William J. Brian, Jr.

Partner
About

Bill Brian is a founding partner of Morningstar Law Group, a full-service business law firm with offices in Durham and Raleigh. Bill’s practice focuses on zoning and land use law, litigation against state and local governments, and business and real estate litigation. Bill is an authority on quasi-judicial procedure and has been recognized professionally by many different organizations including Best Lawyers which twice named him a lawyer of the year, N.C. Lawyers Weekly’s Leaders In The Law, NC Super Lawyers and Chambers USA.

Bill also has been very active in the Durham community having served as Chairman of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of the Durham County Board of Elections and Chairman of the City/County Zoning Board of Adjustment, as well as taking part in many other community activities.

Bill comes from a fine arts background and graduated from the Interlochen Arts Academy (1980) before obtaining an AB degree in history from Washington University in St. Louis (1984), an MA in International Relations from the George Washington University (1987) and a JD from Duke University (1989). Bill and his wife, Leigh, live in Durham County with their puggle, Dante, and have one son, Keegan, who lives with his wife, Grace, in Roanoke VA.

undefined
Best Lawyers Award Badge
Best Lawyers Award Badge
Best Lawyers Award Badge

Community Involvement
    • Carolina Theatre Board of Trustees (2018-present)
    • Durham County Board of Elections
      • Chairman (2015-2018)
      • Secretary (2011-2013)
    • Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce
      • Board of Directors (2006-present)
      • Public Policy Committee, Chairman and Member (1992-present)
      • Local Government Committee, Chairman and Member (1990-present)
      • Chairman of the Board (2015)
      • Executive Committee (2006)
      • Leadership Durham Program Graduate (1992)
    • Durham City/County Zoning Board of Adjustment, Chairman and Member (1995-2009)
    • Triangle Land Conservancy
      • Conservation Strategies Committee Member (2011-present)
      • Board of Directors Member (2005-2009)
    • North Carolina Bar Association
      • Zoning, Planning and Land Use Section, Executive Committee Member
      • Chairman (2007-2008)
    • Friends of Durham Political Action Committee
      • Member of the Executive Committee (1997-present)
      • Chairman (1998-2000)
    • Duke-Durham Campaign, Fundraising Committee Member (2008)
    • City of Durham Citizens Capital Improvement Panel (2004-2006)
    • Durham City/County Planning Department
      • 2020 Comprehensive Plan Reformatting Committee (1994)
      • “Redirecting Land Use” Strategic Issue Group Member
Achievements
  • Recognized in The Best Lawyers in America for work in:
    • Eminent Domain and Condemnation Law (2009-2018)
    • Land Use and Zoning Law (2009-2018)
    • Litigation-Land Use and Zoning (2009-2018)
    • Litigation-Real Estate (2009-2018)
  • Named Best Lawyers® “Lawyer of the Year” for work in:
    • Litigation-Land Use and Zoning, Raleigh (2017)
    • Land Use and Zoning Law, Raleigh (2013)
  • Chambers USA (2007-present)
  • Peer-rated as AV Preeminent® by Martindale-Hubbell
  • North Carolina Lawyer’s Weekly “Leaders in the Law” Award (2014)
  • Selected to NC Super Lawyers (2016-present)
Representative Work in Land Use and Real Estate Law
  1. Represented developer and local government in land condemnation action to acquire property recovery for developer to complete committed improvements for large shopping center project in Wake County, N.C.
  2. Represented developer in lawsuit with City and School Board over collection of unauthorized payments for school construction
  3. Represented developer in lawsuit with City over improper denial of entitlements.
  4. Represented group of homebuilders in lawsuit with City over collection of unlawful school impact fees.
  5. Represented developer in lawsuit against County to reinstate prior zoning interpretation on which developer had relied in purchasing property for significant project, and also in lawsuit brought by environmental advocacy group to stop same project.
  6. Represented developer in defense of entitlements for legal mixed-use project in Wake County against lawsuit brought by neighborhood groups.
  7. Represented landlord of large warehouse/distribution center in lawsuit with Tenant over failure to reconstruct premises.
  8. Represented landlords in numerous lease disputes and lawsuits with tenants.
  9. Represented numerous general contractors and other professionals in disputes with various state licensing boards including the N.C. Real Estate Commission and N.C. Licensing Board for General Construction.
