issues, from local governments to businesses, in both state and federal venues throughout North Carolina.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011, 9:52 AM

North Carolina Court of Appeals Addresses Zoning and the Reaches of Common Law Vested Rights


In land use planning, the vested right is one of the developer's most effective tools. How effective? Well, it freezes your rights. You get certainty. You get predictability. And, essentially, it can only be undone at your own will. Pretty good, right?

The North Carolina Court of Appeals recently addressed the issue of common law vested rights, which are distinct from those of the statutory ilk but no less coveted. In MLC Automotive v. Town of Southern Pines, the Court faced federal court abstention -- Burford abestention, if you must know -- and the trial court's holding that developers were entitled to the right based on, essentially, estoppel grounds to conclude that vested rights are a little more hairy than most think. So, the Court sets things straight. In the process, we have one fewer outlet from which to buy a Suzuki.

Let's listen to the story.

Facts
Sometime in 2000, business group MLC Automotive LLC -- developer and operator of automobile dealerships -- fixed its interest on a 21 acre tract of land in the Town of Southern Pines, North Carolina. That's golf country. At the time MLC manifested its interest, the property was zoned General Business (GB), within which the Town's zoning code allowed"Motor Vehicle and Boat Sales or Rental or Sales and Service" without a special or conditional use permit.

In June 2001, the Town's Code Enforcement Officer sent a letter to Pinehurst resident Jim Murray explaining that a car dealership can be located in the Town of Southern Pines' GB zoning district so long as all zoning requirements are met. In November 2001, the same Enforcement Officer acknowledged in writing to a fellow named Danny Howell that the 21-acre tract is located in the Town's GB zoning district and, again, automobile sales were a permitted use in that zoning district.

With the Enforcement Officer's assurances in hand, MLC and Leith of Fayetteville, Inc. purchased the 21 acres for $1.55 million in January 2002. Between 2001 and 2005, MLC/Leith spent an additional $500,000 "in preparations to develop the property." Then, in January 2005, MLC/Leith entered into a letter of intent with Suzuki Motors. The terms of the letter? That MLC/Leith would construct an auto sales, service and parts facility while Suzuki Motors would issue MLC/Leith a dealership agreement lasting one year.

MLC/Leith hired an engineering firm to perform site design services. In January 2005, the engineering firm met with the Town's planning director. In that meeting, the planning director allegedly explained that MLC/Leith needed a "zoning/building permit" under the Town's zoning code, which is a "unitary proceudre" subject to a checklist of items, as well as an architectural compliance certificate, which is actually a precursor to the "zoning/building permit" procedure. The planning director, however, denied saying anything about architecture.

In any event, in March 2005, MLC/Leith filed their architectural compliance permit application and appeared before the Town Council. The Town Council disapproved of the design and directed MLC/Leith to revise their plans.

MLC/Leith presented the revised design to the Town Council on June 8, 2005, expecting a favorable vote at the next Town Council meeting. On June 15, 2005, however, the Town Council voted to delay a decision until their next meeting.

At the "next meeting," MLC/Leith "decided not to have the Town Council vote on the plans." Apparently MLC/Leith chose to "take additional time to facilitate community discussions and attend a meeting with neighbors who were strongly opposed to the proposed plans." And at the next meeting? Well, MLC/Leith asked, again, that the Town Council not vote on the project. See, a non-vote in these types of matters is much better than a "no" vote; something was telling MLC/Leith that it was unlikely to win Council approval for its design just yet, causing MLC/Leith to delay a vote on its own project. Are you hearing the same public outcry that I'm hearing?

Besides wasted time and money, there's another downside to delay. In late July 2005, while MLC/Leith planned to assuage the masses' opposition, a local real estate lawyer submitted two zoning amendment petitions supported by citizen signatures. The first petition sought to reduce the "allowable impervious surfaces for development." You know, parking space. Like you'd find in a car dealership. The second petition sought to rezone the 21-acre tract from the GB zoning district (within which car dealerships were allowed) to Office Services (which, you guessed it, does not allow car dealerships). The Town Council noticed these stealth zoning amendments for public hearing. Yes, I realize that's a kind of oxymoron.

Then MLC/Leith lawyered up. And in August 2005, the Town Council rceeived a letter from counsel advising that MLC/Leith would file suit if the architectural plans are not approved. In the meantime, also in August 2005, the Town's Planning Board recommended approval of the stealth zoning amendments. The Town Council, though, had yet to vote on the amendments.

