My Summer Internship With the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office

By James Thompson

This past summer I interned with the Air, Water, and Natural Resources Section within the Environmental Division of the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office. Going into the internship, I was interested in environmental law and had previously worked on environmental issues in the nonprofit space.

Spending my summer with the Air, Water, and Natural Resources Section built on my prior experiences, deepened my interest in environmental law and utilized my newly acquired legal skills for a truly impactful internship experience. I worked directly with several attorneys on several projects including drafting briefs, conducting legal research and attending client meetings. My supervisors did an incredible job of assigning different projects to expose me to as many types of work as possible.

Additionally, they openly communicated with the interns to determine what kinds of work we liked, did not like and how that could help them cater future assignments to align with our preferences. No two days were the exact same, and I very quickly realized that the attorneys in the Air, Water, and Natural Resources Section have an impressive breadth of expertise that allows them to provide legal representation for three of North Carolina’s most important environmental regulatory agencies within the Department of Environmental Quality: the Division of Air Quality, the Division of Water Resources, and the Division of Marine Fisheries. The attorneys in this section helped me to refine and develop the skills that have contributed to their success, which made me feel confident and excited going into my second year of law school.

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My Summer Internship

Suzanne Camp, a woman with straight, long light brown hair, wears a white blouse and black jacket.By Suzanne Camp

This past summer, I interned with the Environmental Division of the North Carolina Department of Justice (NCDOJ). Within the Environmental Division, I worked in the Coastal, Commissions and Administrative Section. I had a wonderful experience and learned a great amount. During my summer internship, I had the opportunity to attend a variety of North Carolina board and commission meetings including the Coastal Resources Commission, the Sedimentation Control Commission, the State Water Infrastructure Authority, and the Water Treatment Facility Operator Certification Board. It was fascinating being able to learn about the intricacies of how these groups operate and make decisions that affect our community. A great deal of my work involved drafting final agency decisions for the North Carolina Department of Justice that explained the legal rationale for a commission outcome. In these final agency decisions, I acknowledged the arguments made by the petitioner to the commission as well as the Department of Environmental Quality, and, ultimately, came to the correct legal conclusion in accordance with the Commissioners’ decision. I also worked on tracking legislative bill updates during the North Carolina congressional long summer session. Specifically, I monitored changes relating to the NCDOJ’s Environmental Division and updated my team accordingly. Moreover, I analyzed case law shellfish leases, riparian rights, and language that constitutes a frivolous claim.

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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.

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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:

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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