City Council Roundup: Public Gets Another Shot at the UDO

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After more than two hours of public comment Tuesday, the draft Unified Development Ordinance will head to Planning Commission for review. The draft re-write of the entire zoning code has been in the works for two years.

The Planning Commission has about three months to review the UDO before it goes to City Council for final approval.

Multiple audience members urged the council and members of the Planning Commission not to rush through the document and to give it a concise and thorough review.

Most of the 30 people who commented on the draft said that it was heading in the right direction, but objected to some of the document’s details, or lack thereof.

Audience members cited incomplete definitions or definitions that should be expanded for clarity. Some also said vague time standards should be more specific.

The newly added provision for minimum adequate standards for public utilities is lacking, according to some speakers. The provision, added in October to address aging infrastructure, requires that minimum standards for utilities such as water lines be provided before a development can built.

Suzanne Harris, representing the Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County, said the entire provision should be tossed out because it would stifle development.

Among others, representatives from DHIC, Wake Up Wake County and the North Carolina Housing Coalition asked for more provisions that would encourage affordable housing. They applauded the inclusion of backyard cottages, which could be used for aging family members or additional rental properties. They suggested for more incentives encouraging affordable housing, particularly in areas near major transit hubs.

Others had concerns about basic building standards such as height restrictions, window requirements and parking standards.

The draft increases parking requirements for commercial and residential properties. Some, such as representatives from United Methodist Church, said that these requirements will hinder their ability to expand on their property.

Others said that it will add an increased building cost, which would drive up prices. It would also add more impervious surfaces like parking lots, the number of which city officials want to decrease.

Some had concerns about the administrative approval process. After its adoption, all site plans and special use permits will be approved administratively.  They urged that objective standards be used when going through this process and that the two necessary public hearings are actually held.

Members of the public can continue to submit comments about the UDO through the city’s website or at any public meeting.

Ramblewood Drive to Get Some TLC
A popular cut-through is going get some attention from the city.

A rezoning application for a piece of property on Ramblewood Drive near Six Forks Road prompted complaints from neighbors that the proposed apartment development would increase traffic on their already congested street.

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The Ramblewood Subdivision is a mix of single-family homes, townhouses and garden apartments. About 145 more units could be built on the remaining land. The developer also plans to expand the existing Lantern Square apartment complex. The multi-family development would not exceed 28 units per acre, but could be as tall as 65 feet.

The council approved the rezoning, but Mayor Nancy McFarlane asked transportation staff to look into traffic calming measures along the entirety of Ramblewood Drive.

“The real problem on Ramblewood is the cut-through traffic from end to end,” she said.

Transportation Manager Eric Lamb said the street has been evaluated by the Neighborhood Traffic Management Program, but staff are unsure where it stands on the priority list. Lamb said traffic calming measures only serve to slow traffic down, not act as a deterrent to drivers.

Members of the Public Works Committee will also review the intersection of Bellevue Road and Ramblewood Drive, which receives constant complaints.

City Investigates Low Impact Development
The Public Works Committee will be reviewing a plan from the Stormwater Management Advisory Commission to encourage the use of Low Impact Development for public and private property.

Low Impact Developments are natural and constructed features that improve the quality of stormwater runoff. According to the commission, conventional stormwater methods aren’t protecting streams and lakes from steady decline. Low Impact Development methods include collecting and reusing rain water, planting more vegetation and filtering water through trees or gardens.

After more evaluation is done, the commission will recommend changes to policies and ordinances that would include Low Impact Development standards. These standards are not included in the current draft of the Unified Development Ordinance.

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