Councilors Tackle Lingering UDO Questions

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The city’s new zoning code was adopted months ago, but as the effective date draws closer, Councilors are looking at some lingering issues.

During a work session Monday, Councilors discussed a few issues that were left out of the adopted Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) for additional review and discussion. These issues include the placement of garages, open space requirements and visual transparency.

Councilors will meet again at 4 p.m. Monday at City Hall to continue their discussion.

Councilors adopted the UDO in February after three years of development and one year of review by Raleigh’s Planning Commission and City Council.

The UDO works alongside the 2013 Comprehensive Plan, which is a set of development policy guidelines. The UDO is the code that will allow these policies to happen. It replaces the existing code, which has been in place for about 50 years.

While the code was adopted in February, it doesn’t go into effect until Sept. 1. Both Councilors and city planning staff expect there to be changes within the code’s first year. Any changes after Sept. 1 will have to go through the city’s formal text change process.

Tree Conservation
Tree conservation was included among the held items, but wasn’t moved forward at Monday’s meeting. The holdup is caused by a desire among councilors to preserve trees along major thoroughfares and make roadside tree stands a priority for developer conservation.

Any site that is more than two acres in size is required to conserve 10 percent of its tree stand.

When developers build on a site, they go through a checklist of priority protection areas to meet that 10 percent. The priority list focuses on trees such as those alongside a highway or in a riparian buffer. Champion trees are also on the checklist.

City Planning Administrator Travis Crane said if none of the items on the first list apply to the site, developers then refer to a secondary list, which includes trees along major or minor thoroughfares.

“This is usually what catches most developers,” Crane said.

Developers generally meet their 10 percent requirement using trees along these thoroughfares.

Councilors wanted to place the thoroughfare trees into the primary list. An unintended consequence is that it might limit the flexibility of the site. City planning staff recommended that the Council keep the thoroughfare trees on the secondary list.

Mayor Nancy McFarlane asked that the issue be held until next week after she meets with some members of the public.

“I think our primary goal is to save the trees on the thoroughfare,” she said.

The Devil in the Details
Most of the UDO’s implementation is happening on the back end, with application changes, software changes and staff training.

“Now we’re just in get-it-ready mode,” said UDO Project Manager Christine Darges.

The biggest change for the average, non-developer resident will be seen by those who are applying for a next-day permit, such as for a new deck.

Today, the city requires very little information up front for such permits, with most of the building issues being dealt with in the field. After Sept. 1, residents seeking to do these kinds of renovations will have to submit more official information, such as a site survey, which is signed and sealed by surveyor.

The city is offering Friday training sessions for members of the public and those in the design and development community. All of the Friday training sessions in July are booked.

Getting it Mapped
Even when the UDO goes into effect in September, it won’t completely replace the old current zoning code until the zoning map is adopted.

Crane told the Record that staff expects to have a draft ready for public review at the end of November or early December.

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