Orange County NC Website
4 <br /> Page 3 of 3 <br /> the purpose for entry. A 2014 Supreme Court case overturned a buffer because while it <br /> prohibited one group of people from approaching someone within the buffer, others could <br /> approach that person (McCullen v. Coakley, 2014). <br /> • Declarations of emergency. Chapter 166A of the North Carolina General Statutes grants <br /> both the state and local governments broad authority during declared emergencies. That <br /> authority includes limiting the size and location of gatherings. <br /> • Gatherings on County-owned or leased property. The County may freely prohibit <br /> gatherings on most property owned by the County. Examples of property where gatherings <br /> may be completely prohibited are the lobbies of county buildings, office spaces, and other <br /> areas where the public has never been permitted to gather for the purpose of viewpoint <br /> expression. The exceptions to this include any County-owned property considered a <br /> traditional public forum such as the courthouse steps and the public square in Hillsborough <br /> where the old courthouse is located. The County may limit gatherings in areas that may be <br /> considered a limited public forum. An example of a limited public forum would be a solid <br /> waste convenience center where, in 2013, a former county manager allowed a group to <br /> protest with picket signs. This created a limited public forum and had another group with a <br /> differing viewpoint desired to protest in that location the County could not have prohibited <br /> that subsequent protest, but could have imposed reasonable limitations on it. The Orange <br /> County Facilities Use Policy generally controls public access to most County-owned or <br /> leased property, though it does not control County-owned property that is leased to or <br /> managed by a third party except as far as it is referenced in a management agreement or <br /> lease. <br /> • Gatherings on other public property. The County may limit gatherings on other public <br /> property outside of municipalities such as streets and roadways, but for the most part only for <br /> the previously discussed reasons of"clear and present danger" and "imminent incitement of <br /> lawlessness." As noted above these are addressed by state law. <br /> • Gatherings on private property. A gathering on private property when the private property <br /> owner allows the gathering is generally not something the County may prohibit. The County <br /> may impose limitations on such private property gatherings in some circumstances such <br /> when a private property gathering presents a threat to the health, safety, and welfare of <br /> those present, or when the gathering presents a threat to the health, safety, and welfare of <br /> the general public in areas adjacent to the gathering. An example of a threat to the safety of <br /> those present at a private property gathering could include a large event in an unsafe <br /> structure. This type of gathering is generally regulated by fire and building codes enforced <br /> by the County. <br /> Private property owners themselves are generally free to allow groups to gather on their <br /> property and to prohibit groups from protesting or gathering on their property. Similar to a <br /> limited public forum, however, once private property owners begin opening their property for <br /> public use, particularly gatherings and protests, the balance shifts towards the public's right <br /> to use the property. <br /> As discussed above there are situations in which an ordinance adopted by the Board may regulate <br /> gatherings. Any such ordinance must be reasonable, viewpoint neutral, and must be narrowly <br /> tailored to serve a legitimate government interest. Should the Board wish to further explore this type <br /> of ordinance a discussion may be scheduled at an upcoming work session. <br />