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Cornelius News

Quasi-judicial hearings almost totally gone

July 18. By Dave Vieser. With the conclusion of the July 18 public hearing regarding a new beauty salon on North Main Street, a cumbersome zoning process known as a quasi-judicial hearing is off the books in Cornelius. Taking its place is the more streamlined conditional district zoning process.

Eliminating the quasi-judicial hearings for zoning cases means that the town’s elected officials will no longer have to follow strict rules which have prohibited them from discussing aspects of a pending case with residents prior to a hearing. In essence, the quasi-judicial process had asked the town board to act as both judge and jury, a position which the commissioners found very uncomfortable.

“Quasi judicial was a difficult process to work with when we are all trying to be more transparent and open in our communications with our citizens,” said Mayor Pro Tem Woody Washam. “The Conditional Zoning process is simply more open and user friendly. All parties can openly ask questions and negotiate at all levels of the process.”

The change in Cornelius was adopted unanimously by the town board on June 20 but because the North Main Street/Belle Isle application was initiated prior to the vote, it was the last application subject to the quasi judicial process held on July 18.

Cornelius is not the only municipality making such a change. In fact, Charlotte had the same problem with their quasi-judicial process some years ago and also adopted conditional district zoning. Planning Director Wayne Herron noted that the North Carolina General Assembly is also considering removing the quasi judicial process from the state statutes since a majority of communities around the state, like Cornelius, have transitioned to the conditional zoning process.