tag: North Carolina Land Use Litigator: July 2011

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011, 5:39 PM

Womble Carlyle to Sponsor Team In Mongol Rally 2011

Womble Carlyle is proud to announce that it will be sponsoring Team Reckless Abandon in the Mongol Rally, which begins July 25.

The Mongol Rally is a diminutive-car road rally that begins in Europe and ends in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, taking place over a period of four weeks. The Firm's support of Reckless Abandon benefits Water.Org, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization committed to providing safe drinking water and sanitation to people in developing countries. A link to Team Reckless Abandon can be found here.

Follow Team Reckless Abandon, learn more about the race or make a charitable donation by traditional website or on Twitter.

Zoom!

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.

Friday, July 15, 2011, 10:08 AM

The Lighter Side of Land Use Law: Lawn "Car"naments and Lawn "Veg"aments

In a departure from the usual information, which we thoroughly enjoy though which we also acknowledge can sometimes border on the dry, we bring you two hot land use topics of the type you'd learn about in the last 2 minutes of your local evening news broadcast. You know, like "Local boy wins rock eating contest" or "Dog takes wheel to save seized driver from crash".

"Hey, you can't park that here."
"We're not parking it. We're abandoning it."
--Stripes (1981)

First , on the local side, we're hearing that the Town of Chapel Hill -- the bucolic municipality of the flagship campus for the University of North Carolina and its thousands of students -- intends to crack down on an increasing problem: lawn parking. Apparently municipal neighborhoods with high student populations, and the apartment complexes and multifamily units meant to house these future Zuckerbergs, are showing a penchant for lawn parking where driveways are too small or street parking is prohibited.

It seems the Town's Land Use Management Ordinance, parking and drive areas are restricted to 40% of the front yard areas and requires an all-weather surface covering or a gravel covering. One report quotes the Town's Housing and Neighborhood Services Planner as saying, "[The parking and drive areas ordinance] is really designed to get at those properties that cover their lawn with parking and the feeling that it gives to the entire neighborhood when you have a property like that." We can't really argue with the aesthetic intention, assuming its consistent with the police powers, but is the Town simply risking a bunch of gravel-covered "lawns"?

Second, from another swing state, we're reading that a Michigan woman is facing a misdemeanor trial over a vegetable garden located in her front yard. The City of Oak Park land use ordinance permits a front yard to display "suitable, live, plant material." The City, however, does not find a series of walled vegetable plots to be "suitable" under the land use code. The property in debate is pictured with this post.

Julie Bass, the landowner, who will not back down, has already received a warning, a ticket, and is now charged with a misdemeanor. With the story having gone viral, we're of the belief that Ms. Bass will, um, squash the City's stance. Lettuce have that pun without any groans, huh?

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, July 12, 2011, 1:48 PM

Citing Due Process Violations, Residents/Business Challenge Award of Special Use Permit for the Relocation of Homeless Shelter

The Town of Chapel Hill and the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service ("IFC") are embroiled in litigation, brought by residents of and the owners of a shopping center located within a Town neighborhood, over the award of a special use permit to the IFC for the location of a new men's homeless shelter.

Specifically, the neighbors and shopping center allege that some members of the Town council developed pre-conceived notions and conclusions about the special use permit before the quasi-judicial hearing could be conducted and all evidence could be considered.

In a response filed late last week, the Town responded that the council had developed no such thing, and a statement in advance of the quasi-judicial proceeding that the Town council would support setting a "deadline for the IFC homeless shelter to vacate the old municipal building downtown and move to its new location on Homestead Road" does not amount to an improper pre-determination to award the special use permit in violation of due process rights.

The blog Chapel Hill Watch provides a more fulsome background into the facts, here. While we find the discussion contained therein to be interesting, we cannot vouch for the accuracy of the statements.

We'll follow this litigation as it develops.

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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