Cities and counties operate within a confusing matrix of state and federal statutes and regulations. But when it comes to laws affecting land, another set of “immutable” laws comes into play.
You can call them the laws of “that’s-just-the-way-it-is” or the laws of nature. But since I’m the one who has codified them, I call them “Terrell’s Laws.” (Egotistical, perhaps, but when you codify your set of laws you can name them after whoever you choose).
Terrell’s Laws did not originate in man-made or human-initiated contexts. They are closely analogous to the laws of mathematics and physics that often begin with theorems (a proposition proved from other propositions or formulas) and axioms (self-evident truths that require no proof). I have observed these “laws” over 25 years traveling to city councils and county commissions and boards of adjustment throughout all of North Carolina and parts of Virginia. I hope you enjoy them.
Terrell’s First Law of Suburban Expansion
Give a developer a foot, and he’ll want a yard. Give him a yard, and he’ll want a pool to go in it.
Terrell’s First Law of Land Use Advocacy
A development project’s complexity is inversely related to the ability of a Board of Aldermen to understand it.
Terrell’s Second Law of Land Use Advocacy
When approval of your multi-million dollar project lies in the hand of one swing vote, there is a 4 to 1 chance that the official was recently elected on a platform of improving the efficiency of garbage collection.
The civility and decorum of public gatherings has declined commensurately with our respect for the men and women who serve on public boards.
Terrell’s Theorem of Land Use Hypocrisy
The first candidate to propose limitations on an over reaching government will be the first board member to express an opinion on the best use of your land.
Terrell’s First Corollary of Land Use Hypocrisy
Citizens who are morally and philosophically opposed to government telling them how to use their own land are usually the first to demand that government control how you use yours.
Terrell’s First Law of Municipal Planning
A municipal planner’s enthusiasm for imposing requirements that increase a developer’s financial risk is inversely related to the planner’s personal risk tolerance.
Terrell’s First Law of Zoning Regulation
For every good idea in land use development there are at least two ordinances that prevent its implementation.
Terrell’s Second law of Zoning Regulation
A provision deleted from a zoning ordinance will be replaced only by a provision of greater complexity or severity.
Terrell’s Theory of Expert Testimony
The expert opinions of ten engineers supported by scientific data and sophisticated computer modeling have a probative value equal to the lay opinion of one local voter.
The average zoning board member prefers to make decisions unencumbered by the available facts.
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