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Thomas E. Terrell Jr.

Thomas E. Terrell Jr.


T (336) 378-5412
F (336) 378-5400

Tom Terrell practices in the areas of real estate development, real estate and zoning litigation, and environmental law, including representations before boards and elected bodies throughout the State of North Carolina. His environmental practice includes the regulation of surface waters and the regulation of solid waste (landfills, waste hauling and recycling).  He also has represented numerous clients in the telecommunications, solar, renewable energy, aggregates, and retail industries needing site approvals.

Mr. Terrell also has served as outside litigation counsel for numerous city and county governments and as general counsel to the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation.  He speaks regularly to industry, trade, governmental, and attorney groups on evolving land use and environmental regulations affecting the development of land.

Mr. Terrell chaired the NC Bar Association drafting committee that rewrote the statute governing boards of adjustment, and he currently chairs the NC Bar Association committee that is preparing a comprehensive reorganization of North Carolina's zoning and land use statutes.

He regularly offers legal updates and commentary at


Meet Tom Terrell (wmv format)
Tom Terrell on Effective Advocacy (wmv format)
Tom Terrell on Boards of Adjustment (wmv format)
Tom Terrell on Development Agreements (wmv format)

Recognized by Chambers and Partners, USA
Recognized by Chambers and Partners, USA
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers, Listed Environmental/Land Use Law (2006, 2010), Environmental (2011-2013), Land Use and Zoning (2017, 2018)
  • Listed, The Best Lawyers in America® (Woodward/White, Inc.), Litigation-Land Use & Zoning (2007-2018), Real Estate Law (2018)
  • Recognized by Chambers and Partners, USA, as one of North Carolina Leaders, Real Estate - Zoning/Land Use (2014-2018)
  • Martindale-Hubbell's top ("AV") Peer Review Rating *
  • Business North Carolina's Legal Elite, Real Estate (2013)

* CV, BV, and AV are registered certification marks of Reed Elsevier Properties Inc., used in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell certification procedure's standards and policies.


Representative Work

Land Use Appellate Cases

  • Ball v. Randolph County Board of Adjustment, 129 N.C. App. 300, 498 S.E. 2d 833, 349 N.C. 348, 507 S.E. 2d 272 (1998)
  • Koontz v. Davidson County, 130 N.C. App. 479, 503 S.E. 2d 108 (1998)
  • Town of Spruce Pines v. Avery County, 346 N.C. 787, 488 S.E. 2d 144 (1997)
  • Nazziola v. Landcraft Properties, Inc., 143 N.C.App. 564, 545 S.E.2d 801(2001)
  • Huntington Properties, LLC v. Currituck County, 153 N.C.App. 218, 569 S.E.2d 695 (2002)
  • Woodlief v. Mecklenburg County, 176 N.C. App. 205, 625 S.E.2d 904 (2006)
  • Alltel Communications, Inc. v. Davidson County, 185 N.C. App 158, 647 S.E.2d 688 (2007)
  • McDonald, v. City of Concord, 188 N.C. App 278, 655 S.E. 2d 455 (2008)
  • Healy v. Union County Board of Adjustment, 188 N.C. App 847, 656 S.E. 2d 736 (2008)
  • Murdock, v. Chatham County, 198 N.C. App. 309, 679 S.E.2d 850 (2009)
  • MNC Holdings, LLC v. Town of Matthews, 223 N.C.App. 442, 735 S.E.2d 364 (2012)
  • Albright v. Nash County, 222 N.C.App. 634, 731 S.E.2d 276 (2012)
  • Morgan v. Nash County, 224 N.C.App. 60, 735 S.E.2d 615 (2012)
  • Mount Ulla Historical Preservation Soc., Inc. v. Rowan County, 232 N.C.App. 436, 754 S.E.2d 237 (2014)
  • Davidson County Broadcasting Co. Inc. v. Iredell County, 790 S.E.2d 663 (2016)
  • Bizzarro v. County of Ashe, 795 S.E.2d 827(Table), WL 490474 (2017)

Other Appellate Cases

  • Delappe v. Craig, 107 N.C. App. 618, 421 S.E.2d 171 (1992)
  • In re: Armfield, 113 N.C. App. 467, 439 S.E.2d 216 (1994)
  • Union County Bd. of Educ. v. Union County Bd. of Com'rs, 771 S.E.2d 590, 317 Ed. Law Rep. 527 (2015)


Zoning and General Land Use – Mr. Terrell has represented commercial, industrial and residential developers in municipalities and counties in every region of North Carolina in all phases of the permitting and entitlement processes, including representations in the pre-zoning stages and before all local boards. He has also counseled clients on matters related to local ordinance interpretation, vested rights, general incentives and statutory and constitutional limitations on governmental exactions.

