The two-month comment period for the rewrite of Raleigh’s zoning code closes Monday. Some community leaders say they are still struggling to digest the technical document.
The Unified Development Ordinance has been in the works for more than a year and puts the conceptual vision of Raleigh into law, as laid out in the 2030 Comprehensive Plan.
As of Friday morning, 57 comments had been left on the city portal.
Lee Ensweiler, principal at Code Studio and lead consultant on the new code, said this week he is not surprised.
“Frankly, we find that most comments come in on the last day of the comment period,” he said.
Ensweiler stressed that the public comment period is the “best time to affect the content of the code.”
Some community members have criticized the city for allowing only two months for public comment.
Phil Poe, who served on the UDO advisory board and runs the RaleighUDO website, said this week, “I think people are really struggling with this.”
“The folks that are getting engaged are just getting into it now,” Poe said.
One example, Poe said, is “a rather significant menu of options when it comes to mixed use. And it’s not clear how it will all be applied.”
Alan Wiggs, who serves as the vice chair of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, said he was having trouble understanding the UDO.
Wiggs said he likes what he’s seen so far, but doesn’t understand the whole document.
“Maybe the public will like what they get in the UDO,” Wiggs said. “But right now they don’t know what they’re getting.”
The city plans to produce a map showing the exact parcel-by-parcel zoning across the city, but that won’t be ready until early next year.
“It’s difficult for people to get engaged without having a zoning map,” Poe said.
Mayor Charles Meeker defended the decision not to include a map. He said the city had two options: roll out the code with a map or without. The mayor said that if they had rolled out the map at the same time, “attention would have gone to the map, not the code.”
When asked if he was hearing concerns from people having trouble digesting the code, Meeker said, “No, not really.”
Ensweiler, the consultant developing the code, said this “is the first instance working solely on the text without a map.”
He said the city had two “surrogates” for the zoning map. He pointed to the Future Landuse Map and the Growth Framework Map developed with the 2030 Comprehensive Plan.
“We don’t have exact details on which zone or overlay district a property is in, but we can get a good guess,” Ensweiler said.
The public comment period will close June 6. After that, city staff will start going through the comments to figure out if there are major changes or policy questions to work through.
The new code is scheduled for a public hearing in July.
The new code could come up for a vote this fall. Meeker said he’d prefer the current council to pass it.
The current council will leave office, and Meeker will finish his last term as mayor, at the end of November.