Here's where it starts to get messy. Remember the required "zoning/building permit," approval for which is part of a "unitary procedure" subject to a checklist of items? In September, MLC/Leith requested that the Town issue a zoning permit and revisit the building permit at another time, essentially splitting the "unitary procedure" into separate tracks. According to the Court, MLC/Leith "believed [it] could not satisfy the checklist requirements for applying for the zoning/building permit, so [it] sought to make a distinction between a zoning permit and the zoning/building permit recognized by the Town." Can you see that someone with MLC/Leith, perhaps the lawyer, was starting to focus on the issue of vested rights? Maybe the stealth zoning amendments were not so stealth after all, and MLC/Leith feels the storm blowing in.

On September 13, 2005, the Town Council approved the architectural plans and postponed until its October 11 meeting any condieration of the proposed zoning amendments. Then, on October 11 at 4:30 p.m., in advance of the Town Council meeting in which the zoning amendments would be considered, MLC/Leith's engineer "went to the Town's public works department and attempted to submit an application for a water and sewer permit, a driveway permit, an encroachment agreement and various plans [including a previously-denied erosion control plan]." In other words, MLC/Leith is trying to do anything at this point -- anything! -- it can to put itself in position to claim a vested right in the GB zoning of the property it owns.

On October 11, 2005, that same evening, the music died. The Town Council voted unanimously to rezone the property to within the OS zoning district. With that, MLC/Leith lost out on the ability to build and operate a car dealership.

Federal Lawsuit
MLC/Leith brought suit in federal court alleging common law vested rights, due process violations, tortious interference with the Suzuki agreement, and so on. The federal court abstained from exercising jurisdiction over the state law claims, however, and stayed the action pending resolution of "the land use and zoning issues in state court." The Fourth Circuit affirmed, by the way, but that's not why we're here. Okay, that's not why we're here today.

State Lawsuit
We're here today to discuss the state lawsuit, more specifically the appeal. The trial court granted summary judgment for MLC/Leith that it possessed a common law vested right to develop an auto park "notwithstanding the rezoning of the property," and the trial court granted summary judgment for the Town on the contractual interference/economic advantage claims. The Town appealed the vested right issue.

According to MLC/Leith, it maintained avested right because it "made substantial expenditures based on [the] existing zoning." The Court disagreed, and applied the Supreme Court's holding from Robins v. Town of Hillsborough, 361 N.C. 193 (2007) to conclude that "a property owner does not acquire a vested right to develop land contrary to the provisions of a subsequently enacted zoning ordinance simply based on the purchase of the land in reliance on existing zoning." In doing so, the Court also clarifies that the holding in In re Campsites Unlimited, 287 N.C. 493 (1975) remains in force but only applies as follows with respect to a vested right: "[When a property owner makes expenditures in the absence of zoning or under the authority of a building permit...." Here, of course, the Town has zoning and MLC/Leith did not possess a building permit.

So, the Court turned to the next option for MLC/Leith: the holding in Browning-Ferris Indus. v. Guilford County Board of Adjustment, 126 N.C. App. 168 (1997) that "permits other than a building permit may, when combined with substantial expenditures in reliance on the permit, give rise to a common law vested right." First off, however, MLC/Leith was unable to secure any permits. Secondly, even assuming it had, MLC/Leith incurred the qualifying substantial expenditures -- remember the $500,000? -- waaaaay before it even applied for the permits.

Are there any options left to MLC/Leith? Well, we have those letters from the Code Enforcement Officers, penned in 2001. The ones that told MLC/Leith that the 21-acre tract is located in the Town's GB zoning district and automobile sales were a permitted use in that zoning district. Stay with me. Are those old letters enough to constitute "permits" on which MLC/Leith relied when making substantial expenditures, such that MLC/Leith possessed a vested right in the GB zoning?

Nope. Turns out those letters aren't enough. According to the Court, this case is not "meaningful[ly]" distinguishable from Browning-Ferris insofar as the 2001 letters "merely confirmed that a particular use was a permitted use in the applicable zone, but also stressed that the project would have to meet other requirements set out in the zoning ordinance." In relying on Browning-Ferris, the Court also pointed out that it "need not specifically address what types of government approval, short of a permit, are sufficient for the common law vested right analysis."

Lastly, the Court considered MLC/Leith's plea that Huntington Props., LLC v. Currituck County, 153 N.C. App. 218 (2002) applied rather than Browning-Ferris. Huntington Props., you can probably tell, fell in favor of a vested right. The Court flirted with copping to an inconsistency between the two decisions (in which case Browning-Ferris, the earlier decision, would apply). But, ultimately, the Court found a way to distinguish Huntington Props., as well: "Consistent with prior vested rights precedent, we read this language as requiring approval of the specific project and not just a reiteration of the UDO [which is all the 2001 letters really gave]."

