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Buffalo Bills sold for $1.4 billion

which gives the Charlotte Observer an excuse to look at the value of the Carolina Panthers and whether the Panthers might relocate. The best quote appears at the end of the story from John Vrooman, a sports economist at Vanderbilt University:

Even with a smaller stadium renovation, Vrooman said he doesn’t see the Panthers as a credible threat to move. That’s because they aren’t part of a group of lower-tier teams – San Diego, Oakland, Jacksonville and St. Louis – that are more likely to relocate.

“The team will not move now or in the future regardless of ownership, because there are no superior economic alternatives to Charlotte,” he said. “Any gains from an upwardly mobile move to a larger market would be taxed away by the rest of the league in the form of a relocation fee.”

Yup. But whether the powers-that-be in this city believe what should be obvious is a much different question.

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Lufthansa to use smaller plane on CLT-Munich next summer

A A330-300, instead of a Airbus A340-600, the same plane the airline typically uses during the winter. The move was widely expected, as Lufthansa is now competing against US Airways instead of working with it.

Note that “smaller” here is a relative term. Lufthansa doesn’t really do small on its transatlantic flights. The smallest aircraft it uses in that role is the Airbus A340-300 and A330-300 — both have the same length fuselage, the difference is the number of engines and range. (The A340-600 is a stretched A340-300.) The largest aircraft US Airways has is the Airbus A330-300.

Lufthansa also has a new denser product out called Jump. It isn’t planning to fly aircraft in the Jump configuration to Charlotte at this time.

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Court: With No Maps, City Must Prove Zoning Violations

I have an article out for Carolina Journal on a case about an alleged zoning violation with a twist: the town involved lost all copies of the official zoning maps involved. The article in its entirety:

RALEIGH — It seems like a small business owner’s worst nightmare: Learn that you have lost the ability to use part of your property for your business based on a change of zoning boundaries — and government officials say no copies of the zoning maps exist. Yet that’s exactly the situation a Macon County property owner faced until the state’s second-highest court intervened.

John Shearl runs J&J Lawn and Landscape on property he bought in 1993 off N.C. 28 in Highlands. His company uses two buildings on the property, a shop building near the road and a storage building further back.

On Aug. 19, 2009, the town of Highlands issued a zoning violation notice to Shearl, saying he was making commercial use of a building on property zoned as residential.

In that part of Highlands, zoning designations are set based on the distance from the center of N.C. 28. Shearl’s property has split zoning, with the front portion zoned commercial and the rear portion residential. In the 1980s, the demarcation line between commercial and residential zoning was 230 feet from the center of the highway. The town later rezoned the area and moved the demarcation line to 150 feet from the center of the highway. While Shearl’s shop building clearly is on the part of the property zoned commercial, the storage building is between 150 and 230 feet from the middle of the highway and affected by the zoning change.

Before the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment, Shearl argued that his commercial use of the storage building was a legal nonconforming use, and that he should be allowed to use the storage building for his business because he was using it as such when the zoning line was moved. After the board and a Superior Court judge ruled against him, Shearl renewed his claim at the N.C. Court of Appeals.

Ordinarily, a property owner bears the burden of establishing the existence of a legal nonconforming use. But the appeals court ruled that standard should not apply in this case.

“Given the unique factual circumstances presented here, we hold that [the town] bears the burden of proving that petitioner’s zoning violation dates back to petitioner’s purchase of the property,” wrote Judge Robert N. Hunter Jr. for the court.

“Because the burden was inappropriately placed on Petitioner, we vacate the superior court’s order and remand this matter for a new hearing.”

The “unique factual circumstances” Hunter referred to surround changes Highlands made in 1990 to its zoning scheme. The town claims it moved the zoning line in 1990 — three years before Shearl bought the property, so he could not claim the building as a nonconforming use. But the town also admitted that it has lost all copies of the 1990 map.

“We believe that where, as here, a town fails to comply with its obligations under local ordinances and state law by failing to keep official zoning maps on record for public inspection, the appropriate remedy is to place the burden back on the town to establish the location and classification of zoning districts when the landowner began his or her nonconforming use,” wrote Hunter.

The appeals court made clear that the town now faces a high burden to prove that it moved the demarcation line in 1990, given that the best evidence to show such a move no longer exists.

“Respondent must produce such evidence on remand establishing that the line was at 150 feet when Petitioner began his commercial use of the storage building,” Hunter wrote. “Otherwise, it must be presumed that petitioner has a legal nonconforming use given the absence of any evidence tending to show that petitioner’s building is within the earlier 230-foot demarcation line.”

