Development Beat: Some Say UDO Failing

Print More

Editor’s Note: This post has been amended from its original version to correct the address for the AutoZone project.

Want to know about something going on in your neighborhood? Send us an email at editor [at] and we’ll check it out for a mention in the Development Beat column.

Wary of the ever-increasing number of developments they feel violate the spirit of Raleigh’s Comprehensive Plan, a number of residents have banded together to push back against City Council in the hopes of saving their children, and their children’s children from the unaccountable horrors of seven-story multifamily units.

Adopted in October 2009, Raleigh’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan is meant to serve as a guideline for the way the city handles future growth and development during the coming decades, encouraging construction elements such as walkability, public transit and high-density mixed-use developments.

In February 2013, after years of study and almost 50 public meetings, City Council members approved the new Unified Development Ordinance, which codified many of the Comprehensive Plan’s key components.

A map showing the areas that will be changed for the UDO, with legacy districts shown in pink.

Image provided by City of Raleigh

A map showing the areas that will be changed for the UDO, with legacy districts shown in pink.

More than a year later, a number of Raleigh denizens now believe the UDO is failing in its chief task – enforcing the vision laid out in the Comprehensive Plan by ensuring smart, managed growth in a city that has seen its population nearly double during the past two decades.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, three of these residents, who brought with them nearly two dozen supporters, pleaded with Council to fix what they see as a number of broken elements within the UDO.

The first to speak was David N. Cox, who earlier this year started a group titled “Grow Raleigh Great.” Cox argued that many of the rezonings recommended for approval by the Planning Commission are “out of scale and out of character with our neighborhoods.”

Although this type of language may sound lifted from that weird Oak City Preservation Alliance website, which cropped up to fight the now-infamous “modernist” Oakwood house, Cox’s mission is not about preserving a version of Raleigh that only exists in the minds of a vocal few, but rather ensuring that future growth does not come at the expense of present-day residents.

Cox went on to read from a position paper put out by the organization, which stated, in essence, that the UDO has failed to implement many of the policies and actions of the Comprehensive Plan, and in so doing has failed to implement the plan’s vision for the city.

The other speakers echoed many of Cox’ sentiments. They also asked the Council to look into the way city staff conducts its Comprehensive Plan consistency analysis and to offer guidance to the Planning Commission on how to apply the height guidance requirements found in both the plan and the UDO.

Mayor McFarlane said all of these issues would be taken under review by the Comprehensive Planning Committee. She did not agree that the city should hold off on the Zoning District Remapping process, which will affect about 30 percent of the city’s land area, or about 43 square miles.

Happening Now-Ish
May is off to a bright start for Raleigh’s burgeoning solar industry, as two North Raleigh homeowners are in the process of installing panels where the sun does shine. Both jobs are being handled by Southern Energy Management, a Morrisville firm that’s been in business for more than a decade.

The former Perkins restaurant, located on Appliance Court off Capital Boulevard near the 440 interchange, is being transformed into an even more depressing structure: another pawn shop. This new store will have a distinct advantage over its nearby competitors, namely, the ABC Store found less than 300 feet away, saving a second trip for those seeking solace in the bottle after selling off their prized possessions.


James Borden / Raleigh Public Record

In other booze news, the former Velvet Room Bar & Lounge on 2414 Paula Street, also found just off Capital Boulevard and about two miles south of the new pawn shop, is undergoing renovations that will turn the 2,830 square-foot space into the Perico Bar. The $12,000 renovation is being done by local firm AAC Construction Services.


James Borden / Raleigh Public Record

The only all-new commercial building granted a permit last week, is also, coincidentally enough, located off Capital Boulevard, although the Carmax Sales and Service center on Wild Wood Drive will be found much farther to the north, past the 540 interchange. The used car dealership will cost about $2 million to build out, although the original sticker price was probably closer to $3 million.

Speaking of deals, the nonprofit Downtown Housing Improvement Corporation, known for its creation and promotion of affordable housing within the city, unveiled the latest design for its town home development The Ten at South Person during this week’s Central CAC meeting. The homes will start at around $260,000 – in large part because DHIC did not receive tax credits for the project. Despite the high prices, members of the Citizens Advisory Council were pleased with the project – a rare event for this particular CAC  – as the developers had taken care to incorporate extensive community feedback into the design.

Coming Soon, Maybe
Of the four rezoning cases heard by City Council this week, not a single one was granted approval, though none were denied, either. Decisions on all of them have been postponed, most for 30 days, and mostly to give the developers time to meet with the local CACs.

Of the cases, which included a Hillsborough Street mixed-use development, two subdivisions – one on the border of Raleigh and Cary and another in Northeast Raleigh – only one, which would see the development of an AutoZone at 4128-4130 Western Boulevard, has received significant community pushback.

When the Planning Commission, which ultimately recommended the project for approval, heard the AutoZone case back in March, adjacent property owner Jerome Goldberg referred to the potential development as a “monstrosity.” Goldberg was on hand again Tuesday, who this time mocked the developer’s plan to build a fence along the property line.

“It’s a 39-foot building,” he said. “What’s a six-foot fence gonna do for me?”


2 thoughts on “Development Beat: Some Say UDO Failing

  1. The position paper, “Unintended Consequence: Neighborhoods and the Impact of Raleigh’s UDO and Comprehensive Plan,” is available online at

    Here is some trivia to illustrate but one concern. What is the difference between commercial retail sales in the new neighborhood oriented mixed use districts versus the commercial mixed use districts? The only difference is that in the UDO pawnshops are not allowed in neighborhood mixed use districts. Otherwise there is no difference in terms of retail sales. One could easily place a large gas station, fast food restaurant, even a Target or Walmart in the middle of neighborhoods – the UDO places no restrictions on square footage.

    In the Comprehensive Plan there are many differences particularly in terms of size and scale. As one would expect, an area servicing neighborhoods would (according to the Comprehensive Plan) include small, neighborhood oriented retail such as corner stores, coffee shops, neighborhood drug stores, etc. Larger stores such as Harris Teeters, Publix, Target, and Walmart would be appropriate for the larger commerical districts (again, according to the Comprehensive Plan). However, these distinctions are not carried over to the UDO – the actual law that governs development.

    There are many areas next to neighborhoods that the City is on the verge of mapping to neighborhood mixed use districts. Those of us in Grow Raleigh Great just happen to be the lucky first cases where developers want to take advantage of the loopholes in the UDO to build out of scale developments adjacent to our neighborhoods. But, unless the UDO is fixed to bring it in line with the Comprehensive Plan, many other neighborhoods will face similar situations. Yours could be next.

  2. Lovely photo of a parking lot, smart use of shadows there, I can see why you copyrighted it.

    But the rezoning is for 4128 and 4130 Western Blvd, the lots with the little houses across the street.