From the Chair: ZPLU At the Forefront Of Change

By T.C. Morphis

Growing up in Hickory, N.C., I once thought that the entire world ran on furniture and textile mills. How much has changed in 30 years: North Carolina’s population has exploded, with people flocking to places to like Charlotte and the Research Triangle, while other parts of the state struggle. Amid this growth, our state continues to wrestle with the difficult questions: Who are we? Who do we want to become? As members of the Zoning, Planning & Land Use Law Section, we have the privilege and the challenge of being at the forefront of much of this change. Our Section members practice throughout North Carolina, representing developers, units of local government, and private citizens and neighborhood groups. We strive to reflect all of these roles on our Section Council, along with the geography and diversity of our state.

Thank you to our outgoing Chair LeAnn Nease Brown for her outstanding leadership during the 2016-17 year. It is my honor to serve as your Section Chair for this year.

Last bar year, our Section had several outstanding accomplishments. The members of the Chapter 160D Committee worked tirelessly with our state legislators and with stakeholders from around the state to facilitate the passage of Chapter 160D (i.e. S419, 2017-2018 Session). If adopted, it would modernize the municipal statutes for the first time in 50 years. The proposed legislation was adopted in the Senate in June, and we are optimistic that it will be considered by the House this year.

Also, UNC School of Government Professors David Owens and Adam Lovelady have recently published the “Quasi-Judicial Handbook: A Guide for Boards Making Development Regulation Decisions.” The book replaces “The Zoning Board of Adjustment in North Carolina,” a staple of land use law for over 30 years, and can be bought through the School of Government website ( Our Section assisted with the project by providing members to review draft chapters for the book. Thanks to everyone who participated.

We held our first Section Council meeting of this year on Sept. 15 in New Bern at the offices of Ward & Smith, P.A. Thanks to Eric Remington for hosting us.

Please mark your calendar for our annual meeting and CLE, which will be held at the Bar Association Center in Cary on April 27, 2018. As in years past, this will be an excellent opportunity to meet other attorneys in our practice area and to hear some of the best in our field discuss the important legal issues facing us all. Topics include legislative and case law updates, zoning issues surrounding Airbnb and similar companies, how the new cell tower statute will affect local governments, and more.

Also, we are forming a joint working group with the Government & Public Sector Section to review and propose changes to the state statutes that govern local government code enforcement. The current statutes are a hodgepodge of standards and enforcement mechanisms adopted over many years that have become difficult for local government staffs to apply.

I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at our annual meeting in April. If you’re interested in joining a Section committee or serving on the Code Enforcement Working Group, please email me at the address below. If you would like to contribute an article to the Section blog please contact the editors at or

T.C. Morphis is a partner with The Brough Law Firm, PLLC in Chapel Hill. He can be reached at