Last January I learned about “Spencer Ridge,” a proposed 100,000 square foot grocery-anchored shopping center at Falls of Neuse and Raven Ridge roads. For nearly a year this case wound through neighborhood meetings, the North Citizens Advisory Council and the Planning Commission, finally arriving at Raleigh City Council on Dec. 6.
As The N&O reported in the Dec. 11 news article “City Council wants more details on controversial development plan,” the CAC voted 224-89 against rezoning and the Planning Commission recommended denial by a 9-0 vote.
I, likewise, cannot support this proposal and have argued strongly for City Council to deny rezoning.
The proposed shopping center is located in District B which I represent on City Council. It would generate an estimated 10,500 additional vehicle trips a day. That’s thousands of vehicles entering, parking and exiting every weekday, possibly many more on busy weekends.
When it rains, water will seep into the ground (or be stored in some fashion) and released into area streams in a controlled way to minimize the risk of flooding – the expectation being that the ground will filter pollutants leaking from vehicles. That expectation is cold comfort to nearby residents whose drinking water comes from wells; some that are quite shallow.
It should also sound an alarm across Raleigh. The site is in the Richland Creek watershed protection area that drains into the Neuse River, just upstream of a water intake facility. Richland Creek is designated as a water supply watershed, meaning future drinking water for Raleigh’s growing population may be at stake.
Because the land is in a water supply watershed, Raleigh’s Unified Development Ordinance requires that 40 percent of the property must remain forested. This explains why the city’s Comprehensive Plan does not envision the rezoning site for such large-scale commercial development.
In public meetings for the Spencer Ridge rezoning, it’s been suggested that the watershed ordinance is a “clerical error” meaning “cut down the trees.” Yet the council recently approved a rezoning for a senior living facility half a mile north on Falls, where another developer committed to meet the 40 percent requirement.
As the CAC and Planning Commission votes indicate, and Raleigh’s Planning Department staff report for this case concluded, this rezoning is not compatible at Falls and Raven Ridge. Among many reasons, to me, incompatibility with a water supply watershed ranks very high.
Raleigh can, and should, balance growth with appropriate measures to protect our neighborhoods and our sources of drinking water.
Raleigh City Council
The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the issue.