Scores of citizens made impassioned pleas Tuesday night for Raleigh leaders to reconsider a plan to rezone nearly a third of the city, an effort that has drawn ongoing pushback from thousands of residents.
Nearly 100 people filled seats at Fletcher Hall at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts for the city’s second public hearing on the proposed zones.
The process has drawn attention because city zones dictate the type of development that can be built in certain areas, and some residents fear a new zoning could change the character of their neighborhoods. In some cases, proposed changes would allow business and retail development in areas currently dominated by low-density neighborhoods. Some proposed zones would allow for taller buildings.
Many speakers drew applause with their comments in opposition.
“It’s destroying the fabric of our families and neighborhoods,” Sylvia Wiggins, a Southeast Raleigh resident, said of rezoning plans.
After listening to more than 80 speakers, the City Council scheduled a special meeting for 4 p.m. on Monday to discuss how leaders might address residents’ concerns. The council, whose members did not respond to Tuesday’s comments, hopes to review proposals for nearly every affected neighborhood during a series of work sessions, Mayor Nancy McFarlane said.
“We really need to take some time and figure out how we’re going to pick it apart and address it,” she said.
City officials had picked Tuesday’s venue because the first public hearing earlier this month drew hundreds who could not be accommodated at Raleigh City Hall. That night, police officers had to use whistles to control a lively crowd and many watched the hearing on televisions in the lobby because the council chamber was full.
Council members sat on an opera stage facing the crowd. Residents from some neighborhoods wore matching colors, expressing agreement as speakers questioned the rezoning process.
The crowd was smaller Tuesday, but speakers were just as lively and creative in their protests.
The first speaker prayed for the Raleigh City Council members. Another man referred to the city flag as a “militaristic” symbol, and a few got sassy with McFarlane when she told them their two-minute comment period had expired.
Residents from north Raleigh, downtown’s Oakwood neighborhood and historically black neighborhoods in southeast Raleigh have been some of the most vocal opponents.
Proposed zoning would allow a wider variety of development in Oakwood, which is mostly residential, said David Wiesner.
“I don’t believe that historic Oakwood needs more density,” he said.
Most speakers expressed general worries that the new zones, referred to by their technical designations, would change their neighborhoods.
Marian Rowland said she’s “just opposed to big buildings being built around me.”
Gene Alston said, “A lot of people don’t understand what R-20 is or R-30,” referring to zoning codes, “and this is not their fault. Let’s let everyone know exactly how it’s going to affect you.”
Some accused city planners of being secretive about the process, saying they hadn’t received notice letters about the rezoning. Mischelle Corbin said she owns several properties in Raleigh but wasn’t notified of proposals affecting the zoning surrounding any of those sites.
“The outcry is part lack of communication and part lack of trust,” Corbin said.
A few expressed very specific concerns.
Amanda Holt, who lives in the Smoketree subdivision off Capital Boulevard, said she opposed proposed zoning that would allow for five-story buildings.
“There’s no good reason to build another strip mall … or car dealership,” Holt said.
Ken Treimann, who lives on Watauga Street in downtown Raleigh, said proposed zoning allows denser development in his neighborhood than in surrounding areas.
“There’s no transition here,” he said.