Mike Thelen is a lawyer in Womble Carlyle's Real Estate Litigation practice group. He regularly represents a wide variety of clients in land use and land development issues, from local governments to businesses, in both state and federal venues throughout North Carolina.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011, 11:12 AM

North Carolina Court of Appeals Hears Argument In Economic Incentives Case

Yesterday, the North Carolina Court of Appeals heard argument in litigation over the State's efforts to lure new businesses through the use of economic incentives. At issue is the State's attempt to lure a satellite campus of culinary and hospitality school Johnson and Wales University to Charlotte. The lawsuit filed by the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law, which a Wake County Superior Court judge dismissed last year, seeks to claw back some $10 million given to the University as part of the enticement. For the adventurous and just plain curious, the briefs on appeal can be accessed here (Appellant/Challenger), here (State), and here (Johnson & Wales).

You can view our previous post on economic incentives here.

Of course, we'll update our readers when the appellate court issues its ruling.

Mike Thelen is a lawyer in Womble Carlyle's Real Estate Litigation practice group. He regularly represents a wide variety of clients in land use and land development issues, from local governments to businesses, in both state and federal venues throughout North Carolina.

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Thursday, January 6, 2011, 5:12 PM

Is an Alternating Electronic Billboard the Equivalent of "Multiple Signs Per Sign Face" Under County Ordinance?


We spend much of our time in this space covering North Carolina-related issues and topics. However, as our readers know, we'll travel outside the State's borders from time to time in search of interesting or even amusing subject matter. We're here to enlighten, but we're also here to keep things accessible.

Porter County in Indiana boasts an ordinance: "Where permitted, an outdoor advertising structure shall ... [c]ontain not more than one poster panel or the equivalent per facing...." A separate ordinance permits "tri-wave billboards," which are comprised of slats that simultaneously rotate to change from one advertisement to the next every so often.

Lamar Advertising, purveyor of billboards road-wide, applied for an "improvement location permit" to replace an existing, standard billboard with an electronic sign using light-emitting diodes. According to description, the new sign would "display a 'static, ... electronically-generated image, but [with] no motion in the billboard itself." The new LED billboard -- think flat-screen television for interstate drivers -- would be programmed with six different advertisments, which would appear one at a time in ten-second intervals.

Citing the ordinance section referenced above, the County's Planning Commission denied the permit application. The Board of Adjustment affirmed, concluding that the ordinance allows "only ONE poster panel ... on each face of a sign"; that "[t]he request of [Lamar] would have posted up to seven poster panel equivalent on the sign"; and that "the intent of the ordinance was to prevent the display of multiple messages from one sign." Lamar appealed to the trial court, which reversed the Board's conclusion and ordered the permit application approved.

In Porter County Board of Zoning Appeals v. Lamar Advertising Northwest Indiana, the Board appealed the trial court's order. The appellate court affirmed the trial court, reasoning that "The plain, ordinary, and usual meaning of the ordinance in question prohibits more than the equivalent of one panel at a time. But the plain, ordinary, and usual meaning of the ordinance also implicitly allows that same one panel (or equivalent) to change from time to time." Employing that favorite gadget of lawyers and judges, alike -- taking a point to its "logical conclusion," which, at its worst, may neither be logical nor a conclusion -- the court states, "Without this additional interpretation, the ordinance would be a limit for time indefinite, which would be impractical, illogical, and likely inconsistent with the practices of the [Board] and Porter County billboard owners ...." In other words, if the Board is correct in its interpretation, once a billboards is posted in Porter County, the madien advertisment is the only advertisement allowed. There's a certain charm in seeing, circa 2011, that Geritol is the proper tonic for old age and that the Studebaker will get me "To and Fro," but there isn't much value in the way of, you know, advertising stuff.

There's such a thing as form over function, and the County about drank that Kool Aid with the Board's "to the letter" interpretation. Don't know what Kool Aid is? I bet a Porter County billboard can help explain.

Mike Thelen is a lawyer in Womble Carlyle's Real Estate Litigation practice group. He regularly represents a wide variety of clients in land use and land development issues, from local governments to businesses, in both state and federal venues throughout North Carolina.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011, 11:39 AM

North Carolina Court of Appeals Discusses "Waiting Periods" Between Renewed Rezoning Petitions

Rezoning land for development -- say, from single-family residential to multi-family residential -- involves a substantial amount of work. Let's consider the theoretical order of a theoretical rezoning process. (1) The landowner will prepare a petition requesting the change in zoning. (2) The local government staff will make a review of the proposed zoning change. (3) The neighboring landowners will monitor the proposed rezoning, attend public hearings on the matter, and voice concerns over the proposal incluyding the filing of protest petitions. (4) The municipal planning board and the governing board of the local government will rule on the proposal. That's only four steps, but it's a significant four steps.

