Wake County

Developer cancels controversial North Raleigh grocery plan

Rezoning opposition signs line a section of Falls of the Neuse Road on Tuesday, January 10, 2015 in North Raleigh. On Monday, May 11, 2015, the developer dropped plans to build the long-debated Publix grocery store proposed for the intersection of Dunn Road and Falls of Neuse Road.
Rezoning opposition signs line a section of Falls of the Neuse Road on Tuesday, January 10, 2015 in North Raleigh. On Monday, May 11, 2015, the developer dropped plans to build the long-debated Publix grocery store proposed for the intersection of Dunn Road and Falls of Neuse Road. tlong@newsobserver.com

A controversial plan to build a grocery store and shopping center in North Raleigh is dead in the water.

Morgan Property Group has been pushing the development proposal for nearly 18 months, originally planning to build a Publix grocery store on the site at Falls of Neuse and Dunn roads. The developer faced organized and widespread neighborhood resistance.

Publix pulled out of the plan earlier this year, but Morgan continued with other possible tenants. News of the plan’s cancellation comes only a day before it was due for a final public hearing and a potential vote before the Raleigh City Council.

Attorney Mack Paul confirmed Monday that he was headed to Raleigh City Hall and intended to ask to withdraw the rezoning proposal on behalf of his client, Morgan Property Group.

However, the city still must hold a public hearing, according to planning administrator Travis Crane. In previous similar situations, developers have simply asked that the council vote down their plan.

In a written release, company president Trey Morgan said that an “increasingly bitter and hostile climate” had made it “impossible to properly engage the community at large and for city Council to weigh the merits of the case.”

“This was a difficult decision,” he said. “We have worked diligently over the past two years to bring a high quality development to this community which balanced legitimate concerns about neighborhood impacts with smart development practices. We very much appreciate those neighbors, staff members, and city leaders who engaged us in a positive, constructive manner.”

The project would have required a “super-majority” vote, with approval by six of eight council members.

Morgan noted that the company had reduced the overall square footage of the project and the size of the anchor space, which he said that Mayor Nancy McFarlane had helped to arrange. However, the change would have come with an increase in residential units for the project.

David Cox, an organizer of neighborhood opposition to the development plan, contested the idea that a hostile climate had impeded the conversation.

“All I can say about the ‘hostile environment’ is that we always welcomed a developer who’s willing to come into the area and develop under the current zoning,” he said. In other words, they would have supported an office-focused project.

“It’s a disagreement, in terms of the vision for what should be developed there.”

The proposal would have allowed for up to 58,000 square feet of retail development, along with residential development. Morgan had discussed the possibility of adding townhouses.

The chief opposition group, the North Raleigh Coalition of Homeowners Associations, had focused on potential traffic impacts. Because the store would not have direct road access to the main road, they argued that it would draw thousands of cars each day onto their neighborhood entrance roads.

Morgan argued that the development proposal would have created less traffic during rush hours than the land’s current zoning, citing its latest traffic study. Cox said that the overall traffic impact still would have been greater.

The neighborhood group, known as NORCHOA, has considered running candidates in this year’s council elections, but it hasn’t decided whether it will.

It could be some time before another plan for the site arises. The city requires a two-year waiting period between hearings for different plans for the same property, except when council grants a waiver.

However, development could continue under the current zoning, which allows up to 207,000 square feet of office space, 172 residential units, 6,000 square feet of retail or some combination of those.

Meanwhile, another plan is forming down the road: A developer has expressed interest in building a sizable grocery store at Raven Ridge and Falls of Neuse roads, roughly a mile from the Dunn Road site.

“We’re very concerned about that,” Cox said. But first, he said, his group needs a breather.

Kenney: 919-829-4870;

Twitter: @KenneyNC

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