Efforts to limit development around Cameron Village home fail

ccampbell@newsobserver.comNovember 8, 2013 

— The city council on Tuesday rejected multiple attempts to restore a development buffer around a Cameron Village home that once belonged to N.C. State basketball coach Everett Case.

The house at 611 Daniels St. backs up to a planned five-story apartment building on Oberlin Road. Owner Michael Mettrey says the city’s new development code eliminates a buffer that prevented high-density new construction from approaching his property line.

“The main thing we’re looking for is to be treated as any other single-family residence is going to be treated,” Mettrey told the council. “We should be allowed some sort of buffer, at least what we had before.”

Most of Mettrey’s neighbors have buffer protections because they rezoned to lower-density residential several years ago. At the time, Mettrey declined to join the petition, leaving him with a higher-density zoning designation.

Half the council majority said they don’t want to change the city’s new rules just yet. Adding buffer requirements, they pointed out, would significantly restrict future development in the fast-growing Cameron Village area. Demand there is high for apartments and other mixed-use projects.

By making exceptions for Mettrey, Councilman John Odom said, “it’s going to change a big part of what we said we want this city to become.”

But Councilman Russ Stephenson said the city needs to help Mettrey protect his property because the new development code is “wiping out protections that have been there for a long time.”

He said Mettrey was encouraged to try rezoning to restore the buffer, but the planning commission rejected the request because it would have an impact on neighbors.

“We’ve created a Catch-22 here for this person and eventually for others,” he said.

Stephenson said he called several planning commission members after their unanimous vote, and he said they didn’t fully understand the related issues. Councilman Eugene Weeks dismissed that assertion.

“We’re hearing hearsay,” he said. “We have people on the planning commission that understand this situation.”

Stephenson voiced support for another option, changing the code to create buffers around all single-family homes. That proposal failed in a 3-3 vote, so Stephenson then requested that city planners study the issue to see if other homes are affected. That measure also failed along the same split.

Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin said she expects city planners to raise the issue if the new buffer rules pose problems for additional homeowners. She noted that the department already has dozens of projects on its to-do list, and she’s hesitant to add more.

“If it becomes problematic, won’t the planning department come to us?” she said.

Mayor Nancy McFarlane, who backed Stephenson’s motions, voiced frustration with the lack of action.

“Clearly the council did not think that was worth investigating,” she said. “It seems that nobody is winning.”

Campbell: 919-829-4802; Twitter: @RaleighReporter

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