The city’s new zoning code goes into effect on September 1. With the new Unified Development Ordinance come changes in the public hearing process and a new review process for rezoning requests and site plan approvals.
Most city residents are unaware of either process – until they get a notice from the city informing them that a piece of property in their neighborhood has applied for a change of some sort.
An administrative approval process will be used for most site plans under the new code instead of sending site plans to Planning Commission and City Council.
City Planning Administrator Travis Crane said this will not be a major change as only a small percentage of site plans go before the Planning Commission under the current code.
Although there won’t be any public hearings for site plans under the new UDO, the public will have the opportunity to voice their concerns in online forums that will be taken into account by city staff. Residents can also speak with a city staff member about their concerns.
“We have heard that we are taking the public out of the process and that is simply not true.” Crane said. “The reality is that the public will still be involved moving forward.”
Public hearings may be held in front of the Appearance Commission for some large-scale projects.
Crane said the city plans to enhance its public notification process, giving residents more advance notice of development projects in their area.
The public hearing process for rezoning cases is also changing, but will not be going away.
Currently, rezoning applications are submitted four times a year. Those applications are heard during a quarterly evening public hearing before City Council and Planning Commission.
Under the new UDO, rezoning applications will be filed on a rolling basis. Planning Commissioners will conduct the first review then make a recommendation to the City Council for approval or denial. There will be a public hearing once the application goes to the City Council.
City staff hope holding the public hearing at the end of the process will give everyone a more complete view of the project.
Progress Made on L Building Project
The L Building project is moving forward.
Plans for the 105,000-square-foot mixed-use building were approved by Commissioners.
The L Building will be located on the southwest corner of the intersection of McDowell and West Davie Streets and will wrap the existing parking deck.
About 8,000 square feet of office space, 9,500 square feet of retail space, and 93 residential units are planned for the space.
Andrew Stewart, representing Empire Properties, agreed to build a transit shelter at the owner’s expense and install a minimum of four bike racks on the property.
Commissioner Mitch Fluhrer praised developers for making progress on the long-awaited project. “I applaud the developer for bringing this project to fruition.”
New Shopping Center Coming to Northwest Raleigh
Commissioners approved a request to combine two parcels of land at the intersection of Millbrook Road and Creedmoor Road for a new shopping center.
The 7-acre property will be developed into a three building retail center.
Developers plan to provide two transit easements with benches and shelters, and a 50-foot natural protective yard to help screen the shopping center from residents of the adjacent neighborhood.
The developers agreed to contribute $2,500 to install public art on the property. They also agreed to pay $100,000 toward the installation of a traffic signal at the intersection of Millbrook Road and Bennettwood Court
This proposed traffic signal and the potential traffic impact of the shopping center caused a great deal of concern for area residents.
Area resident James Kinane discussed the impact of building a shopping center in an already congested area. “There’s an unseen traffic impact that is not being picked up by the traffic studies,” he said. Kinane told the commission that traffic already goes through area neighborhoods to avoid congestion at the intersection of Millbrook and Creedmoor Roads. “I think that we are currently in an untenable situation and to approve this site plan would just make it disastrous for all that live around here.”
While sympathetic to the concerns of area residents, Schuster discussed the effort put forth by the applicant to address traffic issues.
“In terms of this applicant’s ability to address traffic issues, I think they have done everything they possibly can.” he said. “I am sensitive to the neighborhood’s concerns. Obviously there is a traffic problem here, but I am not sure that this applicant can do anything to further improve it.”
Edison Office Project Moving Forward
The Edison building, which has been stalled for years, is moving forward with plans to add another piece to Raleigh’s downtown skyline.
Commissioners approved plans for the 314,000 square foot building this week.
The 13-story mixed use building will be located on a 1.3-acre lot on the south side of Martin Street, between Wilmington and Blount Streets.
About 9,000 square feet of retail space and 305,000 square feet of office space are planned for the building.
Parking was a main point of discussion, with Commissioners expressing concern over plans for shared parking with the SkyHouse Raleigh luxury apartment building.
During peak parking times, 10 a.m. on a weekday, there is a demand for about 1,083 parking spaces. Current code requires the project to provide 740 spaces, but developers are only proposing 592.
Commissioner Steven Schuster said he was concerned about the potential long-term impact of approving fewer parking spaces, and the developer’s plans for shared parking between SkyHouse Raleigh and the Edison office building. “I’d like to hear the city’s perspective of whether having more renters in the decks that are built is perceived as a good thing,” he said, “or is that potentially heading toward an unintended consequence down the road.”
Developer Gregg Sandreuter explained that, while the parking deck will be controlled and will not have transient daily parkers, the shared parking between SkyHouse Raleigh and the Edison office building will not be able to meet the needs of 100 percent of employees working in the Edison office building.
Tenants of the Edison office building will receive parking spaces based on the square feet of space they lease in the building. Employees that are not able to park on-site will have to park on one of the city parking decks in the area.
After some discussion, Commissioners approved the project. Commissioner John Buxton said of the project, “It seems to me that this is a savvy way to meet a bunch of our economic development needs downtown as well as our existing investments.”