City council members will hold a special meeting Sept. 16 to consider new zoning restrictions that could affect controversial plans for a Publix grocery store in North Raleigh.
The tweaks to Raleigh’s new zoning code could limit the size of grocery stores built close to neighborhoods, and curbs on development in watershed areas are also possible.
Grow Raleigh Great, a group of neighborhood leaders who oppose Publix and several other developments, proposed the changes. The council’s Comprehensive Planning Committee has been vetting the changes in a series of meetings this summer.
The grocery size cap took shape at an Aug. 27 committee meeting and could have wide-reaching effects. If the council approves the rule, properties classified as neighborhood mixed use couldn’t have a grocery store larger than 45,000 square feet.
The Publix proposal hinges upon the city council approving a neighborhood mixed use designation for the Falls of Neuse Road site. The developers want to build a nearly 50,000-square-foot store, and they’ve said a smaller model would have trouble competing. The Harris Teeter store a few blocks south is 54,000 square feet.
“I think there are probably some concerns in the industry about the 45,000 cap,” said Mack Paul, an attorney who’s representing the Publix developers.
Although council members haven’t yet voted on the cap, Grow Raleigh Great issued a news release highlighting the discussion. “Grow Raleigh Great applauds these first steps to reform the Unified Development Ordinance to protect Raleigh’s most important resources – its neighborhoods and its watersheds,” the statement said.
If approved, the cap could force Publix to shrink its proposed store or apply for a different zoning designation. But Tim Niles, a member of Grow Raleigh Great, encouraged the council to go further, possibly by enacting a 30,000-square-foot cap for watershed areas like Falls of Neuse.
Councilman Russ Stephenson told Niles that it’s too soon to discuss a special watershed restriction.
“We don’t have enough information to say this is the right number,” he said.