UDO Day 14: Making the transition

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The Raleigh planning department released its draft Unified Development Ordinance April 6. The public has until June 6 to make comments before a public hearing June 7. In order to understand what’s in this new zoning code, the Record is reading it cover to cover and will be writing about what we find six days a week.

While some people are content living in the hustle and bustle of a mixed-use district, others – primarily in residential districts – prefer a buffer between their backyards and higher density.

When a mixed-use district is within 50 feet of a boundary of residential district – R-1, R-2, R-4, R-10 and RX, to be exact – and the adjacent property is zoned to accommodate a detached house or attached house for residential purposes, a transition must be used.

Christine Darges, UDO project manager with the Raleigh Planning Department, explained: In the current code, transitions are referred to as transitional protective yards and are used between two uses of different impacts, such as between a gas station and a church.

“In the new ordinance we’re looking at transitions in a broader way,” Darges said. “Not only separating uses but also providing linkages to uses to where they’re suitable.”

Along with providing for traditional transitions, the UDO will soften the edges of higher-density areas so they blend with lower-density areas. Darges said addressing transitions came out of the comprehensive plan workshops last summer and has been a recurring theme during the past five or six months.

“It’s really all about neighborhood protections,” Darges said.

If someone lives in a residential district adjacent to a commercially zoned property, Darges said the homeowner should feel confident that the developer would allow for suitable buffer between the districts.

There are three kinds of transitions. Depending on the location, at least two will be used as a buffer between the residential district and the mixed-use district.

Zone A: Protective Yard

A protective yard is primarily made up of trees and other plants, such as shrubs, that help screen the existing development from a new development. This protective yard can be 10, 20 or 50 feet, depending on which type is applied. For a 10- and 20-foot protective area, a six- to eight-foot wall is also included along with heavy shade trees, smaller trees and bushes. If desired, a 50-foot protective yard can also have a wall or a berm in lieu of bushes.

Zone B: Use Restricted

After the protective yard, a low-intensity use area begins. Low intensity could be parking, outdoor dining, a playground, a community garden, or a small civic building. If a civic building is constructed in this area, it must not be more than 24 feet in height and built at least 25 feet from the boundary line. These buildings would have a maximum length of 75 feet and be 40 feet away from another accessory building.

Zone C: Height and Form

Zone C is a gradual decrease from the multi-story buildings that could be found in a mixed-use area.

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