§ 160A-75. Voting. No member shall be excused from voting except upon matters involving the consideration of the member's own financial interest or official conduct or on matters on which the member is prohibited from voting under G.S. 14-234, 160A-381(d), or 160A-388(e)(2). In all other cases except votes taken under G.S. 160A-385, a failure to vote by a member who is physically present in the council chamber, or who has withdrawn without being excused by a majority vote of the remaining members present, shall be recorded as an affirmative vote.
The above section of Chapter 160A of the NC General Statutes covers voting procedures when it comes to NC municipalities. In legalese it outlines the state's arcane rules about when a local elected official must and must not vote when there may be a conflict of interest. We've covered this topic extensively over the years here at aShortChronicle, so we won't rehash it again other than to say it is generally absurdly hard for Commissioners to not vote.
The one exception is for votes taken under G.S. 160A-385 - votes involving rezoning.
When it comes to rezoning, it is so fundamentally important that the public feel everything is done above board in land use decisions that conscience and good faith is allowed to rule rather than just dollars and cents. The mere appearance of a conflict is enough for a Commissioner to unilaterally decide to not vote and not have that vote automatically count as a yes.
And that brings us to this coming Tuesday...
At the Davidson Board March 28th meeting, Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the controversial mass rezoning of the town's Rural Area.
Citizens do not want this action to pass. Over 700 signatures have been captured in an online petition with dozens more captured at the Davidson Farmers Market. Signs opposing this rezoning have dotted yards across town for weeks. It has become one of the hottest topics around town in what will certainly be an interesting election year.
When Commissioners vote on Tuesday it will be very important to remember the following.
There needs to be no question this vote has not been structured in a way allowing the letter of the law to be skirted while trampling on the spirit of the law when it comes to conflicts. aShortChronicle has confirmed with the town attorney that these votes will be taken under G.S. 160A-385 as outlined above. If a Commissioner chooses to not vote it will not count as a yes.
Secondly, the public will know soon enough if this vote was taken as a "lame duck" by any Commissioner deciding not to run for reelection. Campaign filing is just a few short months away. Any problems that arise down the road as a result of passing this rezoning this way will forever be linked to Commissioners who vote for this. A lame duck vote in support of such a controversial topic will only be seen as tainting that vote even more.
On Tuesday, Commissioners should not vote on the Map Amendments aka rezonings on their agenda, or they should vote them down. That is what the public wants. Most importantly, anyone with the slightest chance of a conflict should not vote at all.