New group demands fixes in Raleigh’s development code to ‘protect neighborhoods’

ccampbell@newsobserver.comMay 12, 2014 

— Opponents of several development proposals around Raleigh want the city council to fix what they see as “unintended consequences” from Raleigh’s new development code.

Nearly 100 people came to last week’s council meeting as part of a new movement called Grow Raleigh Great. They say flaws in the new code – which took affect last year – have opened the door to development they see as inappropriate for their neighborhoods.

In North Raleigh, that’s a proposed Publix grocery and shopping center on Falls of Neuse Road. Around Hillsborough Street, it’s high-density student apartments of up to seven stories. And in Northwest Raleigh, the offender is a used-car lot at the entrance to a neighborhood.

“Our community in North Raleigh is not alone,” said David Cox, who’s been fighting the proposed Publix. “We have discovered that we have coming issues and common concerns. We find that the new Unified Development Ordinance is failing to implement the Comprehensive Plan.”

The UDO, also called a development code, is intended to implement the more general growth principles of the Comprehensive Plan through specific zoning rules. City leaders hoped the code would make development more predictable and reduce contentious rezoning battles that can divide neighborhoods.

Grow Raleigh Great gave the council a 12-page “position paper” outlining desired changes to the new code. Among the complaints: unclear distinctions between neighborhood retail districts other commercial zoning classifications, confusion over building height requirements and a lack of transitions between business districts and neighborhoods.

“The Unified Development Ordinance has failed to implement the City’s Comprehensive Plan that first and foremost protects neighborhoods,” the paper says.

City is listening

City council members were sympathetic to the concerns and agreed to discuss them in the council’s comprehensive planning committee. Councilman Russ Stephenson, who chairs the committee, said he wants to “make this the more predictable zoning process we talked about when we started this in 2007.”

But the council didn’t agree to Grow Raleigh Great’s request to stop remapping the city’s commercial districts to the new code’s categories.

“Starting that process is going to help us realize what’s on that list” of potential code changes, Mayor Nancy McFarlane said.

City planners will release draft zoning maps on Monday, sending out postcard notices to 66,000 affected property owners. Every commercial property in Raleigh will get a new zoning designation, though most are similar to the current classifications.

“In some cases, there are some changes from what might be on the ground today, but only where we have very clear policy guidance,” planner Dan Becker said.

Interactive maps and a phone bank will offer details about what development would be allowed in each area. Planners will solicit feedback for four months before making revisions and sending the map to the planning commission and city council.

Stephenson said the remapping effort will likely prompt debate between property owners and their neighbors. “There will be some property owners that have interest in higher development potential, and there’ll be other property owners nearby that will be interested in going in the other direction,” he said.

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

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