Neighbors Push Back Against Proposed Workforce Housing Development

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For months, North Raleigh neighbors have expressed concerns over the proposed 100-unit workforce housing development Abbington Village planned for an empty lot at 2925 Foresetville Road.

The possible site of a new affordable housing development

The possible site of a new affordable housing development

On January 5, Rea Ventures Group met with several neighbors to the property’s north to discuss their concerns, which mostly revolved around property maintenance and impacts on their home values.

Neighbors to the south only learned about the project in mid-April, a week before a Public Hearing for the rezoning had been scheduled for City Council’s April 19 meeting.

Rezoning case Z-3-16 would rezone the 9.41 acre parcel in question from R-4, which allows for low-density, single-family residential development of up to four units per acre, to RX-3-CU, which allows for up to 10 units per acre. Although RVG is only planning 100 units for Abbington Village, the rezoning would increase the total number of units allowed on the property from 37 to 287.

A letter sent by RVG to the Braefield Homeowners Association was said to have been neither received nor returned to the developer.

At the April 19 Public Hearing, a number of residents of the Braefield subdivision raised concerns over issues such as pedestrian access, the proximity of a detention pond to their neighborhood community area and a potential impact on their home values.

Councilors voted to send the case to the Growth and Natural Resources Committee to allow RVG more time to meet with the Braefield neighbors.

On April 26, RVG hosted an informal meeting for the newly concerned neighbors. Councilor David Cox was in attendance.

Neighborhood Revolt

In an interview with The Record, Cox said he had passed around a tablet and asked people to write down their name, address and whether they supported the project.

“Out of 122 people, there was one person in favor. So 121 against, 1 for,” Cox said.

The day after the informal meeting, the development team and the neighbors faced off again in front of the Growth and Natural Resources Committee. Although it was not required, Councilor Kay Crowder, who chairs the Committee, granted each side eight minutes to speak.

In a presentation on behalf of RVG, Michael Birch of the Morningstar Law Group emphasized the difference between affordable housing and workforce housing, which is what Abbington Village would be.

Plans for Abbington Gardens in Winston-Salem

Plans for Abbington Gardens in Winston-Salem

Birch pointed out that the units — a one-bedroom runs $683/month — are geared toward working professionals such as police officers who would theoretically have enough home buying power to purchase property in the surrounding residential neighborhoods.

The development would have an on-site property manager and about 70 percent of the available units would be one and two-bedroom.

As neighbors had expressed concern over the proposed three-story height of the buildings, Birch said the developer would be willing to add a condition that limited the buildings nearest Oak Marsh Drive to two stories.

Donna DeMatteo, president of the Braefield HOA, said while the neighborhood appreciated the developer coming out to speak with them, they ultimately felt the development of Abbington Village would cause “irreparable harm” to the Braefield subdivision.

DeMatteo said their concern wasn’t that the development would be a workforce or affordable housing project; rather, they were feeling overwhelmed by all the multistory, multifamily developments cropping up around their residential neighborhood.

There were a number of other issues, DeMatteo said, including increased traffic, lowered property values,  and the potential for exacerbating existing stormwater problems. Neighbors also expressed concerns about the potential for school overcrowding.

Dematteo said while it used to take her seven minutes to drive from her home to I-540, it now takes 18, and she feared adding a new 100-unit residential development to the area would only make things worse.

“A question I asked twice at last night’s meeting was, what’s the benefit for Braefield? Twice I asked and it did not get answered, that’s a little upsetting,” DeMatteo said.

Councilor Gaylord, who sits on the Committee alongside Crowder and Councilors Russ Stephenson and Dickie Thompson, said he wasn’t sure what DeMatteo had meant by this.

“What were the positive impacts of you moving into your subdivision; how did that benefit the one across the street?” he asked.

DeMatteo said it was problematic so many neighbors had been unaware of the project, and as far as a positive impact, she said the developer could help them to grow in a better way.

“Is it something specific?” Gaylord asked.

“No,” DeMatteo said. “I can’t give you something specific.”

The Future of Abbington Village

Stephenson said he would have trouble supporting the project because it went against what had been recommended in the City’s future land use map.

“It seems like the burden is on the applicant here to see if there’s a way we can mitigate the impact on neighbors,” he said.

RVG’s application to the federal government for tax credits — the company is requesting no money from the City of Raleigh — is due on May 13, Birch said. Although the Committee expressed interest in holding the item for further discussion, the May 13 deadline meant that Council would need to vote on the case at its May 3 meeting.

