Development Beat: Planning Commission Report

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Planning Commissioners on Tuesday faced a packed agenda: three new rezoning cases, three new text changes and two old text changes.

Most importantly of all, however: the oft-discussed transition requirements outlined in the City’s Unified Development Ordinance were praised by the public during a discussion related to them. It’s always nice to hear from someone who has something positive to say!

The biggest of the rezoning cases, the one that brought out the News & Observer and a TV station I wasn’t able to identify, was Z-7-16, which we wrote about last week. The case would rezone an existing residential property to allow for office use by Hand of Hope, a Christian Pregnancy Center.

1522 Jones Franklin Road, which may soon be home to the offices of Hand of Hope

Wake County

1522 Jones Franklin Road, which may soon be home to the offices of Hand of Hope

The center would be located next door to the Preferred Women’s Health Center, an abortion clinic on Jones Franklin Road. As is to be expected, the case has garnered some controversy among local neighbors, who don’t want to see any conflict spill over into their neighborhood. Nonetheless, the case was recommended for approval by a 30-17 vote from the local Citizens Advisory Council.

Planning Commission Chairman Steven Schuster began the discussion of the case with a brief explanation of the role of the Commission.

“Our role here is to view requests for zoning changes based on our Comprehensive Plan and our Future Land Use Map: those two documents do not speak to the individual use and tenancies of those properties,” Schuster said.

“I acknowledge this is a sensitive issue with very passionate feelings on both sides – I have very passionate feelings – that being said, today is about the rezoning of the property and whether it’s consistent or not with the Comprehensive Plan and the Future Land Use Map, so those who want to speak about the use of the building: this is not the venue for it.”

Schuster said these concerns should be addressed at City Council’s Public Hearing on the case, at which time Councilors can choose to approve or deny the rezoning request. Councilors are not bound by the same limitations as the Commissioners are, Schuster said, noting that the decision was ultimately in the hands of “people we’ve all voted for.”

Two neighbors spoke in favor of the rezoning. Ed Bell, whose family had lived on the adjacent street for more than 30 years, said they were in favor of the project because it would not create a lot of traffic and would maintain the residential appearance.

Two neighbors spoke out against the project. Thomas Brown said he was worried that the potential conflict between Hand of Hope and Preferred Women’s could have a negative impact on the surrounding neighborhood.

Commissioners voted unanimously to recommend approval of the rezoning.

The first case Commissioners heard Tuesday was for Z-5-16, a rezoning case for an 11.65 acre site on Rock Quarry Road that is partially encumbered by a power line easement. There are a variety of apparent development possibilities, so we’ll include them below, per the rezoning application..

The maximum development intensities for the NX Parcel shall be one of the following scenarios, at the election of the property owner: a. 55,000 square feet of any use or uses set forth in the Commercial or Public & Institutional land use categories (excluding Retail Sales); or b. 15,590 square feet of Retail Sales land uses and 23,000 square feet of Office/Medical land uses; or c. 55 residential dwelling units; or d. 24 residential dwelling units and 15,000 square feet of any use identified in the Commercial land use category (excluding Retail Sales); or e. 24 residential dwelling units and 19,000 square feet of Retail Sales land uses

The maximum development intensities for the RX Parcel shall be one of the following scenarios, at the election of the property owner: a. 108 residential dwelling units; or b. 10,500 square feet of any use identified.

The site in question

The site in question

Got all that? No members of the public were present to speak in favor of or against the project, and Commissioners voted to recommend approval with a condition about adding a transit shelter.

The final rezoning case, Z-8-16, is a simple request for a new parking lot for a dentist’s office on Wake Forest Road. Considering the subject material, the case was discussed for quite some time, but we’ll spare you the details. Even though I was taking notes the entire time, I half zoned-out.

Suffice to say, it was recommended for approval.

We’ll do you a similar favor for the three new text change cases: they were all deferred to the Commission’s Text Change Committee.

A real quick rundown on what they were: TC-5-16: Would allow townhomes on a portion of New Bern Avenue. TC-8-16 related to Construction Surety, Warranty & Acceptance and TC-9 was for a Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District for the North Ridge South Neighborhood.

The two Comprehensive Plan Amendments, an omnibus change and an economic development incentive, were held at the table.

Planning Commission Chairman Steven Schuster

Planning Commission Chairman Steven Schuster

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