UDO Ready for Public Hearing, Almost

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City planners recently released an updated draft of the new zoning code. The new document has lots of changes and this article is Part One of a three-part series to explain those changes. Read our previous coverage and explanations of the Unified Development Ordinance.

Raleigh residents keeping up with the Unified Development Ordinance, the new rewrite of the city’s zoning code, will get another look on Jan. 3, when city staff will release an updated draft of the document.

While it will then be one step closer to complete, city staff don’t anticipate having the final UDO approved by council for another year.

City planners had hoped to have the draft complete this fall, but in August they requested more time to meet with developers, community groups and other stakeholders in the code’s future. The UDO will update, outline and condense the city’s zoning code in such a way that planners hope will be easier for the general public to use and understand.

The next draft includes changes spurred by the comments made during the last public review period last spring and will be available Jan. 3. A public hearing will take place Feb. 21.

UDO Project Manager Christine Darges told Councilors Nov. 1 that the new draft will be “substantially different, with a lot of additional information from what was released over the summer.”

What’s New
While the UDO is fairly extensive in its scope, there were plenty of things that needed to be added and not just changed.

One of the major additions is a completely new chapter. The original draft was only 12 chapters. Chapter 13 updates and rewrites the city’s housing and building ordinances. While this wasn’t originally in the project’s scope of work, staff decided that it needed to be included in order to address any conflicts with the UDO itself.

A fairly easy to understand, but hard to implement, policy regarding minimum standards for public facilities has now been included in the UDO.

Darges explained that under the current code, the developer is responsible for any upgrades that might need to be done to public facilities, such as stormwater, transportation, utilities and fire protection.

The UDO would require that the city provide minimum standards and the developer would be responsible for anything after that. For example, if the city has 2-inch water lines and the minimum standard is 6 inches, then the city should take a long-term approach to upgrading all of those water lines to the minimum standard.

Darges said that this would help developers plan their expenses accordingly. A last-minute finding of unsuitable facilities could put a building project over budget and in jeopardy.

It also eliminates any unfairness due to future development in the same general area.

Separate from the UDO were the Urban Design Guidelines listed in the 2030 Comprehensive Plan that serves as the framework for the rewritten zoning code. These guidelines dictate certain design standards for developments in areas, such as downtown. City staff took these guidelines and included them in the UDO, making them part of the code. These guidelines are scattered throughout the UDO.

But, the new code will offer developers some flexibility.

The Appearance Commission would be able to work with developers in thinking of out-of-the-box ways to enhance a design idea that doesn’t fit into the UDO. The public would also be notified if a design exception is being considered.

Darges explained that the city didn’t want to be too rigid in its design standards and wanted to utilize the expertise of the designers on the Appearance Commission.

An addition, but also a removal of sorts, is the deletion of private streets. Today, a development can have private streets, which are maintained by the homeowners. Today, the city doesn’t provide maintenance or enforcement of those streets.

But under the UDO, the city will no longer allow private streets. The city would be responsible for maintenance of those streets, but it would also be able to enforce parking laws. The removal of private streets was a response to issues with student housing and increased parking issues on those streets.

 

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