Correction appended: The article below gave the wrong name for Milt Rhodes. His name is Milt, not Mel.
Thursday evening the Raleigh City Council hosted a public hearing on the revised Raleigh comprehensive plan. Dozens of concerned citizens represented a diverse selection of public and private interest.
Recent changes in the plan were made publicly available last Saturday, giving people only five days to respond. A number of speakers consented that the city needs to allow more time for public input.
The initial draft plan was made public on December 1st and citizens were able to comment, until January 31st. The comments were reviewed and addressed in the new draft. Council could vote on the the plan by this summer.
“The public has not had time to fully digest and develop comments on this latest draft,” Donna Bailey said. Bailey represented the District D Neighborhood Alliance, a group that meets monthly to discuss issues with District D Councilor Thomas Crowder .
“Not only did we not get the information requested in time to comment on the latest draft, but the information was finally received only yesterday,” Bailey said.
Milt Rhodes of the University Park Neighborhood Association said it was a “challenge to respond quickly.”
Other citizens and businesses called for the council to review specific zoning issues in their area, and asked to be considered “special study areas.”
The plan sets the western boundary for downtown, which dictates building height, density, and development, as being at St. Mary’s Street. Residents from the Cameron Park area urged the council to push the boundary back to Boylan. Bob Moeser describes the transient nature of the downtown area saying that it is moving further west and moving out of east Raleigh.
Jean Spooner of Raleigh pointed out to the council that the boundaries for Umpstead Park were incorrect. In one of his few comments during the hearing Mayor Meeker responded “we’ll get the Umpstead boundary squared away.”
Inclusionary zoning, an effort to create affordable housing throughout the city, was also a concern to a few speakers. Suzanne Harris, representing the Home Builders Association of Raleigh said they “do not support inclusionary zoning.” She told council members to “remember the plan is a guideline and not a law, as the [city] code is,” and should not be “prescriptive and mandatory.” On the subject of “green building”, another issue the plan addresses, she said “economics should dictate a green standard.”
Rick Miller, from the leadership council for the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, noted Raleigh’s “need for an affordable housing commission,” due to Raleigh’s “shortage of affordable housing.”
Sarah Robertson, a farmer and landowner from the East Wake area came to the council because she said that many landowners were not involved in the input process, that would ultimately affect their property. “There were no people from [my] area included. No one I know was a part of it.”
Robertson expressed concerned about the lexicon the plan uses and wasn’t sure how it would affect her farm. “I don’t know what tree protection means. I plant my trees and then I harvest them,” she said. The plan includes policies geared towards canopy restoration, forested road buffers, and tree species selection. “The primary stakeholder is the person that owns the land, and that person should always be at the table,” Robertson concluded, prompting her friend Wanda McGee to stand and gave a supportive “Amen.”
Other organizations represented at the hearing were Peaton Family LLC, Raleigh Parks and Recreation, Wake Up Wake County, Impact Properties Group, FMW Real Estate, Raleigh Historic Preservation, and World Trade Center NC.