"Because rezoning involves so much time, effort, and money," writes Professor David Owens of the UNC School of Government, "most local zoning ordinances require a waiting period before a second rezoning proposal for that land can be considered." He continues: "For example, a local zoning ordinance may provide that if a rezoning proposal is denied, no other rezonings will be considered for that property for a period of six months, a year, or even two years. This helps prevent the waste of public and private resources spent on repetitious reviews of the same project."

As you can probably imagine, such a waiting period can be difficult for developers. After all, time = money. That's an "equals" sign for the lawyers in our audience.

So, what happens if "that land" included in the rezoning petition, or, heck, the petition itself, is tweaked in a manner to circumvent the waiting period? In other words, would a waiting period apply if in a second rezoning petition (following an unsuccessful first petition) the developer reduced the acreage included in the original rezoning petition or included new conditions to the rezoning? The North Carolina Court of Appeals kicked off the new year by taking up this question in the unpublished Conoley v. Town of Wendell.

Facts
In January 2007, a developer filed a rezoning petition (First Rezoning Petition) seeking to change the classification of a 57.87 acre parcel from its current single-family zoning to a kind of multi-family zoning. This follows the simple mathematical principle that more dense development = more return on investment, or Trump's third law. The First Rezoning Petition also included six conditions, to which developer added another three in the process to total nine conditions. In the presence of a valid protest petition, a term and process of art, developer needed a favorable 3/4 supermajority vote from the governing board to garner its rezoning, which developer could not secure.

The First Rezoning Petition was denied in April 2007. What's more, the Town's zoning code contains a waiting period applicable to failed rezoning petitions: "When a petition for amendment is denied by the Town Board of Commissioners, a period of twelve (12) months must elapse before another petition for the same change previously involved may be submitted." Ok, let's look at our calendars. That means "another petition for the same change" as the change proposed in the First Rezoning Petition cannot come before the Town Board until, at the ealiest, April 2008. Think that'll happen? Let's see. April ... Ma-

May! Yep, in May 2007, some six weeks after the First Rezoning Petition failed, developer filed a second rezoning petition, an exact redundancy of the First Rezoning Petition. Whoops, that may not fly. So, in June 2007 -- now we're at two months, even assuming no "relation back" isues -- developer filed an amended second rezoning petition (Second Rezoning Petition), which contained an three conditions in addition to the nine conditions cribbed from the First Rezoning Petition. So, just to summarize, the Second Rezoning Petition merely differs from the First Rezoning Petition insoar as it contains three additional conditions.

Well, the Town's Planning Board wasn't fooled. Having voted previously to recommend approval of the First Rezoning Petition, the Planning Board votes in June 2007 against recommending approval of the Second Rezoning Petition. At this point, the developer likely sees the wheels coming off. Consequently, and running out of ammunition, developer delivers to the Town Board in September 2007 a letter withdrawing a controversial 16 acres of land from the Second Rezoning Petition. Again, to summarize what matters, the Second Rezoning Petition now differs from the First Rezoning Petition in that it contains three additional conditions and 16 fewer acres of land.

This time around, some five months after the failure of the First Rezoning Petition, the Town Board approves the Second Rezoning Petition. Enter: lawsuit claiming the rezoning invalid for failure to comply with the "twelve-month" waiting period.

Holding
As the Court points out, the "central dispute concerns the construction of the phrase 'the same change previously involved' in the Town's Zoning Code, section 154.151."

In essence, the Court reports, the Town uses the out-of-date Section 154.151 to effectuate conditional use zoning. But a proper conditional use procedure would not raise such "waiting period" issues insofar as conditions are often added, modified, and/or taken away -- it's a "moving target" -- and a waiting period would only stymie the "exceedingly valuable" process. To wit, each and every modification would push the conditional use process back another year.

Thus, the Court concludes: "[T]he conditional use zone ultimately adopted contained a total of twelve enumerated restrictions [up from nine restrictions] and a decrease in the area of the land Pepper Street sought to rezone. Because conditional use zoning necessarily envisions modifications and the adoption of restrictions, it presents something of a 'moving target' during the course of a proposal's consideration and tailoring as the municipality seeks to employ conditional use zones to balance conflicting demands. Accordingly, it is our conclusion that the second petition sought a different change than the first petition...." The Court affirmed summary judgment in favor of the Town and the developer.

This sounds a little like function over form. But the Court does an admirable job of pointing to the uniqueness of these facts rather than, in effect, steamrolling all such rezoning petition "waiting periods" common throughout the State. Of course, that doesn't stop folks from waving the decision around in the purpose for which it isn't intended.

Mike Thelen is a lawyer in Womble Carlyle's Real Estate Litigation practice group. He regularly represents a wide variety of clients in land use and land development issues, from local governments to businesses, in both state and federal venues throughout North Carolina.

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