Litigation – Mr. Terrell has represented both private parties and local governments in state and federal courts on matters related to land use/zoning denials, real estate contract disputes, developer partnership matters, and various torts related to land and real estate.

Development Agreements – Mr. Terrell has negotiated several complex development agreements on behalf of both local governments and private developers, seeking to carefully define the long-term relationship between the developer and the government(s) involved so that matters related to utility and road construction, entitlements, dedications and land use allowances and restrictions are carefully articulated and practically interpreted.

Solid Waste – Mr. Terrell has represented both private companies and local governments in matters related to franchises, local approval and state permitting for over 25 MSW, C&D and LCID landfills or transfer stations.

Telecommunications – Mr. Terrell has represented three cellular carriers and three tower construction companies in the local approval of cellular tower sites across the state as well as in Virginia and South Carolina.

* Past success does not indicate the likelihood of success in any future legal representation.

Thought Leadership

Published Works

  • "The Board of Adjustment Subpoena - Calling for a Statutory Rewrite," Land Use Law Quarterly, January 2012
  • "Twenty-Five Years And Celebrating," NC Bar Journal, Spring 2011
  • "Municipal Regulation of Telecommunication Infrastructure," book chapter in Navigating Municipal Telecommunications Issues (Aspatore, September 2010)
  • "Legislating Local Government Ethics" Land Use Law Quarterly, July 2010
  • "White Hat Zoning, James Bond and First Degree Murder" Land Use Law Quarterly, December 2009
  • "Spot Zoning – Why Can't We Get it Right?" Land Use Law Quarterly, December 2009
  • "Development Agreements: Time to Improve the Legislation" Land Use Law Quarterly, September 2009
  • "Development Agreements:  Learning to Use New Tools," Land Use Law Quarterly,  January 2008
  • "Proposed New Land Use Legislation," Land Use Law Quarterly,  April 2006
  • "Bending the Judge's Ear: Ex Parte Contacts in Quasi-Judicial Land Use Decisions" Carolina Planning Journal - Spring/Summer 2004
  • Managing Neighborhood Opposition - October 2003 - Southeast Real Estate Business