Court of Appeals decisions are binding interpretations of state law unless overruled by the N.C. Supreme Court. If a similar case arose challenging a local government’s zoning authority and the locality had lost its maps, the locality would have the burden of providing other evidence.

The case is Shearl v. Town of Highlands, (14-113).

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Possibly transformitive technology of the moment

Welding clothing together. As the Associated Press reports, the Navy is researching the possibility of using ultrasonic welding to make its uniforms lighter, more durable and cheaper to produce.

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A most surprising poll result

JLF head John Hood had a column out last week on the various local organization that produce high-quality polling data. A highlight:

And when it comes to predicting the outcomes of elections, don’t fall into the trap of assuming that only paid professionals staffing phone banks or running auto-dialing machines produce valid results. The surveys that Elon [University] and High Point [University] conduct are filled with useful insights about what North Carolinians think — and how they are likely to act on it when casting their ballots.

With that in mind, Elon University’s latest poll results, which try to get at why people vote the way they do, produces a rather surprising result. The conventional wisdom is that Libertarians candidates mainly take votes from Republicans. Elon’s survey found a rather different result in this year’s Senate race:

[Libertarians Sean] Haugh, who has consistently polled between 5 percent and 8 percent, could hurt [Democrat Kay] Hagan more than [Republican Thom] Tillis. Although Libertarians traditionally lean more to the political right, respondents who said they would vote for Haugh overwhelmingly chose Hagan when they were shown a ballot with just Hagan and Tillis.

Interesting.

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It’s now harder to get a prescription filled for hydrocodone

As the Winston-Salem Journal reports:

The path became longer today for getting a prescription filled for hydrocodone combination products.

Because of a federal regulatory change effective today, patients needing those potent painkilling drugs now have to go to a physician’s office to pick up a signed prescription slip for a 90-day supply and take it to the pharmacy, rather than having it faxed or emailed to the pharmacy.

Another change is that a return doctor visit is required to get another 90-day supply.

More here.

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The NFL in Los Angeles soon?

Mike Florio of NBC Sports is reporting that “Per a league source, the current plan is that the NFL will send one or two teams back to Los Angeles within the next 12 to 24 months.” The three teams mentioned as possibly moving to LA are the San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders, or St. Louis Rams.

Charlotte impact: If true, a NFL return to Los Angeles should greatly reduce the pressure that Charlotte officials feel to throw money at the Carolina Panthers. The great perceived threat was always that the Panthers would relocate to LA under whoever owns the team after Jerry Richardson. Of course, it’s a different matter as to whether the people crafting policy for the city are smart enough to do so, as they seem to have their doubts as to whether Charlotte is worthy of hosting a NFL team at all absent throwing massive amounts of money at the team.

H/t: CJ

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Speaking of pandemics and such

The Guardian provides an interesting look at the history of HIV. Key city in the disease’s history: Kinshasa, People’s Republic of the Congo. Time frame? Apparently from the 1920s on (!).

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Why Ebola isn’t really that dangerous

As NPR reports, it’s pretty simple. While Ebola has a high mortality rate in Africa (about 70 percent), there are two factors that limit its spread:

1. Ebola doesn’t spread through the air. To contact the disease, you have to be in close contact with bodily fluid such as blood or vomit containing the virus.

2. And then there’s this:

people with Ebola aren’t contagious until they show symptoms. So to stop the chain of transmission, all health workers in Texas have to do is get the people possibly infected by the sick man into isolation before these people show signs of Ebola.

So there’s no reason to freak out about the disease.

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McClatchy “first among the most troubled newspaper companies in America”

So says Douglas A. McIntyre for 24/7 Wall St. The company’s basic problem as compared to other newspaper companies is that its balance sheet is a mess:

In the second quarter of this year, McClatchy’s revenue fell to $292 million from $302 million in the same period last year. Operating income fell to $27 million from $30 million. The figures would seem fine, if McClatchy did not have a debt load that made it pay $33 million in interest expense. McClatchy’s long-term debt is $1.5 billion. The grimness of its problems is reflected in its market capitalization, which is only $294 million, and its stock price, which is down 49% over the past six months.

Which gets us to:

McClatchy needs to outrun its interest expenses, in terms of its operating profit. As revenue, and probably with that operating profit, continue to erode, the chances of that become less and less likely.

So its entirely possible that the Charlotte Observer and other McClatchy papers may be for sale sooner rather than later.

H/t: JH

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