A rezoning case that would allow for a new hotel in a historic overlay district was recommended by a rare 5-3 split vote of the planning commission Tuesday.
The case, Z-42-14, had been in the committee of the whole for two sessions as commissioners grappled between the strong community partnerships advocating for the rezoning and the possibility of setting a precedent for the repeal of the historic overlay district.
Attorney Mack Paul of Morningstar Law Group represented Narsi Properties, who wished to rezone the .51 acre parcel to downtown mixed use with a 12-story height cap.
The General Baptist State Convention had owned the property and was one of the community partners, along with Shaw University, who advocated for the rezoning. Under the plan of Narsi Properties, General Baptist State Convention would receive a new headquarters within the building and the kitchens in the hotel would enable Shaw University students to receive food service training.
Community Partnerships Push for Rezoning
The property is inside the designated boundaries for the historic overlay district, a district designed to protect and preserve historical buildings. Commissioners debated about the precedent-setting of repealing the historic overlay district for the purpose of a hotel, if the rezoning were to occur.
At the public hearing on Tuesday, Mack Paul stated that the applicant had brought forth new conditions to the case, including a 12-foot setback and limiting the height of the building based on how many stories it reached. He made the case that the development would help relieve the deficit of hotel space in downtown Raleigh and that the central citizens advisory council had voted unanimously in favor of this rezoning.
Two members of the General Baptist State Convention spoke in favor of the rezoning at the public hearing, stating that the rezoning would be a good move for the church and all associated churches.
“All institutions and property owners support this project,” General Baptist State Convention representative Wallace Green said.
Opposition Talks Value of Historic Preservation
The Raleigh Historic Development Commission spoke out in opposition to the case, citing a survey done when the historic overlay district was implemented that showed that many of the residents in the district were supportive of it.
Two additional citizens also spoke out in opposition. Gail Wisner said that commissioners should consider the source of the rezoning, stating that all those in favor of the rezoning just looked to make money while those against were more concerned about preserving historic buildings. Robert Parrot, from a preservation society, echoed her sentiment and added that he was concerned about setting a precedent in this case.
When the public hearing was closed, commissioners gave their thoughts and opinions on the potentially precedent-setting nature of the case and the community partnerships involved.
Commissioner Buxton said the case was not, in fact, precedent-setting, and will not bind any future commission to treat similar cases the same way.
“Policy doesn’t end when you pass the policy,” Commissioner Buxton said. He added, “I’m excited to have the historic overlay district, but I don’t think this piece belongs in it.”
Chairman Steven Schuster talked about the sanctity of historic resources and said he couldn’t support removing a piece from the historic district.