City leaders are working their way through a process that could lead to the creation of more dense growth in urban cores and the protection of suburban and residential areas.
Raleigh is updating its zoning designations, which lay out what types of development can go in certain parts of the city. The changes would bring the designations in line with the new unified development ordinance, or UDO, which sets rules for new growth.
While much of the process is bureaucratic and esoteric, the rules affect things that sometimes draw complaints from neighbors, like the height of new buildings.
For two years, the city has been working under two different development codes. The updated designations, reflected in a city zoning map, will put everything under one ordinance, eliminating any confusion about proposed development projects.
“Everyone will be operating under the new code, and we can put the old code on the shelf,” said Travis Crane, a city planner who oversaw the remapping process.
City staff and the Raleigh Planning Commission worked to apply new zoning designations to about 70 percent of the city, Crane said. The city council will have to give final approval to the changes.
Under the new zoning designations, dense growth would be centered around areas like downtown, Hillsborough Street and Brier Creek in northwest Raleigh.
Residential areas – including much of North Raleigh – wouldn’t see much of that urban development. Those areas would remain the same.
In 2013, the city took on the task of overhauling the UDO, which supports a larger comprehensive plan that lays out a big-picture vision of how Raleigh will grow.
The plan supports a more pedestrian-friendly city with a focus on transit hubs and dense, urban pockets.
At the time, the UDO was more than 50 years old, said Steve Schuster, chairman of the Raleigh Planning Commission.
“It was appropriate for its time but very much oriented to suburban growth,” Schsuter said. “We were trying to use that code for a process that was increasingly looking at redevelopment in an urban core, and it obviously didn’t work anymore.”
Property owners’ concerns
Some of the biggest changes in the new designations are frontage and height restrictions.
Allowing buildings closer to the sidewalk is key to creating urban areas, Schuster said, while limiting the height of buildings can create transitions between residential and commercial development.
City staff avoided recommending zoning changes that would be significantly different than the current zoning, Crane said, but it couldn’t always be avoided.
The planning commission and staff heard from more than 500 property owners who objected to the new proposed designation of their properties.
CVM Holdings, the owner of Crabtree Valley Mall, had some concerns.
Neil Rudolph, vice president of the company, said he was worried the new frontage requirements would make it hard to improve the exterior of the mall building.
It’s essential to the mall’s survival to be able to make quick changes without burdensome requirements, Rudolph told the planning commission earlier this month.
But the changes won’t affect property owners unless they choose to redevelop the property, Crane said. New designations will not be applied to what’s already on the property.