  10. Represented developer in successful defense of lawsuit brought by over 90 respondents of residential subdivision in Wake County, N.C. against allegations of fraud and misrepresentation relating to the location of a power transmission line.
  11. Represented landowner against Town in Union County, N.C. in lawsuit alleging fraudulent annexation practices.
  12. Represented landowners in lawsuit over public trust delineation in Dare County, N.C.
  13. Represented owners of businesses against claims that they failed to pay for goods imported from China.
  14. Represented national home builder in lawsuit against Town over improper attempt to condition permits upon performance of unauthorized obligation.
  15. Represented numerous individuals in eminent domain actions with State and Local Governments.
  16. Represented national hotel chain in obtaining just compensation in land condemnation action arising from widening of Interstate Highway.
  17. Represented regional developer in breach of lease action against international manufacturing company.
  18. Represented national developer in obtaining all necessary permits for 385 acre mixed use development in Orange County, N.C.
  19. Represented major solid waste disposal company in obtaining local development permits for transfer station and landfill in Durham County,N.C.
  20. Represented developer of a regional shopping center in successfully resisting imposition of new storm water regulations on existing project in Durham County, N.C.
  21. Represented nationally recognized university in obtaining development permits for project in Beaufort, N.C.
  22. Represented large regional specialty foods retailer in connection with the termination of its lease in one shopping center and the negotiation and preparation of its lease and the construction of a new store location in a new shopping center located in Orange County, N.C.
  23. Represented pork products company in obtaining variances necessary for expansion of meat processing facility in Johnston County, N.C.
  24. Obtained special use permit for large hotel project to be located in renovated historic hospital property in Durham, N.C.
  25. Obtained special use permit for hotly contested mixed-use commercial/hotel project to be located on ocean front in Currituck County, N.C.
Presentations on Land Use and Real Estate Law
  • “Successes in Redeveloping Coastal Industrial Sites,” National Brownfields Conference, April 2011
  • “The Practical Side of Litigating Cases Before the Zoning Board of Adjustment” North Carolina Bar Association’s Land Use Section Annual Meeting, November 19, 2009
  • “Land Use in North Carolina,” Co-Chair, Law Seminars International CLE, July 2008, Durham, NC
  • “Mud, Sludge and Traffic Counts: Taking Zoning and Land Use Advocacy to the Next Level,” Land Use Planning and Zoning Update, North Carolina Bar Foundation, CLE Program, April 2005
  • “The Problem of Multijurisdictionalism,” North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association, September 11-12, 2003
  • “Real Property Litigation,” Real Property 2002, 1999 and 1995, Wake Forest University School of Law, Continuing Legal Education Program
  • “Litigating Cases Before the Zoning Board of Adjustment,” Quasi-Judicial Proceedings, North Carolina Bar Foundation, Continuing Legal Education Program, November 2001
  • “Restrictive Covenants and Related Issues,” Real Property 2000, Wake Forest University School of Law, Continuing Legal Education Program, 2000
  • “Unwritten Title Transfers,” “Resolution of Boundary Disputes,” and “Ethics – It’s Legal But Is It Right?” Boundary Law in North Carolina, National Business Institute, Inc., 1996 and 1997
Publications on Land Use and Real Estate Law
  • “Your Land Is Our Land: Public Claims to Private Beach Property in North Carolina,” K&L Gates North Carolina Coastal Land Use Newsletter, March 2011
  • “Defining the Breadth of the Public Trust Doctrine in North Carolina: A Conversation with Professor Joseph Kalo,” co-authored with Megan Lambert, K&L Gates North Carolina Coastal Land Use Newsletter, March 2011
  • “Durham Considers Allowing Development Agreements,” co-authored with Patrick Byker and Craigie Sanders, K&L Gates Triangle Land Use Newsletter, Winter 2011
  • “Triangle-Area Local Government Opt-Out Roundup,” co-authored with Michael Birch and James Joyce, K&L Gates Triangle Land Use Newsletter, Winter 2011
  • “Charlotte Area Local Governments Consider Opting Out of Permit Extension, co-authored with Collin Brown, Michael Birch, and James Joyce, K&L Gates Charlotte Real Estate Land Use, Planning and Zoning Alert, November 2010
