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Archive for May, 2014

Chapel Hil parking ordinance ruling

I’ve got an article out for Carolina Journal on Chapel Hill’s attempts to limit student housing rentals by restricting parking. The article in full:

RALEIGH — In a recent decision, the state’s second highest court ruled that a local regulation limiting the number of cars that can park legally on a residential lot is not a parking ordinance but a zoning ordinance. The case, which originated in Chapel Hill, could affect the property rights of property owners who rent space in single-family homes anywhere in the state.

The town of Chapel Hill established the Northside Neighborhood Conservation District to address issues associated with students who rent houses in the Northside neighborhood near the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. In particular, the town sought to reduce the number of students living in the area by limiting the number of tenants in a house to the number of bedrooms in it.

In practice, this proved difficult to enforce, so in 2012 the town took a different tack: limiting to four the number of cars that could park on residential lots — both owner-occupied and rental properties — in the conservation district. If the town found too many cars on a lot it could cite and fine the property owner, rather than the tenants or the owners of the cars.

Several property owners who rented to students were cited by the town; they challenged the legality of the new ordinance. After a Superior Court judge ruled against the property owners, they brought the issue before the N.C. Court of Appeals.

Before the appeals court, the property owners raised two arguments against the town’s new parking rule: that the regulation violates due process protections in the N.C. Constitution and that the state had not give localities the authority to regulate parking on private property.

Article I, Section 19 of the N.C. Constitution provides protections against improper government actions, including the recognition of substantive due process, “a guaranty against arbitrary legislation, demanding that the law be substantially related to the valid object sought to be obtained.”

For their part, the property owners contended that enforcing the parking limit against them, rather than the owners of the vehicles or the tenants, was “entirely irrational, arbitrary and capricious.”

The court of appeals was not swayed by this argument.

“Where defendant enforced a zoning amendment by citing the owners of rental properties rather than their tenants because it was a more effective method of enforcement, their enforcement against property owners was rationally related to the purpose of the zoning restriction and did not violate plaintiffs’ right to substantive due process,” wrote Judge Sanford Steelman for the appeals court.

Steelman noted that Chapel Hill had submitted affidavits from a planner and a code enforcement official stating that the parking regulations were a more effective manner of addressing overcapacity in housing units and that the property owners had not challenged the town’s contention that overcrowded housing was a problem.

Next, the property owners argued that the town didn’t have the authority to regulate parking on private property. N.C. General Statute § 160A-301 gives cities the authority to regulate parking on public streets and commercial properties. Because the law doesn’t mention residential property, the property owners claimed Chapel Hill doesn’t have the power to limit parking at the houses they own.

The appeals court also rejected this line of reasoning.

“We conclude that, although the parties have referred to the zoning amendment as a ‘parking’ regulation, the context establishes that the amendment was intended to regulate the ratio of bedrooms to tenants in rental properties in the NNC District by restricting the number of vehicles parked in the yard,” wrote Steelman.

“We hold that regulation of parking in public vehicular areas is fundamentally different from zoning restrictions on the number of cars that may be parked on a private lot by tenants of a house, and that there is no basis for assuming that our General Assembly intended legislation allowing a city to regulate parking in public vehicular areas to diminish a town’s authority to adopt land use zoning regulations that deal with population density or over-occupancy of rental homes. The fact that defendant chose to restrict the number of cars parked on a lawn as a rough proxy for the number of tenants does not transform this into a ‘parking’ ordinance. …”

Court of Appeals rulings are binding interpretations of state law unless overruled by the N.C. Supreme Court. Since the three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals issued a unanimous decision, the high court is not required to hear the case if the property owners appeal.

The case is Patmore v. Town Of Chapel Hill, (13-1049).

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The joy of film incentives

From the UPoR:

Of the dozens of film projects in North Carolina that have sought millions in taxpayer film subsidies since 2005, one stands out for the unusual way the producer says he spent the money: on construction workers, bricks and mortar to transform an old hosiery mill in Hickory from a vacant eyesore into a valuable piece of commercial real estate.

The more than $4 million in construction activity at the mill was part of filming for episodes of a reality TV show that promised to take viewers into the ups and downs of remaking historic buildings. The docudrama TV project, known as “The Preservationist,” was filmed two years ago.

It has not aired and, as of this month, is not lined up for distribution. A website related to the show has been suspended and trailers online are marked “private.”

The film project is seeking $1.1 million in state film incentives, according to reports filed with the state Department of Revenue and an interview with the show’s producer and starring character, Nathan Kirby of Gastonia.

and

In early 2012, he filed an “intent to film” notice that estimated spending in North Carolina related to “The Preservationist” would be $200 million, reflecting a plan to film his historic development work on multiple rehab projects. One form filed with the state film office indicated 2,500 people would work on the episodes as “talent/extras.”

While it may well never air, “The Preservationist” does manage to capture all that’s wrong with the state’s film incentives program in one nice little package.

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The FBI and airport taxis

Well now comes word that the FBI is interested in how the city determined which taxi companies were allowed to pick up fares at the airport. That’s not a surprise, as federal agents read the newspaper too. The timing is interesting though — if the FBI only got around to interviewing Obaid Khan of Diamond Cab about three weeks ago, it suggests that what got the feds originally interested in Patrick Cannon is likely something else.

Bonus thought: The Charlotte Observer had an excellent editorial recently on the need to revisit the taxi contract. Sample quote:

We understand the frustration of council members and city officials who feel that Cannon’s arrest unfairly tainted them. But the public’s distrust is real right now, and Charlotteans need more than the council’s proposal of a corruption “hotline.” They need their representatives to be transparent, not defensive, about their decisions. The taxi contract, with its controversial history, is the perfect place to start.

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We’re #16!!!

As the UPoR reports, Charlotte is now the 16th largest city in the United States, having passed Ft. Worth, Texas. The Queen City’s population was 792,862 last year and grew by 2.4 percent between 2012 and 2013. Which also means Charlotte’s population should be up to 800,00 by now with Mecklenburg County having over a million residents.

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What happens if you had an election and no one cared

Sort of like what’s happening today for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. And I say that because if you looked for news coverage of today’s vote, there really was about zero that appeared before, oh, last night. And limited press coverage equals reduced economic impact for Charlotte.

Prediction on who gets voted in: Bill Elliott, Joe Weatherly, Wendell Scott, Jerry Cook, and Bobby Isaac though say Fred Lorenzen or Rex White instead of Isaac wouldn’t surprise me either.

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RIP Reflections Sound Studios

The Charlotte Observer’s Courtney Devores offers up a nice retrospective of the place, which is perhaps best known as the studio where R.E.M. recorded their first two albums. A ton of other artists, some famous, most not at all famous, recorded there as well over the years.

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North Carolina’s very good at gerrymandering

So says the Washington Post, which uses a statistical method to assess you gerrymandered congressional districts are — think how close (or not) to round each district is. So what’s the most gerrymandered district? Yup, North Carolina’s 12 District though two other N.C. districts also rank in the top ten. And there’s no getting around, as the Post says, that this is a pretty funk-looking district:

districts-02

Bonus thought: The Post also argues that gerrymandering doesn’t cause political polarization, as congressmen are about as extreme either way whether they win 51 percent of the vote or 80 percent of the vote in the general election:

In sum, Democrats and Republicans are just polarized, no matter whether their district is red, blue or purple. It’s hard to imagine that creating more competitive districts will mitigate polarization. Members in purple districts are pretty polarized, too.

Interesting.

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Cool music festival. Not so cool result.

As the Asheville Citizen-Times reports, Moogfest lost $1.5 million this year.

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New vaccination requirement

Meningitis. As the Winston-Salem Journal reports:

State health officials have approved another mandatory vaccine for rising seventh graders, this time for meningitis and other meningococcal diseases.

The N.C. Commission on Public Health, the state’s health rulemaking body, said Thursday the rule would apply to students who enroll in the seventh grade after July 1, 2015. A booster shot would be required for students who enroll in the 12th grade after July 1, 2020.

More here.

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Honoring a hero

President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor yesterday to former Army Sgt. Kyle White, for his actions on Nov. 9, 2007, when White’s unit was ambushed near Aranas, Afghanistan. White, who now lives in Charlotte, is only the seventh living and 14th overall Medal of Honor recipient for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

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