Wake County

Raleigh City Council approves remapping

Glenwood-Brooklyn resident Bob Fesmire was part of a neighborhood group that asked Raleigh leaders to protect residential zoning.
Glenwood-Brooklyn resident Bob Fesmire was part of a neighborhood group that asked Raleigh leaders to protect residential zoning. hlynch@newsobserver.com

After months of toiling with specifics, the Raleigh City Council on Monday unanimously approved a remapping that could lead to noticeable effects on development, such as taller buildings and dense construction in key areas of the city.

The effort brings zoning designations for more than 35,000 parcels of land in line with the city’s Unified Development Ordinance, known as a UDO, which was adopted in 2013. Most of Raleigh’s residential areas were not part of the remapping.

The completion of the UDO gives developers and landowners some predictability, Mayor Nancy McFarlane said after the council’s work session Monday. It will also set Raleigh up for the next wave of growth, she said.

The new development map will go into effect Feb. 14.

“This was brutal, very difficult work,” Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin said during the meeting.

The remapping process began almost seven years ago when the city starting drafting a new UDO to fit with the Comprehensive Plan, a long-range vision for Raleigh’s growth. The new UDO has zoning designations, including guidelines for higher density, that didn’t exist under the old code.

A new UDO also meant the city had to create a new map that designates potential uses, such as office space or retail, for most parcels of land.

The process became contentious this summer, when the council held two public hearings. More than 100 residents told city leaders they were concerned about property values, unwanted development and other consequences of zoning changes.

The council addressed each concern through neighborhood meetings, work sessions and discussions with individual residents. Senior Planner Travis Crane said staff met with more than 350 residents following the public hearings.

City staff and the council ultimately made only small changes to the remapping, adjusting some mixed-use designations near neighborhood borders and removing commercial zoning in residential areas.

Nineteen properties will go to the Planning Commission for consideration for a less restrictive zoning, Crane said. Those will eventually come before the City Council again.

Some people criticized the council for moving through the process too quickly.

David Cox, a North Raleigh neighborhood activist who was elected to the council last month, has been outspoken about the seemingly quick approval of the remapping. Cox urged the city to be more cautious about development during his successful campaign to unseat John Odom, who is serving his eighth term on the council.

Dunn Road may have cost me the election, but we zoned it right.

Raleigh City Councilman John Odom

Cox gained support in 2014 when he led neighborhood opposition to a Publix grocery store on Dunn Road. Under the new remapping, that parcel is rezoned to allow retail.

“Dunn Road may have cost me the election, but we zoned it right,” Odom said.

Councilman Russ Stephenson said Monday he wanted to see changes made to downtown designations. The council agreed to vote on the downtown remapping separately, but it didn’t win enough votes for the remapping not to be applied downtown.

Only Stephenson and Kay Crowder voted against approving remapping for the downtown area. Stephenson said he wanted to prioritize the recently adopted Downtown Plan before approving the remapping. But he said he was happy to be done with the project.

“I’m ready to move on,” he said. “Everybody’s ready to move on.”

Mechelle Hankerson: 919-829-4802, @mechelleh