Gaylord motioned to recommend approval of the case; the motion failed. Thompson then motioned successfully to send the case to Council with no recommendation.

Councilor Cox, who is not on the Committee but was in attendance Wednesday, told The Record he tried to remove the affordable/workforce housing aspect from the project when considering its merits.

“What if it wasn’t affordable housing?” Cox said.

“What if this was a luxury housing complex? Would it be appropriate?”

Cox said he had some concerns relating to proximity, transitions, height and density and that he would have trouble supporting the project should the neighbors not find the developer’s latest efforts appropriate.

As a Public Hearing for the case was opened at the April 19 meeting, Council will likely be making a final vote on the project next week.

Update: It was suggested in the comments section that readers interested in more detail about some of the specifics should check out the staff report. This was a great point, so we uploaded a full copy of the report given to Committee members yesterday. Here’s the link. 

30 thoughts on “Neighbors Push Back Against Proposed Workforce Housing Development

  1. The correct answer to Councilor Gaylord’s question is the benefit is maintaining the density of the current zoning which matches the zoning of the surrounding neighborhood as opposed to increasing the density up to 10 units per acre.

    Remember Councilor Gaylord, it is the developer who is requesting that the current regulation be changed for HIS benefit. It is incumbent on the one making the request for change to PROVE the change will not be harmful to the existing neighbors. It is not their responsibility to prove that it will be harmful.

  2. The article leaves out the impact on local schools, which are already over burdened. Hits the majority of the other issues though, traffic being the most important.

  3. An additional huge concern, which is fairly glossed over in this article is the traffic. There is no public transportation here and there will not be for many years. At this point Louisburg Road by the intersection with Forestville is already crazy during peak hours- so much that it actually takes approximately 18 minutes to go 3 miles to 540. The development is supposed to be workforce housing, yet the developer suggests that out of 200+ cars only 40 will be on the road. How is that? Even if it were luxury apartments, this area can not handle an influx of traffic at this time. And to boot, our schools are already overcrowded, adding a concentration of approximately 80 kids in one spot would be seriously detrimental. Leave the zoning as single family as it is now.

  4. I am against the zoning change as a resident of Mitchel Mill, i am very concerned with current traffic issues, i have already adjusted my schedule by 45 min in order to leave later in the morning, not many can do that.

  5. First I am not near the proposed project so I am an observer. I wanted to note that workforce housing, in general, is a positive for the greater neighborhood. In another forum a person noted that a policeman shared that they get more calls for Highland Creek than they do for an existing workforce project near by. I have visited a similar complex multiple times and it is well kept and well managed and safe.

    Regarding this project, though, there are definite concerns potentially with changing the PLANNED zoning which factored into the buying decisions of the people who live in adjoining developments. Valid concerns would be the buffering to adjoining subdivisions, the facilitation of pedestrian traffic to the shopping center with sidewalks and crosswalks, additional vehicular traffic at a busy intersection (did the plans for the existing subdivisions properly account for the traffic already added?), impact on schools ( did the plans for the existing subdivisions properly account for their impact to local schools if local schools are already over crowded?), open space and playgrounds for added children and, related to the traffic, would the streets be reconstructed to facilitate left turns into and out of the complex and going by vehicle to the shopping center, especially during busier traffic times. There has been a longstanding problem in the local municipalities and the county of plopping in these new complexes and then catching up later on the infrastructure impact. The burden of the infrastructure impact should be on the new development, not the taxpayers in existing developments. If the density is increased above original plans there is an impact. Since it is clear that the existing plans have not always (one could say seldom) accounted for all impacts then increasing density is even more of a concern. Should developers be ruling on impact of development, especially those whose projects have had major negative impact on adjacent subdivisions?

  6. Should have added to earlier comment an amen to another forum entry, that is what is the public transportation plan for this complex? Is there any public transportation on this part of 401? If there was a stop at the shopping center would there be pedestrian access from the complex to the stop?

  7. Tim, it is interesting you mention density. I recommend you look over the staff report on the City’s website. In that report, you will see that the proposed zoning is “reasonable and in the public interest”. It is “compatible with the surrounding area”. The site is listed as a “Transitional Area”, meant to be a buffer between the nearby commercial shopping center and the neighborhood upset with this proposal. It even says the proposal is “compatible with the property and surrounding area.” It is consistent with the following policies as well: Density Transitions, Zoning for Housing, and Contextual Design. And while it may not be compatible with the Future Land Use Map, it’s called a Future Land Use Map for a reason.

