Midtown Raleigh News

North Raleigh Publix grocery battle heats up

After months of heated, standing-room-only neighborhood meetings, the proposed Falls of Neuse Road Publix grocery will finally reach the city planning commission this week.

The commission will discuss the rezoning request from Florida-based Morgan Property Group at 9 a.m. Tuesday. The request would allow for a shopping center – anchored by a 49,000-square-foot Publix store – at the corner of Dunn and Falls of Neuse roads.

Many neighbors have been lobbying against the development, with fears of increased traffic along residential streets as a key point of contention. When the project came up for a vote at the North Citizens Advisory Council, the result was 522-23.

With those numbers, expect a crowd at Tuesday’s planning commission meeting, which will have a public comment component. The commission will make recommendations to the Raleigh City Council, which gets the final say.

City planners will present their report Tuesday, detailing how the rezoning fits – or doesn’t fit – with Raleigh’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan for growth.

Worried that the staff report might be favorable to Publix, opponents criticized interim planning director Ken Bowers on Twitter, arguing that he’s “tight” with developers. They pointed to his leadership role with the Urban Land Institute, which also has Morgan’s attorney, Mack Paul, on a committee.

Further complicating matters, Publix opponents announced Monday that they’ve filed a petition to change the Comprehensive Plan’s land-use designation for the site. That could slow the approval process because the rezoning is supposed to be guided by the Comprehensive Plan.

The North Raleigh Coalition of Homeowners Associations is also asking city leaders to require that all development of lots larger than two acres in the Richland Creek watershed must preserve 40 percent of trees on the property. The watershed area includes the Publix site.

“Protecting the water isn’t just about protecting drinking water but also about protecting the environment,” David Cox wrote in an email to the city council Friday morning.

And even if the rezoning request gets to the Raleigh City Council in its current form, Publix developers could have an extra hurdle to clear: Protest petitions filed by neighbors will likely force a city council supermajority to approve the request.

That means just three “no” votes could kill the project.