A public hearing held Tuesday night for a proposed citywide remapping drew crowds that packed council chambers to capacity and spilled into the overflow areas set up throughout city hall.
Although the public input process for the proposed remapping, which will affect about 35,000 parcels or 30 percent of the entire city, began in May 2014, a recent wave of postcards and letters sent out by the city have sparked fresh concerns over the potential impacts of new zoning districts in area neighborhoods.
During that initial process, which lasted four months, about 1,750 comments were received.
At Tuesday’s meeting, more than 100 people signed up to speak, although only about half were able to make their two-minute presentations before council.
A group of six individuals, led by David Cox of the North Raleigh Coalition of Homeowners Association, which has been one of the most vocal opponents of the remapping process to date, spoke out against the proposed rezoning of two properties at the intersection of Dunn Road and Falls of Neuse Road.
The citywide remapping designated the properties to be rezoned to neighborhood mixed use, which allows for a variety of uses, including significant retail.
The two properties had been the subject of a rezoning case that was voted down by council in a unanimous decision. The five individuals said they were perplexed by the decision to try to rezone the properties to NX after they had voted down the same rezoning just weeks before.
“What you did that night in denying that rezoning rekindled confidence in the community,” Bob Fry said. “You got it right, which is why I am confused today.”
However, the owner of the properties, Bill Mullins, said he supported the planning commission for putting forth this proposed rezoning, saying he wants NX on the sites.
His attorney Tom Worth said that at a meeting between his client and NORCHOA, that they had verbally agreed to adding conditions to the rezoning of the properties, including eliminating fuel sales and removing vehicular services.
Residents of Historic Oakwood Speak Out Against Remapping
Residents of Historic Oakwood also spoke out about the rezoning near their neighborhood. Concerns were predominantly raised over the rezoning of residential-20 to NX, which would allow for bars, clubs, and taverns, and about the increase in allowable height for the rezoning properties, which would reach three stories.
“I would ask that the council protects the historic structures in Oakwood that we have,” Jason Horne said.
Councilor Russ Stephenson noted that existing transitional protections for residences in nonresidential zoning districts will be done away with under the Unified Development Ordinance.
Residents of Historic Oakwood were also concerned with protecting the character of their neighborhood. Many said they wanted new zoning to be the equivalent of the old zoning or have the rezoning around the neighborhood delayed to a later date.
“What you’ve heard from the others here is that Historic Oakwood is truly a neighborhood,” Mary Iverson said.
Individual Reactions from Citizens on Remapping
Jennifer Martin, the executive director of Shop Local Raleigh [full disclosure: Martin is also a member of the Record’s board of directors] addressed councilors on an issue that had not yet been raised: the prohibition of food trucks in NX zoning districts.
Martin said Raleigh’s food trucks themselves were an important part of of the city’s vibrant small-business community and that many businesses currently operating in what will become NX districts will often bring them in as a way of drawing in more clientele and fostering a sense of community.
“Under the proposed UDO, a business in this zone would not be allowed to apply for food truck permits, as well as neighborhood carnivals, community events and more.”
Martin asked that councilors allow for a limited permit in the NX zone that would allow food trucks to continue at their current level of operations.
Some citizens talked just about the rezoning of their own property.
Edward Willis, who owns the McDonald’s restaurants on Peace and South Streets in downtown Raleigh, spoke to his desire to build the best McDonald’s in southeast Raleigh but noted the proposed rezoning of his property would not allow it.
Dan Coleman from Genesis One took issue with his property being rezoned to NX and wanted the marketplace to decide rezoning on a case-by-case basis.
Anne Franklin wanted councilors took look at the downtown plan before remapping.
“I say vision first and remapping second,” Franklin said.
Rhonda Rich, who was been active in a rezoning case on South Person Street, said the unified development ordinance was too broad.
“It disappoints me that as a city we might not be doing things in our best interest,” Rich said.
A Ten O’clock Shutdown
The hearing was halted at 10 p.m. following a unanimously approved motion by Mayor Nancy McFarlane to leave the hearing open for two weeks. Council has no deadline for when they need to vote on the rezoning case.
This will allow city staff time to analyze the input offered by citizens that night, and means that the remainder of those who signed up to speak will be given the opportunity to do so.
Councilor Stephenson gave instructions to staff on how best to handle the flood of feedback that citizens had given during the public hearing.
Travis Crane, planning and zoning administrator for the city of Raleigh, said that the feedback from citizens was expected, and noted in his initial address to council that the focus of the night’s meeting was “all about hearing from the public.”
Crane noted that the extensive public input which had preceded the night’s meeting had significantly impacted the final version of the proposed remapping.
“At every step of our process,” he said, “We believe the map has been refined and has been improved.”