    Susie and Colin, it would be good for you to read that report as well. In it, you can see that the developer “provides site arrangements and pedestrian accommodations for any future signalized crossing of Forestville Road, subject to NCDOT approval.” Additionally, it “includes conditions that will provide transit and pedestrian amenities upon request by State and City staff. ” When you want to build something like this, you don’t not do it because public transit isn’t already serving the area. Building features like this GETS public transit to the area. How else do you expect transit services to expand? You wouldn’t extend a bus line to the middle of no where because it will someday maybe be developed. You wait for that area to begin developing and then extend a line. The Wake Transit Plan calls for that in this area, look at that as well.

  8. I’m always confused by the school Crowding thing. Raleigh and other cities don’t control that in any way. What are they supposed to do, build a wall across all the roads leading here since the school system sucks at planning and are hamstrung by the all taxes are evil crowd?

  9. Jim,

    My apologies for not mentioning the school issue; I’ll add in that it’s a concern for the neighbors.

    Susie,

    You’re absolutely right that traffic is a big concern, I didn’t mean to gloss over it. As you touched on, the HOA president had mentioned that it used to take her something like 7 minutes to drive to 540 and now it takes 18. I live off Capital Blvd, so believe me when I say I understand how frustrating the huge increase in traffic city-wide has been.

    Colin,

    A lot of excellent points, and it sounded to me like Councilor Cox is taking a lot of those into consideration when it comes to his approach on this case. As far as a public transit plan, I know transit easements were granted, but per the staff report: “Based upon estimated projected development intensities under the proposal, a Traffic Study was not required. However, increased intensity of development on the site will result in an increase in traffic in the area.”

    Brad,

    Thanks for mentioning the staff report; for an issue like this it would have been helpful if I linked it. There should be a link at the bottom of the article shortly to a copy of the full report on this that was given to Councilors at yesterday’s GNR meeting. I do think the City has been working to prevent the kind of problem you mentioned with infrastructure always having to play catch-up with new development. Especially when it comes to stormwater issues, I’ve been told countless times by City staffers that we are now “paying for the sins of the past” in as much that for a long time, nothing had really been done to address this.

    Lee,

    Funny about the wall; I was stuck on Capital Blvd just past the 440 interchange yesterday around 530 and was thinking “I wish we could build a wall just south of the 540 interchange (near Triangle Town Center) so all these Wake Forest people would quit using Capital to get home.” I do know WCPSS is building a lot of new facilities so hopefully overcrowding won’t become a problem. But if I’m not mistaken, increasing density in one part of the city should not have a severely negative impact on schools local to that area because of the way the county’s school assignment plan works. Could be wrong about that though!

    Thanks all for reading! Let me know if you have any questions/concerns/things that should be further clarified.

    James

  10. In all the comments here no one has given a reason why the land can’t be developed according to its current zoning which calls for single family homes at 4 per acre. This is what the current residents were told when they made the decision to purchase their homes.

    Brad, yes, it’s called a future land use map for a reason. It’s what the city expectation is for that land in the future. Something tells mean that inconsistency with the FLUM is more important that finding three policies that it is consistent with. Come on, citing “contextual design”?? And, “zoned for housing”? Yes, it’s zoned for housing, But, at 4 unit per acre, not 10. City staff has a well earned reputation for always being able to find some way, some how to indicate a rezoning is “reasonable and in the public interest”. It’s not a high bar for them to get over.

  11. Tim, those are three of the many policies that are consistent. Again, I urge you to review the staff report. There’s a lot in there that points towards approval of this project. If the city continues to push out different varieties of housing options that range in affordability, there could be terrible consequences.

  12. Brad, Additionally, calling this property a transitional area meant to be a buffer between the shopping center and the existing neighborhood is a bit disingenuous since it isn’t located between the shopping center and the neighborhood. Nothing built on that property will be a buffer between the shopping center and the existing homes.

    And, although I do agree that no one expects a bus line to the middle of nowhere, I also don’t expect the added density to be developed YEARS before the expected expansion of transit.

    Advocates for density are very good at their advocacy. In one breath they advocate for density downtown in order to stop sprawl. In the next breath they advocate for added density as far to the edge of the city limit as you can get in a supposed effort to bring transit to the area in the future which just causes the sprawl they are supposedly against.

    How about this. You get the transit running well inside the beltline for all the density we have been approving there which is supposed to stop all the sprawl. Once you are successful with that, then get back to us about upzoning the rest of the land near the outskirts of the city for higher density than was originally envisioned

  13. Tim,

    Posts like this are why I always read the comments section! Having written about this case a few times, I accidentally omitted this time the basic details of the requested rezoning. EDIT – this was meant to be a response to the 2:38 post.

