Front Yard Parking Debate Continues

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Some Raleigh residents are calling for a stop to front yard parking, continuing the ongoing debate last week at the City Council’s Comprehensive Planning Committee meeting.

A proposed ordinance would require all new construction to have a designated parking area made of a non-erodible material that is no more than 40 percent of the front lot or 425 square feet – whichever is greater – and some kind of screening along the facing property line, such as hedges.

While this part of the regulation would be enacted citywide, individual neighborhoods could apply for an overlay district that would make the ordinance retroactive in their area.

“The reason for that is, if it’s not retroactive, it’s not solving the existing problem,” said Ken Bowers, assistant director of city planning. “It’s only stopping the problem from getting worse.”

The ordinance is not yet scheduled for the City Council agenda. Councilor Russ Stephenson said the committee is moving in the right direction.

“I’ve been able to get council consensus around parking regulations that are targeting the worst problems instead of having the council do a citywide ordinance,” said Stephenson.

Once an overlay district was approved, residents or property owners would have one year to come into compliance. That could be as simple as parking single file in an existing driveway or as expensive as hiring a contractor to pave a parking area to accommodate the number of cars at the home.

Bowers said the problem is often found in neighborhoods near NC State University and in lower-income areas, particularly in Southeast Raleigh. A Planning Department study of 100 randomly chosen properties in southwest and southeast Raleigh showed the percentage of homes that would not be in compliance with the new law would be 23 and 26 percent, respectively. In northwest and northeast Raleigh the numbers are far lower at 6 and 10 percent, respectively.

A high percentage of single-family homes near the college are being used as rental properties for students who are not only parking their own cars, but allowing friends to park on their property as well.

Councilor Bonner Gaylord said most of the university district has resident-parking-only permits for curbside parking. He acknowledged that he has no statistical data, but believes that transient students who are coming in and out of that area are not taking the time to get a parking permit.

Commuter students who park at their friend’s house and walk to school exacerbate the problem.

Joe Cebina, a developer and resident of the Hillsborough Street area, attended the meeting to show support for stricter front yard parking regulations.

Cebina bought and renovated an abandoned home on his street and put it on the market. Cebina said he received negative feedback from potential buyers about the cars parked in the neighboring front yards.

“The appearance of the street impacted by yard parking made selling the house a challenge,” Cebina said, adding that unless the ordinance issue finally gets resolved he would think twice about investing in another property in the area. He would like to see front yard parking be done away with completely.

Other residents at the meeting suggested that the 40 percent limit was too generous. Mary Belle Pate, a resident of Crestline Avenue, said the neighborhood would be destroyed if every resident paved over nearly half of his or her front property.

Councilor Thomas Crowder agreed and said he would prefer a small percentage be approved.

“Forty percent of a lot on a big lot could be very problematic,” he said.

One resident, John Brooks, who lives on North Blount Street, spoke in opposition of the ordinance saying it would cause a financial burden to residents by resulting in a rent increase to pay for coming into compliance.

“The lingering concern is less about how this ordinance might apply to new development going forward,” said the Planning Department’s Bowers. “But what are the costs imposed on existing homeowners and property owners to bring their properties into compliance?”

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