  • "Reading the Tea Leaves of Economic Recovery:  A View from the Ground Up," presentation at UNC Law School Festival of Legal Learning, February 12, 2011
  • "The Dumb Ways Land Use Law Has Evolved and What We Can Do to Fix It," originally presented at North Carolina Bar's Zoning, Planning and Land Use Annual Meeting, April 14, 2011 and later at 2011 NCAPA Annual Meeting, October 6, 2011
  • "The Changing Land Use Landscape," presentation to the North Carolina Aggregates Association annual meeting, June 24, 2010
  • "Refinancings, Foreclosures, Special Servicers, Bank Failures and Investment Funds - An Update on the Distressed Landscape," panel moderator at Interface Carolinas Real Estate Conference, April 29, 2010
  • "A Seussian View of Quasi-Judicial Proceedings," presentation at North Carolina Bar's Zoning, Planning and Land Use Annual meeting (March 26, 2009) and UNC Law School's Festival of Legal Learning (February 6, 2010)
  • "Managing Exactions Through Development Agreements," presentation to Coastal Carolina Tomorrow, Wilmington, NC September 17, 2009
  • "Development Agreements:  A New Way of Doing Business in North Carolina," Festival of Legal Learning, University of North Carolina Friday Center, February 6, 2009
  • "The Real Estate Development Approval Process:  Basic Zoning Law Regulations and Principles; Trends in Development," National Business Institute, Inc., November 10, 2008
  • NC Title Defects and Restrictions:  "Understanding Land Use Restrictions," Half Moon, LLC Seminar, August 14, 2008
  • Program Co-Chair and Moderator, "Land Use in North Carolina," Law Seminars International, July 24th and 25th, 2008
  • "The Pre-Application Conference: It All Starts Here," Law Seminars International, July 25, 2008
  • "Understanding Your Neighbors: What They Fear; What They Want," Law Seminars International, July 25, 2008
  • Planning and Land Use Legislative and Case Law Update," Lorman Seminar Advanced Zoning and Land Use in North Carolina, December 11, 2007
  • "N.C. Land Use Law for Civil Engineers and Land Surveyors," HalfMoon Seminars, December 6, 2007
  • "The Piedmont Triad:  Crossroads for Growth," McGladrey & Pullen's 4th Annual Greensboro Alumni and Friends Appreciation Event, October 25, 2007
  • "Development Agreements:  North Carolina's Newest Growth Tool," N.C. League of Municipalities Annual Conference, October 15, 2007
  • "Planned Unit Developments: What you Need to Know," CLE International Land Use Law: Revitalization, Valuation, Administration & More, February 27, 2007
  • "The ABCs of Litigating Land Use Cases," Lorman Education Seminar, May 3, 2006
  • "The Nuts and Bolts of Quasi-Judicial Proceedings in Land Use Decisions," Lorman Education Seminar, May 3, 2006
  • "Handling the Complex Zoning Case," N.C. Bar Association Annual Meeting, March 23, 2006
  • "Minimizing the Effects of Streams, Wetlands and Watersheds," Sterling Education Seminar, February 17, 2006
  • "Comprehensive Plans and N.C. Land Use Law," National Business Institute Seminar, November 14, 2005
  • "Mud, Sludge and Traffic Counts: Taking Land Use Advocacy to the Next Level," North Carolina Bar Association Seminar, April 15, 2005 (Course Planner and Moderator)
  • "Custom-Made Zoning Districts Without the Quasi-Judicial Headaches," North Carolina Bar Association Land Use Section Annual Meeting, April 15, 2005 (Co-Presenter with R. James Cox)
  • "Human Territoriality and the Dynamics of Land Use Changes," guest lecturer presentation, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, January 25 and 27, 2005
  • "Practical Tips for the Zoning Advocate," Webcast Seminar with National Business Institute, November 19, 2004
  • "Ten Ways to Gain Legal and Procedural Advantage in Landfill Approvals," Solid Waste Association of North America (NC Chapter) Annual Meeting, September 2004
  • "Zoning With Conditions - Where Do We Stand?" American Planning Association (NC Chapter) Annual Meeting, September 2004
  • "Current Issues In Subdivision, Annexation and Zoning Law," National Business Institute Seminar June/November 2004
  • "Quasi-Judicial Land Use Decisions: Stepping Beyond the Safe Harbor of Judicial Precedent," N.C. County Attorneys Winter Conference, Sponsored by the Institute of Government, February 13, 2004
  • "Watershed Protection and Sedimentation and Erosion and Control Plans," North Carolina Bar Foundation Continuing Legal Education: Smart Growth and Development-Integrating Land Use and Environmental Planning, February 2003
  • "Local Government Approvals in the Context of Public Opposition," Solid Waste Association of North America, August 2002
  • "Understanding and Conducting Quasi-Judicial Proceedings in Land Use Decisions," North Carolina Chapter, American Planning Association Annual Meeting, May 2002
  • "Overview of the Smart Growth Tool Box," Changing the Land Use & Zoning Landscape, Charlotte, North Carolina, April 2002
  • Moderator, A Forum on Smart Growth and Public Investment, Piedmont Triangle Council of Governments, November 2001
  • "Surface Water Regulations in North Carolina," North Carolina Bar Foundation Continuing Legal Education, November 2001
  • "Quasi-Judicial Proceedings: Cutting Edge Techniques," North Carolina Bar Foundation Continuing Legal Education, November 2001 (also conference organizer and moderator)
  • "Practical Guide to Gaining Approval of Development Projects," North Carolina Bar Foundation Continuing Legal Education: Land Use Regulation and Planning, October 2000



Mr. Terrell has previously served in the following leadership positions:

  • Board of Directors, High Point City Project
  • Chairman, Zoning, Planning and Land Use Section Council (N.C. Bar)
  • Chairman, Board of Trustees, North Carolina State Health Plan
  • Chairman, Board of Trustees, Winston-Salem State University
  • Board of Directors, UNC-CH General Alumni Association
  • Guilford College Board of Visitors
  • Board of Directors, High Point Chamber of Commerce
  • Center for Creative Leadership, Board of Center Associates
  • Chairman, High Point Core City Board
  • Trustee, N.C. Shakespeare Festival
  • North Carolina Bar Administrative Law Section Council
  • University of Chicago, M.A., 1980
  • University of North Carolina School of Law, J.D., 1985
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, B.A., 1979
  • North Carolina, 1985
  • United States Supreme Court, 2018

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