Triangle Briefs

Neighbors unite against parking deck

Rezoning pushed to help Stanhope Avenue fend off four-story deck near NCSU

Staff WriterMarch 14, 2008 

— A group of residents in a tucked-away neighborhood are trying to fight off plans to put a parking deck next to a student dorm planned near N.C. State University's campus.

"It may not look like a lot, but to us it's the world," Mary Hennessy said about her home on Stanhope Avenue, near the campus's western edge and south of Hillsborough Street.

Hennessy and others in the small neighborhood of mostly one-story, unassuming bungalows don't have issues with the planned dormitory. Capstone Development, an Alabama company, wants to raze six boarded-up houses that sit on the eastern end of Stanhope Avenue and, in their place, build a 10-story private student dorm, according to court documents and news reports.

But neighbors don't want a four-story concrete parking deck that is part of the $88.5 million project.

"It'll put a lot of the houses in the shade," said Janet Clarke, another neighbor. "It'll look ridiculous."

To oppose the structured parking deck, several of Hennessy's neighbors informed the city that they would like to have the area rezoned as a residential area from the industrial zoning it has had since the 1950s.

Hillsborough Ventures, the company that owns the land and plans to lease it to Capstone, also tried to have the property rezoned, but as a conditional industrial zone, knowing that city ordinances allow for only one zoning request for a property to be heard at a time.

Greg Hallam, a senior planner with the city, suggested a coin toss to settle the dispute, a solution neither side wanted.

Hillsborough Ventures then filed a lawsuit Feb. 27 against the city and unsuccessfully asked a judge to step in and stop the city from moving ahead with the rezoning petitions. The suit is pending.

City staff, in the the meantime, have asked the council to consider changing the text of the ordinances to allow more than one zoning request for a property to be heard at the same time. A third request concerning the zoning issue is pending at the Raleigh Board of Adjustments.

For some neighbors of the Stanhope Avenue development, the issue has morphed into a struggle that illustrates the difficulty small communities have protecting themselves from encroaching growth. The area around the neighborhood is blighted, with empty warehouses and lawns serving as parking lots for NCSU students and employees. But the city is taking a stab at revitalizing an area to the east of Stanhope. Late last year, it announced plans to install roundabouts along the Hillsborough Street corridor as part of an $8 million streetscape plan stretching from Gardner Street to Oberlin Road.

Residents are hoping that the city sides with their request to be designated as a residential zone.

"We are inside the Beltline; we are an old neighborhood," Clarke said. "It's a shame that we're forgotten."

sarah.ovaska@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4622.

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