After three years of work, city staff and Councilors seem sick of the city's new zoning code.
Raleigh City Councilors set a March 1 deadline to adopt the Unified Development Ordinance, an updated version of the city's zoning code. But some Councilors are pushing for Feb. 11.
The UDO will work alongside the 2030 Comprehensive Plan, which will guide the city as it continues to grow and change. The Comprehensive Plan is the vision and the UDO is the code, or law, that makes the vision happen.
The UDO has been in the works for almost three years and has been in review — by either the Raleigh Planning Commission or the City Council — for one year.[media-credit name="Ariella Monti" align="alignright" width="500"][/media-credit]
Councilors have been meeting almost every Monday since September to review the draft code, chapter by chapter. With only a few lingering issues, Mayor Nancy McFarlane asked planning staff this week if they would be able to finish the review in two more meetings.
Staff said — enthusiastically — that they could.
Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin said that Feb. 11 she’s, “going to make a motion to adopt it.”
Councilor Bonner Gaylord responded with, “And I’m going to second it.”
While the exchange drew chuckles from the Councilors and a few members of the public, most Councilors seem ready to get the code adopted and out the door. Next is the mapping phase, which, like with the 2030 Comprehensive Plan, should summon public attention.
Gaylord asked that the Council adopt the UDO even if there are some lingering questions. Those questions, he said, can be answered during the six months the code will need to take effect. Councilors can make changes to the UDO using a text change, much like they do now to change zoning regulations.
Two UDO issues — backyard cottages and adequate facilities — still remain in Comprehensive Planning Committee. McFarlane asked that affordable housing be removed from the committee so it can be discussed at the next UDO workshop.
She said the other items can be put into committees if it will help expedite the process. The Comprehensive Planning Committee will have a special meeting at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, but according to the agenda, members will not discuss UDO topics.
Others aren't so sure about moving up the deadline. Councilor Thomas Crowder told the Record there are still some issues to address. He said the March 1 deadline will give the council enough time to resolve those points.
For example, Crowder said that he still has questions about how height and density will affect the city’s transportation infrastructure, how retail will be introduced in new districts to discourage strip mall developments and the public notification process.
“We’re not going to get this 100 percent perfect,” he said, “but, I don’t want to have any glaring concerns when we pass this document.”
On top of lingering questions, this week the council will be receiving case studies from planning staff that will show how the UDO would work if it were in place today. Crowder said the case studies will help put the code into context.
UDO Means Changes to Rezoning Public Hearing Process
In anticipation of some UDO-related changes to the rezoning process, planning staff recommends the Council tweak the rules for related public hearings.
Today, property owners have a short window of time to submit a rezoning application. That application is reviewed and then heard in a public hearing with the City Council and Planning Commission. These meetings are held once each quarter.
One of these window deadlines is coming up in March, with applications scheduled for a July hearing.
If the Council adopts the UDO in February or even March, the city will have applications running on the old system, adding confusion to the transition.
Staff wants to close the March window and allow property owners to submit applications as they wish in accordance to the new UDO districts. A public hearing would be held after the adoption of the UDO.
The change will be reviewed by the Planning Commission before a vote by the City Council.