    You’re spot-on about the expectations people had when they purchased their homes vs. what is now proposed. I added a paragraph near the beginning detailing the proposed changes. Even though the rezoning would technically allow for up to 287 units(!) on this property, the increase from the now-allowed 37 single family units to 100 apartment units is certainly significant.

    James

  14. Tim, at one point, the land your house currently sits on could have been zoned for something less dense, like agricultural. It got rezoned and it allowed you to move in. You cannot stop all growth from happening.
    Assuming you live in the neighborhood in question, you live on a lot that is about 0.15 acres, roughly. That’s pretty dense, relatively large house on small lots, close together without much yard. There is a lot of open space in this neighborhood, but that is the result of a USGS blueline stream running through the neighborhood and needing a buffer to ensure environmental protections. This is all to say that this neighborhood is already pretty dense. The developer, I’m sure, would have liked to max out it’s density but was unable to do so because of the stream. Take out all that open space you’re looking at closer to 7 houses per acre. You’re not living out in the country man, you’re living in a city.
    Smart development is building up density around commercial areas and transportation features. This allows for those living close by to travel less for goods and services. Would you rather shop at that Lowes Foods right across the street, or the Food Lion down towards Wake Tech?
    People here have also complained about the terrible traffic in the area. They are not wrong. You know what has caused that terrible traffic? Everyone moving into these dense subdivisions that were once farm land and open space. An apartment complex isn’t going to make things much worse, because you’re already causing the problem. (This is a good time to remind those complaining to vote for the Wake Transit Plan referendum. Increase the available and variety of transit options, decrease congestion.) Maybe this apartment complex will spur office development, decreasing travel time for those living in the area!

  15. Very good discussion. I find it hard to agree with the comments of the neighborhood for many of the reasons Brad listed above. Because of the amount of undeveloped land the perception is that there is not a great deal of density. However this undeveloped land is not protected and unless bought for a park or preserve will be developed. The neighborhood should be advocating a development pattern that recognizes this reality and seeks to implement changes that make this project and others better. Some of these concerns and points of discussion could be parks, transit, connectivity and urban design; and should emphasize how this project (and others) can fit into the Forestville Village Plan.

  16. No one is asking for this property not to be developed. They are asking for it to be developed at the current zoning level of R4. Let’s not throw out straw men arguments just to knock them down. That’s intellectually dishonest

  17. Brad, is the developer paying you to post glowing comments of how wonderful this will be for us? Sounds like Brad wants this next to his house.

    Cops get more calls here than the new subsidized housing complex south of Lowes? Show me your facts, because I say you’re full of it and you’re comparing ~150 units to almost 1000 single family homes. Many of the calls are because of them, trespassing to use the amenities we pay for. We had to take down the basketball goal because of it. The kids from the development have broken into garages in Braefield.

    It was also mentioned during the meeting, there is no plan to expand police/fire services to cover the new development. Police response time is already horrible all the way here. If this is “workforce” housing, why isn’t being built where the work is. And calling it ‘workforce’ housing is the lipstick, it’s still subsidized housing. Lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig. It still carries a stigma when selling your home.

  18. Brad,
    I am not against growth. But, you seem to define growth uniquely as density. Development of that property for residential use at its current zoning level also qualifies as growth. And, that is all that the local neighbors are asking for.

    But, once again you are talking about building up density around transportation features that DO NOT EXIST.

  19. Jim, where did all this come from? Why not just come out and say it, you don’t want any minorities or poor people living close to you. It’s fine that you feel that way, but it’s also kind of messed up.

    Tim, smart growth is increasing density. Dumb growth is sprawl, building single family developments on what was once farmland. Let’s try more smart growth and less dumb growth. It’s too late for the subdivision you’re in, but let’s not make the same mistake in the rest of the area.

    By the way, transportation features refers to ALL types of features, including the major thoroughfare that connects this area to 540 (that major thoroughfare being 401). Create more density (smartly) closer to that and put less strain on smaller roads that lead to it. This way, in the future, you won’t hear more people like yourself complaining.

  20. You can always count on someone throwing out “NIMBY!” It’s as if anyone advocating on behalf of their home/neighborhood/community has no credibility or sound arguments. Labeling them NIMBY ends the discussion. Raleigh in fact has a group called YIMBY, Y meaning Yes. The truth is more like YIYBY, which doesn’t spell out a pronounceable acronym, but is more accurate because these people appear all too happy to support anything goes development in YOUR backyard. Shoe’s on the other foot, let’s see how the “NIMBY!” crowd responds.

