City leaders plan to meet with Raleigh residents throughout August to address an array of concerns about the city’s proposal to introduce new development zones.
Municipal zones dictate the type of development – retail, office, residential, and others – that can be built in certain areas.
Raleigh staff has been crafting new zones for about 30 percent of the city for more than a year but in recent months has drawn critiques from thousands of residents, many of whom fear the proposed zones could change the character of their neighborhoods.
The Raleigh City Council, gathered for a special work session Monday, said they want to meet with affected neighborhoods and people who spoke during public hearings earlier this month before voting. City staff will offer to meet individually with each person who spoke during the public hearings, planning director Ken Bowers said. Council members and staff will also offer to meet with neighborhood groups.
Learning about new zones is like learning how to use a new computer: complicated, but ultimately useful, Councilman Bonner Gaylord said. “We’re upgrading from a 2005 MacBook Pro to a 2015 MacBook Pro,” Gaylord said.
The council didn’t set a schedule for meeting with stakeholders or a set timeline for voting on the proposed zones. Council members did agree to start their review process by examining how proposed zones might affect downtown.
The council plans to review downtown zones next Monday at a meeting in which they’re already scheduled to talk about their longterm vision for downtown.
Residents from downtown’s Oakwood neighborhood and historically black neighborhoods in southeast Raleigh have voiced some of the most vocal opposition. “I think we’re moving just a little too fast,” said councilman Eugene Weeks, who represents southeast Raleigh.
The hearings were heated at times. The first, at City Hall, was so crowded that many watched the proceedings on televisions in the lobby because the council chamber was full.
At the second hearing, held inside the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, people hurled insults at the council and threatened to vote them out of office.
It remains unclear whether the council will vote on the proposed zones before the Oct. 6 election. The mayor and all seven council seats are up for election, and some disagreed on how soon the council should take action.
The city council could vote to approve some proposed zones that haven’t received much, if any, criticism, Bowers said. City staff has collected only about two dozen unique, specific concerns out of the hundreds of comments made at public hearings, he said.
Weeks and Councilman Russ Stephenson said they favored a slow review of the rezoning effort. Councilman John Odom said he’d be willing to vote for some of the noncontroversial zones at the next meeting, on Aug. 4.