The city’s planning commission voted unanimously Tuesday against supporting a North Raleigh rezoning request that would allow for a mixed-use development near the site of a proposed Publix grocery that was fought by neighbors.
The ‘no’ vote puts the estimated $50 million project at the corner of Falls of Neuse and Raven Ridge roads in doubt, as it makes its way to the City Council. Before the developer, D&N Development, can move forward with the project, the council must approve rezoning the 17.3-acre wooded site to allow for commercial use.
Neighbors spoke in opposition to the project at Tuesday’s commission meeting, expressing concerns over traffic, noise and preserving the Falls Lake watershed. Early plans include 160 condominiums, a roughly 50,000-square-foot grocery store and about 56,000 square feet of additional retail space.
Nick Brown of D&N Development said after the meeting that he was disappointed with the vote, but is optimistic about the rezoning itself and will keep trying to tailor the proposal to the city’s wishes.
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“We’re not going to take this as a mandate against this,” Brown said. “We’re going to go to the city to find out what we can do better.”
Neighbors cited a city report that found the development to be inconsistent with the city’s comprehensive plan, which acts as a guide for Raleigh’s growth.
In the report, city planners said the site, about two miles north of Interstate 540, would be a good place for office or multi-unit residential buildings, but that free-standing retail was not appropriate for the area.
Brown said the development was warranted, and emphasized that the affordable housing was needed in the area.
“We have been meeting with teachers and nurses and police serving our city but commuting from Johnston County where they are forced to find affordable living,” he said. “We are local and saw an opportunity to help support that cause, because it just isn’t right.”
Planning commissioner Adam Terando complimented D&N’s plan for affordable housing, but said he felt the building would be better somewhere else, citing the land’s urban watershed protections that require wooded area to cover 40 percent of the land. The developers’ plan calls for protecting 12 percent of the existing trees and planting new trees to make up the remaining tree cover.
“I feel really uncomfortable with the clear-cutting,” Terando said.
The project, which is similar to a 2014 proposal to build a shopping center anchored with a Publix a half-mile south, met opposition from neighbors in August at the North Citizens Advisory Council. The advisory council, which is made up of residents who provide feedback to the city on proposed developments, voted 224-89 in opposition of the project.
Where the Publix was once proposed, at the corner of Falls of Neuse and Dunn, a developer now plans to build a senior-living center, and the plan has gotten a warmer reception from neighbors.
As the commissioners discussed why they were voting against the D&N project, some complimented the neighbors for what they called civil and thoughtful conversation. But the chairman, Eric Braun, said he was offended by some of the emails sent by residents that called the developer “shameful” and their neighbors “sell-outs.”
Braun, who represented some people hoping to build large North Raleigh residential developments in the 1990s, said he detected a “tinge of hypocrisy” in the current rezoning case. In the earlier cases, North Raleigh residents in what was then relatively rural land expressed concerns over traffic, noise, light and preserving the watershed, he said.
“You are making comments that were made about you 10, 15 years ago,” he said.
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi