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Bojangles’ Coliseum renovations approved

So that the Checkers can move in come next fall. And again no mention as to why the Checkers moved back there or what this means for the city’s plan to turn the facility into an amateur sports mecca.

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Ruling On Shooting Ranges Implicates Property Rights

Have an article out for Carolina Journal on a recent N.C. Court of Appeals article on the limits of zoning regulations. The article in full:

RALEIGH — In November, the state’s second-highest court ruled that landowners in Franklin County may not operate a shooting range on their property because the county’s zoning scheme does not mention shooting ranges as a potential land use. The ruling drew notice because in 2010 the same court held that it was OK for a shooting range to operate in Union County, which has a similar zoning code.

The seemingly contradictory rulings make it likely that the state Supreme Court will have to settle the matter, giving the justices an opportunity to take either an expansive or very narrow interpretation of the rights of property owners.

Aaron Byrd and Eric Coombs hoped to operate a shooting range in Franklin County. Franklin County’s zoning ordinance divides the county into zoning districts and contains a table of permitted uses, identifying the specific uses of land that are permitted in each zoning district. A specific use may be allowed as either a matter of right, requiring no additional zoning act; a “conditional use,” requiring approval of the County Board of Adjustment; a “special use,” requiring approval of the county commission; or not allowed in a certain zoning district at all. The ordinance also states that any “[u]ses not specifically listed in the table … are prohibited.” The zoning ordinance doesn’t mention shooting ranges by name.

County zoning officials initially told Byrd and Coombs that the county didn’t allow shooting ranges at all, since they weren’t listed on the zoning table. Officials later changed their minds, saying shooting ranges fell under the category “Grounds and Facilities for Open Air Games and Sporting Events,” a special use allowed in the area where the property is located.

The county commission turned down Byrd and Coombs’ request for a special-use permit. The landowners sued, claiming that the shooting range isn’t really an “open air game” and that they should be allowed to operate a shooting range, exactly because it wasn’t mentioned in the zoning ordinance. They brought the matter to the Court of Appeals after a Superior Court ruled for the county.

The Land decision

The critical issue before the appeals court was its 2010 ruling in Land v. Village of Wesley Chapel, in which a landowner sought to operate a shooting range in a jurisdiction with a zoning scheme that made no reference to shooting ranges. The Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the landowner.

A majority of the three-judge appeals court distinguished the Franklin County zoning scheme from that in Wesley Chapel and found Land was not on point.

“Petitioners argue that our holding in Land compels us to conclude that since shooting ranges are not expressly excluded by the [Franklin County zoning ordinance], they must be allowed. We believe that petitioners’ interpretation of Land is overly broad and would lead to absurd results,” wrote Judge Chris Dillon for the appeals court.

“We construe this Court’s holding in Land narrowly to the language of the ordinance that was before it, namely one which states that permitted uses are those uses which are listed and ‘other uses that have similar impacts to’ those listed while prohibiting all other uses,” Dillon wrote. “We believe that the language in the UDO is clear in prohibiting shooting ranges even though it does not specifically mention ‘shooting ranges’ by name. Unlike the ordinance in Land, the UDO does not contain a similarity provision. It would be absurd to state that a use is allowed as a matter of right everywhere in a county, simply because the county failed to list the use expressly by name in its ordinance. Otherwise where an ordinance provides that property within a residential district can only be used for residential purposes and for no other purpose and under petitioners’ interpretation, the residential property owner could use his property not only for residential purposes but also for any commercial use [that] the ordinance fails to specifically mention.”

The appeals court also noted that the North American Industry Classification System — the standard used by federal agencies to classify businesses for the purpose of gathering statistics — that a shooting range does not fall under the code of “open air games and sporting events.” (Shooting ranges are classified under “amusement and recreation.”)

Judge Robert C. Hunter dissented in part from the majority holding. While agreeing that a shooting range doesn’t fall into the open air games category, he found Land directly on point.

“The Land Court made clear that the law favors uninhibited free use of private property over governmental restrictions,” Hunter wrote.

“Despite this principle, the majority asserts that it would be absurd for a use to be allowed as a matter of right because the county failed to expressly restrict the use in its zoning ordinance. I believe that it would be similarly absurd, but more importantly, unlawful, to support the notion that an otherwise legal use of private property is automatically disallowed simply because the government failed to identify it by name in a zoning ordinance.”

Court of Appeals decisions are binding interpretations of state law unless overruled by the state Supreme Court. Because of Hunter’s dissent, the high court is required to hear the case if Byrd and Coombs choose to appeal the ruling.

The case is Byrd, et al v. Franklin County (13-1457).

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Gordon Kirby on NASCAR’s future

Veteran motorsports writer Gordon Kirby recently offered up an interesting column on the future of NASCAR recently. A key point:

Whether fender-bashing and fighting are good or bad for NASCAR the fact is they’re not going to go away because they’re essential elements of stock car racing and will continue to be for many years to come.

It’s equally true that NASCAR cannot escape the image of itself that exists in the popular culture. It’s considered a farm boy’s sport populated by beer and whisky drinkers. NASCAR’s garage area may be filled these days with plenty of open-minded, highly-motivated crewmen, car builders and engineers, but for many people NASCAR means ‘redneck’. It’s a steadfast image for much of America that NASCAR cannot separate itself from no matter how hard it tries.

And dare I say that some of NASCAR’s most renowned TV commentators such as Fox’s Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds only perpetuate that image. In contrast, ESPN’s Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree do an excellent job providing great information and insight.

Jarrett and Petree do the sport proud and if NASCAR is to thrive in the future I believe it needs to listen more to serious pros like them and less to the marketing mavens and bureaucrats who have helped push the ship off-course in recent years.


N.C. bears getting bigger

So reports the Associated Press. Why? Changing agricultural patterns

Farmers shifting from inedible crops like tobacco and cotton to edible items like corn and soybeans give the bears plenty to eat so they no longer have to expend so much energy and lose weight hibernating, state Wildlife Resources Commission black bear biologist Colleen Olfenbuttel said.

“The amount of agriculture has influenced hibernation. The reason for 700-plus bears is reflecting the abundance of food available now versus what we saw 20 years ago,” Olfenbuttel said.

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Just so wrong

N.C. State is playing Wake Forest in men’s basketball tonight. This is way, way, way, way too early for a conference basketball game, especially one between in-state rivals.

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All about people moving around

Mecklenburg County residents are a mobile lot, according to Census Bureau data. In 2013, 80.4 percent lived the same place they did a year earlier, well below the national average of right at 85 percent. For those interested in the topic, the Winston-Salem Journal offers up an article on the topic, focusing on the Triad, though Mecklenburg County does get mentioned a lot.

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More CCCP Uptown retail delusions

From the UPoR:

Getting more retailers to locate uptown could require creative incentives for “pioneers” and stricter requirements to include ground-level retail in new buildings, an economic developer told Charlotte Center City Partners on Thursday.

Those were two of the ideas Christopher Hemans presented at the CCCP board meeting. Hemans was named the group’s director of retail in August, tasked with leading efforts to grow uptown’s retail scene beyond bars and restaurants.

“We really want to create an authentic street experience,” said Hemans, praising walkable cities such as Asheville and Charleston known for their retail scenes. “We have a very different built environment, but how can we replicate that here?”

You really can’t make this level of ignorance and arrogance up. How can you replicate Asheville here? You can’t. And to even use a city with a tenth the population of Charlotte as a comp is simply absurd. And then there’s that Asheville and Charleston are both major tourist destinations. Uptown Charlotte, except in the mind of perhaps Christopher Hemans or some other CCCP type, is not.

The CCCP can’t have it both ways. The core issue is that Uptown land is very expensive. Retail is space intense, so Uptown stores would have to sell a ton of stuff to simply pay the rent — and currently they can’t. To use public money to subsidize retail in certain locations is simply government trying to picking winners and losers at its worst. And given the underlying economics, it’s a move that’s almost certain to fail.

Bonus thought: Requiring ground-level retail makes new construction in Uptown less likely.


Speaking of hockey

Two recent links about the Carolina Hurricanes (and thus by extension the Charlotte Checkers) of interest:

• Scott Burnside of ESPN asks whether “Is losing the Canes’ winning move?” with the premise being that there are two generational talents in the upcoming NHL draft.

• As Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer reports, “Canes rank 29th in attendance after eight home games.” That’s of 30 teams in the NHL. And, unsurprisingly, the Hurricanes’ average ticket price is also the lowest in the NHL. The kicker: the Hurricanes are trying to restrict the number of deeply discounted tickets this year… all of which is an ugly combination. So unless the teams draws better in the future and/or new owners with an extremely strong commitment to the Triangle take over the team (the Hurricanes are currently for sale), then the talk of the team moving just won’t end.

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Your water bill will be going up by a lot

Not that that should come as a surprise. Per the Observer and the presentation to Charlotte City Council (see page 26) on Monday, a family using 8 ccf a month can expect to see their water will go up by $51 a year on average each year from 2016 to 2022. So by $350+ a year by 2022 compared to what such a family spends currently. That’s far from chump change — and adversely effects Charlotte’s affordability for working-class families. Which should presumably disturb the liberals on Charlotte City Council except that we all know that it won’t.

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The latest on the Uber wars in North Carolina

Carolina Journal’s Barry Smith offers up an update on latest development’s in Raleigh over attempts to regulation “sharing economy” services such as Lyft, Uber, and Airbnb. Because of the local interest, here’s the article in full:

RALEIGH — Frustrated by their lack of authority to police upstart businesses in the “sharing economy” — a marketplace relying on direct negotiations between providers and consumers — some North Carolina municipalities are asking the General Assembly for permission to regulate businesses such as Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb.

Uber and Lyft are smart phone app-based ride-sharing services that have begun operating in a handful of North Carolina cities. Airbnb is an online service that allows people to rent a room, apartment, or house from the owner, bypassing real estate brokers or apartment management companies.

A Charlotte municipal official as well as competitors of sharing economy businesses approached the General Assembly’s Revenue Laws Study Committee in November, asking lawmakers to authorize more regulations on these businesses. The committee meets when the General Assembly is out of session to recommend changes in the state’s tax code.

Thomas Powers, an assistant city attorney for Charlotte, said the city’s sole concern is public safety.

“We’re not getting into the actual issues of competition between Uber and Lyft, as well as other taxicabs and black cars [limousine services],” Powers said. “Instead, our concern is solely about the passenger [who] is riding in the vehicle and whether or not the service that’s being provided to them through any means of passenger vehicle for hire is the safest service for the citizens of our community.”

Powers said he had anecdotal reports that some regulated taxi companies are claiming that their drivers should face regulations no more stringent than those controlling the ride-sharing services. He also noted that vehicles used by regulated taxi and other livery services must undergo more thorough vehicle-safety inspections than cars owned by drivers who provide transportation for ride-sharing services.

Representatives from both Lyft and Uber said drivers who partner with them go through complete background checks.

“There’s a thorough process that we go through to screen all of our drivers,” said April Mims, public policy manager with Lyft. Drivers undergo a thorough background check and wouldn’t be allowed to have a violent offense or sex offense. They wouldn’t be allowed to have had a DWI or drug-related offense in the past seven years, or a moving violation in the last three years, she said.

“We want to make sure that every single person on the road is safe and trusted,” said Rachel Holt, regional general manager for Uber on the East Coast. “This includes extremely stringent background checks.” She said Uber’s background checks pick up on things that typical background checks used by the taxi and limo industry don’t. All cars have to meet their annual state safety inspection, she said.

Competitors also urged more regulation of the upstart sharing-economy industries.

Michael Solomon of Taxi Taxi said the same regulations that apply to taxis also should apply to ride-sharing services.

“We believe that the for-hire vehicle and the for-hire driver should at all times meet the safety requirements of the current code, including licensing, background checks, vehicle inspections, commercial tags, and commercial insurance,” Solomon said. “Any person who collects a passenger for a fee no matter how it’s collected should be held to the same standard as the current code requires.”

At a minimum, all vehicles for hire should be required to register as a commercial vehicle and obtain a commercial license plate, Solomon said.

Lynn Minges, president of the N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association, said that some of the sharing economy lodging businesses are skirting regulations intended to protect public safety.

Partners with targeted companies, however, asked lawmakers not to overregulate their industry.

Katherine Parsons of Wake County, a driver for Lyft and an Airbnb host, said the two ventures help her earn a few dollars to supplement her family’s income.

“I’m a part-time driver; I might drive two hours a week,” Parsons said. “If you overlegislate this, if you make it difficult for me to do this kind of thing, if you make it expensive … I just won’t do it.”

Said David Hippensteel, an Uber driver, state employee, and U.S. Navy veteran, “If you want to regulate me, you need to regulate family and friends as well. What Uber and Lyft does is no different than if I had 50 friends that at any given time would call me up and say, ‘Hey, can I get a ride someplace. And at the end of that ride, they’d say, hey, here’s $10 or $15 for gas.’”

Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, who co-chairs the committee, said the primary interest of the committee was to make sure drivers and those renting their residences were paying the appropriate taxes. Legislative staff and industry officials assured Rabon that companies are issuing federal 1099 tax forms.

The committee took no action and made no recommendations.

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December 2014
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