"...At-large Councilman Robbie Perkins, a developer,
put up a valiant defense of the status quo, but with a clear majority favoring restoration,
Perkins and other holdouts folded, allowing the measure to pass unanimously.
Supporters of the protest petition,
a tool enjoyed by residents of every other city in North Carolina,
argue that it forces developers to consult with neighbors and make compromises.
...Protest petition supporters directly challenged the legitimacy
of the inordinate political influence of the real-estate and development industry,
led by theTriad Real Estate and Business Industries Coalition,
to neutralize its effectiveness.
...David Wharton, a UNCG professor
and member of the city’s Land Development Ordinance Citizen Advisory Team:
“The real estate and building industries
account for about five percent of gross receipts in North Carolina,
but they have a disproportionate representation on our land-use boards and commissions,” he said.
“For instance, the LDO team, of which I was a member,
had 11 members in the real estate or building industry and four in other occupations….
On the RUCO board it’s seven to three and on the board of adjustments it’s four to three.
“Somehow the five-percent minority
have managed to get majority representation on these key boards,” he continued.
“The industry also has exceptional political access and clout
through its lobbying organization, TREBIC,
which sponsors events such as these like ‘Pork, Poultry and Politics.’
TREBIC also has legal clout.
Some of TREBIC’s members are influential law firms,
so the industry has access to the area’s top legal talent.
TREBIC is very well funded.
Nearly a third of TREBIC’s members are regional or national firms,
some worth billions of dollars.
Their funding allows TREBIC to pay a staff of talented and hardworking lobbyists,
who busily monitor and intervene in land use matters on a full time basis.
“To sum up, the real-estate business has deep-pocketed funding from major businesses,” he concluded.
“It has effective lobbyists. It has the best political connections in town.
It has a majority on boards and commissions.
It has access to top legal help.
...Perkins outlined his concerns about the protest petition,
garnering applause from the industry representatives.
...“We’re fine with compromising, said Robert Kirnard of Hillside Homes,
who lost a battle to block Mega Builders...
We could have used the protest petition to get Mega Builders
to reduce the apartments to two stories.”