The Planning Commission on Tuesday recommended approval of a controversial rezoning case that could lead to the development of a shopping center in a North Raleigh neighborhood.
The decision on case Z-1-14 had been deferred for more than a year, as citizens made known their opposition through Citizens Advisory Councils votes and four valid statutory protest petitions.
The property under consideration is a 13.12 acre parcel of land off Falls of Neuse Road. The proposed rezoning to Neighborhood Mixed Use would decrease office intensity while raising the maximum allowed retail intensity and allow for up to 58,000 square feet of retail, provided it was spread amongst different buildings. Current zoning allows for office use and around 6,000 square feet of retail. The plan was found by staff to be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and Future Land Use Map. It would allow for a strip shopping center that would be anchored by a grocery store.
When the project was initially being developed, Publix was rumored to be that anchor, although that role will likely be filled by a specialty grocer instead.
Mack Paul, the lawyer representing the applicant Morgan Property Group, noted the growth of the population in the Falls of Neuse corridor but the lack of retail establishments.
“This was always the one location that we identified for retail use in this corridor,” Paul said.
He presented a series of changes to the commission, including adjustments to parking, making the building more in line with the character of the neighborhood, and limiting the size of the anchor building from 49,000 square feet to 29,000.
David Cox, the founder of Grow Raleigh Great, spoke on behalf of the citizens, citing the 3,800 signatures in the valid statutory protest petitions and the landslide vote of opposition to the proposed rezoning in the CAC.
“Our long-standing position on the rezoning of this property is not to rezone the property,” Cox said. “We support development under the current zoning conditions.”
The opposition to the case has focused on the issue of traffic and access, both of which the citizens believe will contribute to safety problems. Those concerns were stated again during the public hearing for the case on Tuesday.
“We ask and implore you to say no to the rezoning,” Cox said.
Commission chair Steven Schuster asked each member of the planning commission to share their perspectives on the case.
In support of the rezoning, many of the members cited the staff’s recommendation that the rezoning was consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and Future Land Use Map. Many also thought that the additional conditions represented a significant compromise by the applicant.
“I feel that the neighborhood has moved this case significantly,” commission member John Buxton said.
Joseph Lyle, the sole commission member against the rezoning, said that he did not like the fact that the rezoning would remove a previous master plan. He also stated that the commission needed to look at more than just the staff’s recommendation. More needed to be included, such as public hearings, CAC votes and petitions.
“This is the type of civic debate that this city deserves,” Schuster said. “The community has had a profound impact on this case, and will continue to have a profound impact on this case when it moves to elected officials.”
A motion to approve was made, seconded, and with just Lyle dissenting, the Planning Commission recommended approval of the rezoning.