    All of this fails to take into account the basic fact about zoning, rezoning and development, which I posted on Mr. Borden’s interview with city councilor David Cox. http://raleighpublicrecord.org/news/2016/04/22/cox-the-best-i-can-do-is-be-a-good-steward/ I will repost part of that comment here, because this is the sort of case that exemplifies my earlier post:

    “In the most basic light, zoning is a promise to nearby property owners. Land was zoned for a reason and with allowances for whatever zoning permits. From a homeowner’s perspective, existing zoning can matter greatly when considering where to buy a home and/or raise a family. Rezoning, therefore, should have the burden — at least — to be net neutral impact on adjacent landowners or neighborhoods.

    Rezoning requests that threaten or harm adjacent landowners are the very reason there’s zoning in the first place.”

    It sounds as if people who live in this area view this rezoning as threatening and harmful. The developers and city itself owes it to these people to demonstrate that rezoning is good for the community. Otherwise, the city should pursue development under current zoning.

  21. In the Recommended Wake County Transit Plan, this development is not shown within the area that would be located near fixed-route transit service.

  22. It appears now that Brad is simply against ever building single family homes even on land that is zoned for .single family homes.

    It also appears that Brad is unaware that the proposed development is not to be “affordable” housing. It is proposed as “work force” housing. It was explained in detail that work force housing is not low income or subsidized housing. In fact work force housing is intended to be marketed to the same income level as could afford the surrounding single-family homes. So, this proposal does not do anything to help with increasing affordable housing in Raleigh and it does nothing for creating a mix of housing for different incomes in the area

  23. “Jim, where did all this come from? Why not just come out and say it, you don’t want any minorities or poor people living close to you. It’s fine that you feel that way, but it’s also kind of messed up.”

    Brad you are SO RIGHT! It’s 2016!! Jim is on the WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY here, probably a dumb Trumpkin who wants Drumpf to come in and build a wall around his precious subdivision to keep out all those troublesome blacks and hispanics!

    He tried to be slick BUT I’m glad we’re both enlightened enough to have been able to read through the lines: “We had to take down the basketball goal because of it.” White people don’t play basketball so we know exactly who he was talking about hear LOL what a pig.

    JIM this isn’t the 1700s and were not fighting the civil war anymor eyou moron! You probably have to call the cops because paeople keep tearing down the confederate flag youve got in your front yard LOL. Go back to burning crosses you BIGOT.

  24. Are we sure that the stigma of terms like ” workforce housing development” and ” affordable housing”, as it relates to property value not the most concerning issue? If so, shouldn’t that be the dialogue instead of what seems to be other irrelevant issues? The traffic problem in this area is nothing new to justify stopping new development.

  25. FiredUP, you really need to put your Al Sharpton card back in your wallet. I live in the same development as Jim and it is really quite diverse. He also speaks the truth regarding issues we have had regarding our amenities. The basketball goal was removed due to issues with outsiders. We pay a lot of money each year in HOA fees to keep our amenities in top shape. As I said we have a diverse set of neighbors that all get along, so you implying we otherwise is ignorant. As for this development, I have seen what happened so far with the apartment complex across the street from Lowes and am not excited to see another huge complex go up down the block.

  26. First a comment about the article: What is RVG? I had to go to a previous article to find out. How hard would it be to spell out the name at the first mention? Luckily I was able to figure out RVG must be the developer, but why make us work so hard?

    For more substantive matters, I think it goes back to something the Councilor Branch mentioned in the interview Raleigh Public Record did with him. The city does not take into account how affordable housing will be served with transit. One hundred units, even if each one has at least 2 people in it, isn’t going to be enough density to make extending transit that far out.

  27. We always talk about the NEED for more affordable housing in Raleigh – housing which is affordable to the workforce. The height or density from this development will not negatively affect anyone’s property values. The problem here is that no one likes change.

    While the Raleigh market becomes quickly unaffordable due to the decreased housing stock and the irrational push-back on these developments, we still have an issue at hand – high demand for workforce housing. Here is a product that can help address that issue.

  28. Helen,

    You are absolutely right about RVG – poor editorial oversight on my part. I initially had “Rea Ventures Group” in the lede but took it out at the last minute and forgot to put it in somewhere else.

    And yes, I agree that transit and affordable housing should go hand in hand, I don’t see the point in building an “affordable” place to live if there’s no transit. Even for people who have cars; they can break down and sometimes you need to take the bus. My last car was a ’97 Chevy Lumina, so believe me, I know!

    James