Public Gets a Look at the UDO

Residents interested in voicing their opinions on the Unified Development Ordinance, the rewrite of the city’s zoning code, have just less than two weeks left to review the latest draft before a public hearing Feb. 21.

Residents will still be able comment on the new code as it winds its way through the approval process at public Planning Commission or City Council meetings.

Just after the New Year, the city released its latest draft of the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) for the last public review period before it gets kicked to the Planning Commission. Once the Planning Commission is done with it, it will go to Council for final adoption vote.

The biggest change coming under the UDO will be staff approval for site plans. Under the current code, site plans for large-scale projects need to be reviewed by the Planning Commission before getting an OK from the City Council.

If the UDO is approved, City Councilors and members of the Planning Commission will no longer approve site plans. Instead, site plans will be approved administratively by planning staff.

The only time a site plan will go to the Planning Commission is when a developer appeals a staff decision.

As the Record previously reported, planning staff said that the criteria used for approval will be much more objective, rather than the subjective standards used now.

The Record has been chronicling the creation of the UDO since the first draft was released last summer. Have questions about the new code? Email them to editor@raleighpublicrecord.org and we will do our best to answer them.

What’s Changed?
While it hasn't changed too much since the last report in November, let's take a look at what's new.

Chapter 3 got a new addition, literally. Chapter 3, which deals with mixed-use districts, discusses building height limitations. In the previous draft, building height skipped from three stories to five. Since then, staff has added an option for a fourth floor.

This change would allow for a ground-level parking deck and then three stories of residential space above it.

If you tried to find development standards in Chapter 9, you won't find them there anymore. The public improvements content in Chapter 9 has been folded into Chapter 8, which originally covered only street standards.

“The more we began tweeting [Chapter 9], the more the two became one,” said UDO Project Manager Christine Darges.

The new Chapter 8 has been renamed Site Plan and Subdivision Standards.

While we're on the subject of streets, Chapter 8 includes all of the new street cross sections that were changed since the summer. It also includes a new provision on how to deal with existing streets.

While a developer wouldn't be forced to make an existing street look like new ones that were built under the new cross sections, Darges said that eventually, the city would like the treeline and the sidewalk to flip flop. Trees would be planted in between the sidewalk and the street, rather than the reverse, which exists in many places today.

Finally, Chapter 10. Remember: all the chapters have moved down a notch since nine folded into eight. The biggest change in Chapter 10 is the inclusion of the Historic Overlay District and Historic Overlay District Light.

There's your general HOD, which applies to everything, and then the “light” version which applies to everything that can be seen from the street. The differences haven't changed, but now they're included in Chapter 10.

Chapter 10 also includes all of the administrative processes for rezonings, appeals and variances. A new addition is the process for alternate designs that a developer can apply for through the appearance commission.

Over the summer Chapter 10 had a lot of holes, but it has since gotten a good review by the city attorney's office. Darges said it doesn't include too much new information, but expanded and tweaked existing information.

Darges said that planning staff continues to look through the document to make sure they haven't missed anything that should be included. One staffer has had the task of fixing all of the spelling and grammar errors throughout the draft.

After the public hearing, the Planning Commission will have until early June to review it. The commission has been reviewing the draft unofficially by splitting up into smaller subcommittees to review individual parts of the document together and with planning staff. Once its recommendation is made, it is kicked to council. The council has an indefinite amount of time to review it, but Darges believes a vote will take place this fall.

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