Panel rejects Cameron Village zoning change for ex-NCSU coach's house

ccampbell@newsobserver.comOctober 1, 2013 

— The city’s planning commission on Tuesday rejected a request to rezone the former home of the late N.C. State basketball coach Everett Case, saying the move would unfairly restrict development on neighboring lots in fast-growing Cameron Village.

The house at 611 Daniels St. backs up to a planned five-story apartment building on Oberlin Road, and its current owner, Michael Mettrey, fears that similar development will follow.

“He’s going to be sort of boxed in by all sides,” Mettrey’s attorney, Robin Currin, told the commission. “They could come very close and be very tall, and that’s what the Mettreys are worried about.”

While his house and lot are now valued at $612,000, Mettrey – and his neighbors – want the legendary coach’s house to stay put. Developer Willie York built the 2,800-square-foot home around 1960 for Case, who often hosted Wolfpack players there before his death in 1966.

“This home has been called the jewel of Cameron Village,” said Daniels Street resident Linda Minetree, who along with the Cameron Village Neighborhood Association supports the rezoning.

But the planning commission didn’t buy that argument, pointing out that Mettrey already has the right to keep his property unchanged.

“If we approve this, it’s in effect a taking of value from three adjacent properties,” commission member Steve Schuster said. “It’s hard for me based on that to say this is in the public’s best interest.”

Two of the properties that border Mettrey are owned by developer Jim Anthony. On the Oberlin side, Anthony got City Council approval earlier this year to replace a one-story office building with a five-story, 250-unit apartment complex. And next door on Daniels Street, Anthony owns a small apartment building he’d originally planned to include in the 616 Oberlin project. That component was dropped in response to neighborhood concerns, and the site faces an unclear future.

Mettrey wants his lot downzoned from a multifamily residential designation to a single-family category. That would create buffer requirements on Anthony’s land and a mixed-use property to the south, meaning the neighbors couldn’t build within 50 feet of Mettrey’s property line.

“For 615 Daniels, that’s a third of the site that can’t be developed for building purposes,” said Michael Birch, an attorney representing Anthony.

The buffer wouldn’t apply to the Oberlin Road site because the project has already been approved. But Birch argued that the rezoning would make the apartment complex “nonconforming” with zoning restrictions, possibly harming Anthony’s ability to secure financing.

Birch also pointed out that Mettrey had a chance to rezone in 2010 with other Cameron Village homeowners, but he didn’t. Mettrey says he wasn’t informed about the plan, but some neighbors say he refused to join the petition.

The city’s new zoning code, known as the Unified Development Ordinance, took effect Sept. 1 and changed the buffer requirements. “It’s really the transition to the UDO that’s led to this case,” Birch noted.

But Currin said the rezoning would protect the Cameron Village community well outside Mettrey’s property line. “We think it’s going to be beneficial to other people in the neighborhood,” she said. “It’s going to keep the traffic down, and there’s going to be less of an impact on infrastructure.”

The planning board’s recommendation now goes to the Raleigh City Council for a final vote. The outcome of Mettrey’s request could set a precedent for a similar rezoning that Councilman Russ Stephenson is considering for his historic home on Oberlin Road, in an area that is also facing development pressures.

Campbell: 919-829-4802; Twitter: @RaleighReporter

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