  • “Triangle-Area Local Governments Consider Opting Out of Permit Extension,” co-authored with Michael Birch and James Joyce, K&L Gates Real Estate Land Use, Planning and Zoning Alert, November 2010
  • “The Practical Side of Litigating Cases Before the Zoning Board of Adjustment,” North Carolina Bar Association’s Land Use Section Annual Meeting, November 2009
  • “General Assembly Extends Tolling Period,” co-authored with Michael Birch and James Joyce,K&L Gates Real Estate Land Use, Planning and Zoning Alert, July 2010
  • “Going…Going…Gone! Why Time is of the Essence in Preserving the Value of Development Entitlements in Distressed Real Estate Assets,” K&L Gates Real Estate Alert, April 2010
  • “Keeping Abreast of the Changes in Durham” K&L Gates Triangle Land Use Newsletter, September 2009
  • “City of Durham’s Stormwater Regulations Create Difficult Obstacles for New Development – ability to stimulate investment and job creation may be impaired,” co-authored with Patrick Byker and Craigie Sanders, K&L Gates Triangle Land Use Newsletter, January 2009
  • “Bull City’s New Manager Makes Changes,” co-authored with Craigie Sanders, K&L Gates Triangle Land Use Newsletter, January 2009
  • “Off-Site Improvements: So Easy to Promise, So Hard to Produce,” co-authored with Eric Braun, NCBA’s Zoning Planning & Land Use Newsletter, June 2008, Section Vol. 3, No. 2
  • “Streamlined development review needed,” The Herald-Sun, co-authored with Patrick Byker, May 2008
  • “Beach erosion is a pricey crises,” Greater Wilmington Business Journal, April 2008
  • “Moving from Voluntary to Mandatory? The Evolving ‘Green’ Building Trend,” co-authored with Charlotte Mitchell and Eric Braun, Triangle Business Journal, April 2008
  • “Development agreements: New tools for an old problem,” co-authored with Eric Braun,Greater Wilmington Business, December 2006
  • “The Reincarnation of Dillion’s Rule,” NCBA: Zoning& Land Use Newsletter, August 2006
  • “Time for developers, local government to work together,” co-authored with Eric Braun,Triangle Business Journal, June 2006
  • “Supreme Court navigating Clean Water Act legal quagmire,” co-authored with Eric Braun,Triangle Business Journal, April 2006
  • “Why Another Section? The Purpose of the Zoning, Planning and Land Use Section of the North Carolina Bar Association,” NC Bar Association Zoning, Planning and Land Use Newsletter, December 2005
  • “Attorneys See New Landscape with Development Agreements,” co-authored with Jason Barron, Eric Braun and Craigie Sanders, Triangle Business Journal, October 2005
  • “Master Plans Put Limits on Developers, Not Governments,” The Triangle Business Journal, 2004
  • “Practical Guide to Zoning and Land Use Law in North Carolina,” National Business Institute, Inc., February 2004
  • “Smart Growth Needs to Consider African-American View,” The Triangle Business Journal, January 2004
  • “Large-home-on-a-large-lot Status Symbol Spreads Sprawl,” The Triangle Business Journal, October 2003
  • “Lack of Regional Planning Can Lead to Urban Sprawl,” The Triangle Business Journal, August 2003
  • “Public Relations Often a Key in Winning Project Approval,” The Triangle Business Journal, May 2003
  • “Regulatory Smart Aid Project Success,” The Triangle Business Journal, January 2003
  • “Court ends environmental overreaching,” Charlotte Business Journal, January 2001
  • “Migratory Birds May Foul Plans,” Charlotte Business Journal and Triad Business Journal, December 2000
  • “Regulatory Takings in the Context of Wetlands: The Protection of Private Property Rights,”North Carolina Agribusiness Law, Campbell University School of Law, 1995 and 1996
  • “Refugees and International Law,” co-authored with A. Kenneth Pye, The Cultural Basis of Afghan Nationalism (Pinter Press, 1990) Ewan Anderson and Nancy Hatch Dupree, editors
Education
  • J.D., Duke University, 1989 (with high honors; Notes and Research Editor, Law and Contemporary Problems; Order of the Coif; United States Law Week Award)
  • M.A., George Washington University, 1986
  • A.B., Washington University, 1984 (cum laude; Phi Alpha Theta – International History Honor Society)
Bar Membership and Admissions
  • North Carolina
  • United States District Court for the Eastern, Middle and Western Districts of North Carolina
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
Video Interview

Contact
Related News & Content
Practice Areas
Industry Teams
Accolades
    • undefined
    • Bill Brian - Best Lawyers
    • joint logo- NCLITL
    •              Brian Jr, William J