Zoning, Planning & Land Use Section: Student Scholarships

Terri, a woman with brown hair, wears a black, white and gold blouse and is pictured smiling.By Terri Jones

In 2022, the Zoning, Planning and Land Use Section awarded its first scholarships to deserving law students. In order to meet the requirements for the 2022 Scholarship, the recipient must have been an unpaid intern working in a North Carolina government or public interest law department (State, Federal, City or County) who was also enrolled in an American Bar Association accredited law school.

The ZPLU Section is accepting applications for its 2023 scholarship awards now through April 15.

Last year’s recipients were Ashley Loveless, a 1L from the University of North Carolina School of Law, and Austin Morris, a 1L from Wake Forest University School of Law. By accepting this scholarship, Ashley and Austin agreed to write an essay about their experience as interns. Here is a synopsis of their essays.

Austin, a young man with blond hair, wears a white shirt, red tie, and black jacket.

Austin Morris

Where did you intern?

Ashley: I interned with the Durham City Attorney’s Office.

Austin: I interned with the Davidson County District Attorney’s Office in Prosecutorial District 13. I chose to work for the District Attorney because I always enjoyed serving the public and had spent two years working in the Davidson County Courthouse.

What did you learn about the law?

Ashley: Before walking into my internship, I could not have articulated exactly what it was a municipal attorney did, and no way I could have understood just how broad the job of a city attorney is. I had the opportunity to not only learn from behind a desk but at the various City department locations. Being able to go out and see the places that the City Attorney’s Office was serving helped create meaning and a sense of purpose for me in my assignments. I had the opportunity to draft a motion to dismiss for a land-use-related case and to discuss the Supreme Court’s decision in Austin v. Reagan National Advertising and its implications for municipal zoning restrictions.

Austin: I did a lot of assignments in a wide range of areas. My favorite ones, and the most rewarding, were researching cases to counter motions filed by defendants and observing district court. I saw a variety of cases on every type of charge imaginable. When I was not in court, I spent a large amount of time doing research for different attorneys. These topics were usually completely new to me and gave me the opportunity to learn them from scratch.

How is an internship different from law school?

Ashley: I had never heard any of my law school friends or professors discuss local government law. Discovering this field felt like uncovering a secret. By the end of my summer internship, my decision to pursue this field was confirmed. I was able to contribute to work related to employment law, non-discrimination ordinances, eminent domain litigation, bus advertising policies, city-county interlocal agreements, liability research, and so much more. I had never been to a city council meeting in person before my internship, and I had the opportunity to sit in on several of them throughout the summer. It was a wonderful way to learn more about the city, both as a legal intern and as a Durham resident.

Austin: You can read about cases all day and practice them in mock trial situations, but nothing will ever compare to the real thing. Knowing that there was pressure to find the best cases to formulate the best arguments, while addressing the possible counter arguments, gave the research an added edge that class did not. This research largely resembled the projects and assignments that I had done in my first year of law school, but knowing that so much more was on the line and the realness of the arguments I was helping make made it much more enjoyable.

How did the scholarship help you?

Ashley: The scholarship allowed me to focus on experiential learning by providing funds to help pay for daycare for my two young children. I want to emphasize my appreciation for the ZPLU for providing this scholarship opportunity for students in unpaid government internships and for selecting me as a recipient.

Austin: An unfortunate actuality is that government internships are on a volunteer basis. As a student, money is already hard to come by. However, this became even more troublesome after I had to change my living situations, and the rapidly growing inflation began to hit. This inflation affected every aspect of life and the money that had been set aside to cover the expenses of the summer and allow me the flexibility to work for free began to quickly dwindle as the costs of gas and food skyrocketed. Without the financial support from the ZPLU Section, there is no way, without any doubt in my mind, that I could have completed the internship. The scholarship was a blessing that can truly not be understated.

The ZPLU Section will award up to two scholarships to students interning during the summer of 2023. Access the application online. Preference will be given to applicants interning in the field of zoning, planning, and land use law.  Please forward any questions to LaSara Carter.

Terri Jones is the Town Attorney for the Town of Garner and a member of the ZPLU Section Council.

The 100th Anniversary of the North Carolina Zoning Enabling Act

Terri, a woman with brown hair, wears a black, white and gold blouse and is pictured smiling.By Terri Jones

Chapter 250 was ratified and enacted on March 5, 1923. The Zoning, Planning and Land Use Section celebrates the 100th anniversary of the North Carolina Zoning Enabling Act. The Zoning Enabling Act contained just eleven sections and empowered cities and towns to adopt zoning regulations and was just four pages long. By contrast, Chapter 160D of the North Carolina General Statutes is 131 pages, divided into 14 articles, and applies to both counties and municipalities equally.

Most of the originally adopted sections have stood the test of time. The purpose in Section 1 of the Zoning Enabling Act was to promote health, safety, morals, or the general welfare of the community. It authorized cities to regulate and restrict the height, number of stories and size of buildings and other structures, the percentage of lot that may be occupied, the size of yards, courts and other open spaces, the density of populations, and the location and uses of buildings, structures and land for trade, industry, residence or other purposes. Today, Section 160D-701 lists the following public purposes: to provide adequate light and air, to prevent the overcrowding of land, to avoid undue concentration of population, to lessen congestion in the streets, to secure safety from fire, panic and dangers, to facilitate the efficient and adequate provision of transportation, water, sewerage, schools, parks, and other public regulations, and to promote the health, safety, morals, or general welfare of the community.

