John knows land use and real estate litigation and he finds creative solutions to solve client problems. He represents businesses - developers, end users and landowners when they attempt to use land or maximize its value by securing governmental entitlements, forming public-private partnerships or in litigation. John represents private clients as well as local governments and understands the drivers that influence decision-makers.

John’s land use/zoning practice includes being an advocate for his clients. He does this by securing amendments to laws to allow land uses; securing interpretations, permits, approvals and certifications from local, state and federal agencies to entitle development; negotiating agreements with governments including development agreements, reimbursement agreements, water and sewer supply agreements and other similar agreements that provide public infrastructure to support a client’s development; and representing clients and local governments in important matters.

When litigation is necessary, John works with clients to resolve real estate disputes efficiently and effectively. His practice includes advocating for clients in zoning and land use litigation in all forums and handling all types of real estate disputes, such as breach of contract and lease disputes, and boundary, easement and restrictive covenant battles.

Presentations and Publications

  • John C. Cooke, Defending Substantive Due Process Claims: Law and Practical Observations (N.C. Association of Municipal Attorneys) (2013);
  • John C. Cooke, Public-Private Collaboration and Agreements, and the 'Tools in the Toolbox' to Affect Them (2014 Joint Zoning, Planning & Land Use Section and Government/Public Sector Section Annual Meetings);
  • John C. Cooke, Challenging and Appealing an Administrative Zoning Decision, Practical Guide to Zoning and Land Use Law (National Business Institute) (February 2009);
  • John C. Cooke and Michael T. Henry, Analyze The Land Subdivision Process, Land Use Law: Current Issues in Subdivision, Annexation and Zoning (National Business Institute) (September 2008);
  • John C. Cooke and Michael C. Thelen, The North Carolina Development Agreement Law, A Matter of Perspective: Hot Topics for Land Use and Government/Public Sector Attorneys, North Carolina Bar Association Joint Zoning, Planning and Land Use Section and Government and Public Sector Section Joint Annual Meetings (May 2007);
  • John C. Cooke and Michael C. Thelen, Opportunities Created by Recent Legislation for the Land Use Practitioner, Real Property 2007 (Wake Forest University School of Law Continuing Legal Education) (2007);
  • John C. Cooke, Garrett R. Perdue and Elizabeth T. Smith, Land Use Problems, Kelo and Its Aftermath, North Carolina Bar Association Annual Meeting (June 2006);
  • John C. Cooke and Christine Carlisle Odom, Judicial Deference to Land Use Decisions and the Emergence of Single Class Equal Protection Claims, Environmental Law Reporter (Fall 2000);
  • John C. Cooke, Christine Carlisle Odom, and Eric M. Braun, Constitutional Limitations on Local Government Land Use Decisions, Wake Forest School Law Real Property 2000 Seminar (Fall 2000);
  • John C. Cooke and Christine Carlisle Odom, Water Quality Regulations and The use of Land for Real Estate Development:  The Current Regulatory Framework and an Outlook for the Future, North Carolina Bar Association Real Property Annual Meeting (July 2000);
  • John C. Cooke and Christine Carlisle Odom, Discrimination and Judicial Deference to Local Government Land Use Decisions, National Law Journal (October 1999);
  • Litigation in Boundary and Title Disputes, North Carolina Boundary Law and Adjoining Landowner Disputes (Professional Education Systems, Inc.) (1987, 1989, 1992, 1996, 1997, 1999); cited in Chappell v. Donnelly, 113 N.C. App. 626, 627, 439 S.E.2d 802, 803 (1994);
  • Real Property Litigation, Real Property (Wake Forest University School of Law Continuing Legal Education) (1990, 1992, 1995, 1999);
  • Legal Issues in Obtaining Development Permission, Real Property (Wake Forest University School of Law Continuing Legal Education) (1995);
  • Drafting of Real Estate and Construction Contracts, Contract Price Manual (Wake Forest University School of Law Continuing Legal Education) (1991);
  • Recent Cases and Trends Affecting Real Estate Transactions from an Environmental Perspective, Real Property Transactions - Avoiding the Legal and Technical Environmental Pitfalls (1988);
  • How to Handle a Board of Adjustment Case, Major Land Use Laws in North Carolina (National Business Institute, Inc.)

Civic and Professional Activities

Professional Activities

  • Wake County Bar Association
  • North Carolina Bar Association
  • American Bar Association
  • North Carolina State Bar
  • Member, NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association

Civic Activities

  • Chairman, Wake County Water and Sewer Plan Implementation Team (1999-2003)
  •  Wake County Water and Sewer Task Force (1996-1999)
  • State of North Carolina Neuse River Basin Regional Council (1995-1997)
  • Chairman, Government Issues Committee (1996-date)
  • Chairman, Water and Sewer Task Force (1994-1996)
  • Executive Committee of the Board of Directors (1992-1994)
  • Board of Directors, Raleigh Little Theater
  • Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, Board of Directors (1991-1994)
  • Vice Chairman of the Board for Governmental Affairs (1992-1994)
  • Zoning Ordinance Revision Task Force (1991-1992)
  • Wake County Blue Ribbon Committee (1991-1992)
  • City of Raleigh Economic Development Strategies Task Force (1990-1991)
  • Chairman, Public Safety Subcommittee
  • Inter-City Task Force (1989-1995)
  • Chairman, On-Premise Sign Ordinance Task Force (1988-1989)
  • Former Member, Raleigh City Museum Board of Directors

Honors and Awards

  • Recognized in The Best Lawyers in America (BL Rankings) in the fields of Land Use and Zoning Law, Litigation – Land Use and Zoning, Real Estate Law, 2011 – Present
  • Super Lawyers Honoree in Land Use/Zoning; Business Litigation; State, Local & Municipal; North Carolina Super Lawyers magazine (Thomson Reuters), 2008


Any result the lawyer or law firm may have achieved on behalf of clients in other matters does not necessarily indicate similar results can be obtained for other clients.

  • Lead counsel for securing entitlements, development agreement, service supply contracts and incentives for expanding major data center.
  • Lead counsel for multi-county infrastructure construction project securing entitlements under Building Code and exemption interpretations.
  • Lead counsel for commercial real estate developer securing entitlements through litigation and settlement for a big box retail store.
  • Lead counsel for partially developed recreational community securing interpretations of compliance with flood hazard and land use regulations and Building Code.
  • Lead counsel for securing right to redevelop old office building in a downtown area into a mixed-use hotel and condominium project.