As new construction blooms in areas like Hillsborough Street, city leaders are debating how close development can come to existing single-family neighborhoods.
Transition zones were the hot topic during last week’s comprehensive planning committee meeting, with Hillsborough Street as the main focus. High-density development already can’t come within 50 feet of residential neighborhoods, but the buffer zone doesn’t apply when the two are separated by a narrow street or alley.
City Councilman Russ Stephenson said it’s unreasonable to allow a seven-story apartment building directly across from a single-family home. “I don’t think this would ever be viewed as respecting the neighborhood preservation,” he said.
The Cameron Park neighborhood has been pushing for additional protections because a narrow alley separates homes from commercial lots facing Hillsborough Street. Homeowners association president Neil Riemann says his group would support a “no build” zone around the alleys.
But Charlotte developer Jim Zanoni said the proposal would curb development along Hillsborough, including several properties he owns.
“There are significant unintended consequences, and nobody’s thought about it or approached us to discuss it,” he said.
Zanoni points to several apartment buildings he couldn’t have built with the additional buffer requirement: the 2604 Hillsborough development that houses Saxbys Coffee, as well as two other projects that were recently approved.
Zanoni argues that an alley serves as an effective buffer between different uses, and he says the undeveloped lots he owns along Hillsborough are being singled out. “Why is the focus solely on our property?” he said.
Also at last week’s meeting, city council members dropped a proposed limit of the size of grocery stores in certain zoning districts. That rule could have impacted a controversial Publix grocery planned in North Raleigh, because neighborhood mixed use districts couldn’t have a grocery store larger than 45,000 square feet.
Instead, the council is mulling the creation of a new zoning classification that could better proscribe the size of retail developments in different areas. “I’m glad to see that cap taken off for the time being,” Councilman Eugene Weeks said.
The full council was scheduled to spend Tuesday morning discussing the proposals from last week as well as other tweaks to the new zoning code.
But Councilman Bonner Gaylord said last week that he’s not convinced the changes are needed. “We’re getting to a point where we are in analysis paralysis,” he said. “We need more data in order to know whether those adjustments are necessary and immediately urgent.”