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Call for Nominations – Zoning, Planning, and Land Use Section Award of Excellence

Lisa GloverBy Lisa Glover

Do you know a land use law superstar? Please consider nominating them for the Zoning, Planning, and Land Use Section Award of Excellence! This award recognizes a member of the Zoning, Planning, and Land Use Section who has shown outstanding dedication to land use matters while exhibiting the highest ethical standards and a commitment of service to clients and the profession. The full nomination guidelines and forms are available here: https://www.ncbar.org/members/communities/sections/zoning-planning-land-use/zoning-planning-and-land-use-section-award-of-excellence/.

Nominations for the award will close February 1, 2022. The award will be presented at the ZPLU Annual Meeting and CLE on April 21, 2022. Mark your calendars! Jamie Schwedler and Jannice Ashley are planning a great CLE focused on equity and inclusion issues, and we’ll explore various aspects of this theme in land use regulations and practices as well as in general legal practice. This CLE will be valuable for all practitioners, regardless of primary practice area.

Court of Appeals Issues Two (Unpublished) Decisions on Quasi-Judicial Permit Appeals

By Toby Coleman

The Court of Appeals issued two unpublished decisions in November in connection with appeals of quasi-judicial land use decisions.

Madison Asphalt, LLC v. Madison County, et al. (2021-NCCOA-603)

An interesting case involving citizen efforts to challenge a negotiated settlement of a disputed quasi-judicial permit decision. The court decided the case on procedural/jurisdictional grounds.

Quick Background: Madison Asphalt sought a conditional use permit for (you guessed it) an asphalt plant. After originally denying the requested permit, the County’s Board of Commissioners rethought their position after Madison Asphalt appealed and “threatened additional litigation.” Madison Asphalt and the County entered into a settlement agreement under which the County would issue the requested permit. Because Madison Asphalt’s appeal was still pending before the Superior Court, the parties requested a consent order from the Superior Court hearing Madison Asphalt’s appeal reversing the prior permit denial and remanding the case back to the County.

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From the ZPLU Chair: Moving Back Toward Normal

By Brian Pearce

Dear Members of the Zoning, Planning, and Land Use Section:

Happy Fall! Welcome to the 2021-2022 bar year. I am honored to serve as the Chair of the Zoning, Planning and Land Use Section for this year. As we start the year, I want to thank our Council members, committee chairs, and liaison members for volunteering their valuable time to our section through chairing our committees and serving on the Council. I also want to thank our section members for being part of the section and providing the contributions that you provide to our section and our corner of the profession. If any members of the section would like to serve on one of our committees, please reach out to me. We will find a place for you!

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Still Standing: COA Declines To Change Standing Requirements

By Nick Tosco

In reading the most recent Court of Appeals decision on standing in North Carolina, Hoag v. Pitt County (19-826 – Unpublished), I’m reminded of Elton John’s hit “I’m Still Standing.” It seems like there is a new challenge to the standing requirements in North Carolina on a regular basis, and yet the appellate courts consistently hold the line on the requirement to allege special damages that are distinct from the rest of the community in a particularized and supportable way. In Hoag, the Court declined the opportunity to knock down the standing barrier. This requirement is very much “still standing … yeah, yeah, yeah.”

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Legislature Delays Enactment of 160D and Enacts Rules for Remote Meetings During State of Emergency

By Lisa Glover

S.L. 2020-3, SB704 was passed by the House and Senate on May 2 and signed into law by the governor on May 4. It contains the following of interest to ZPLU members:

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Volunteers Needed to Help Write Articles on NCGS 160D

Toby Coleman

Ashley Anderson

By Toby Coleman and Ashley Anderson

To celebrate and prepare for Chapter 160D taking effect next year, the ZPLU section plans to publish a series of articles on 160D written by ZPLU members—and we need your help!

ZPLU members were instrumental in the drafting and passage of 160D, which will consolidate the enabling statutes for development regulations currently scattered between Chapters 153 and 160A into a single, unified chapter.

Now we need your help in outlining how 160D will operate when it takes effect in January. The plan is to have each article focus on a piece of the law. We are looking for volunteer authors to write articles on portions of 160D.

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Good Resource on 160D

By Toby Coleman 

If you’re looking to learn more about new Chapter 160D of the North Carolina General Statutes (effective 2021), David Owens and Adam Lovelady with the UNC School of Government have created a good website that links to a number of resources on new Chapter 160D, including cross-over charts and an annotated version of 160D. Even if you attended presentations on 160D through the ZPLU section or the School of Government’s 160D Regional Workshops, this website provides useful information and resources that will be valuable as we head into the transition to 160D.

(For the uninitiated, new Chapter 160D will be the state’s new chapter on local zoning and development regulation starting in 2021. It consolidates and relocates the current statutes for local zoning and development regulations that are now located in Chapters 153A and 160A.)


Case Summary: Dellinger v. Lincoln County, N.C. App. No. COA18-1080 (2019)


Kevin Hornik

Garrett Davis

By Kevin Hornik and Garrett Davis

N.C. Court of Appeals (i) further clarifies conditions which demonstrate bias by a quasi-judicial decision maker, and (ii) clarifies the burden of expert testimony required to overcome a prima facie showing of entitlement in quasi-judicial proceedings.

This case involves an application by several property owners (the “Petitioners”) for a conditional use permit (the “CUP”), permitting Strata Solar (“Strata”) to build a solar farm on a portion of the Petitioners’ properties. Several neighbors (the “Intervenors”) sought to intervene, arguing that the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners should deny the Petitioners’ CUP application on the grounds that the solar farm would substantially injure the value of adjoining or abutting properties. Petitioners argued that the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners and the superior court erred in denying the Petitioners’ motion to recuse a Commissioner from participating in the review of and decision on Petitioners’ CUP application where that Commissioner had advocated against the CUP prior to taking office and had presented his own evidence against the CUP after taking office.

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