Raleigh Report

Is proposed North Raleigh development dead on arrival?

The latest site plan for Spencer Ridge, a proposed retail and residential development at the corner of Falls of Neuse and Raven Ridge roads in North Raleigh.
The latest site plan for Spencer Ridge, a proposed retail and residential development at the corner of Falls of Neuse and Raven Ridge roads in North Raleigh. COURTESY OF D&N DEVELOPMENT

A mixed-use development proposal for North Raleigh faces a steep uphill battle for approval.

D&N Development wants to build a project called Spencer Ridge on 17.3 acres on the northeast corner of Falls of Neuse and Raven Ridge roads. Plans call for 150 to 220 residential units, retail space and a grocery store – worrying some nearby residents and City Council members about the potential for increased traffic.

The council could have approved the proposal in December, but instead sent the developer’s request to the city’s planning commission. Council members hoped D&N would preserve more land and scale back plans for retail.

The company has made changes since then, but half of the council doesn’t think D&N has gone far enough. On Feb. 7, four of the City Council’s eight members said they were willing to scrap the plan before the planning commission has a chance to review it.

Councilman David Cox, who represents the area, said the re-worked plan still calls for too much retail space and doesn’t preserve enough natural space. Cox proposed to deny the rezoning request, which failed on a 4-4 vote.

“A review of what was submitted shows that the proposed rezoning is essentially the same as it was two months ago,” Cox said. He added that the area, which successfully fought off a proposed Publix in 2014, doesn’t need another grocery store.

Council members Corey Branch, Kay Crowder and Russ Stephenson joined Cox in seeking to deny the case, while Mary-Ann Baldwin, Bonner Gaylord, Dickie Thompson and Mayor Nancy McFarlane said the council should let the case live – if only to go through the city’s review process before voting on it.

“I voted against it. Unless they change it, I’m gonna vote against it again,” Thompson said. “But I haven’t seen what they’ve changed.”

Thompson and McFarlane said they didn’t want to set a new precedent of recalling a project the council sent to the planning commission before the commission gets a chance to review it.

“You might not like what’s been first presented, but I think we need to honor that process,” McFarlane said.

While some residents oppose the project, Baldwin noted that some support it.

“Many of them African-American people who work and live adjacent to this property,” Baldwin said. “They were in favor of it, and we should give the developer a shot of coming up with a compromise.”

The latest proposal includes what D&N is calling Raleigh’s “first voluntary commitment of affordable housing with a mix of office, retail and medical spaces,” according to plans filed with the city.

D&N is still waiting to hear back from city staff on its latest proposal, said Nick Brown, the company’s co-owner. D&N has made “extensive” revisions to its plan since December, cutting its retail space from 50 percent to less than 35 percent of the project “and almost doubling our Tree Conservation Area,” Brown wrote in an email.

The company is also still planning to spend $2 million on off-site road maintenance and extend sewer service to nearby Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church on Falls of Neuse Road, he said.

“We have not received the first review comments from City Staff and have not had our Neighbor Meeting,” Brown wrote. “Should revisions be needed it needs to be more comprehensive and thought out and take into account those two variables.”

The city staff is expected to offer feedback on the proposed master plan during the first week of March. It’s unclear when the Planning Commission will review the case.

D&N is also waiting to hear how it can work with Raleigh to provide affordable housing. City rules don’t allow for developers to offer affordable housing as a deal-sweetener when seeking to rezone a property.

So the city currently has no way of ensuring that D&N sells or leases apartments at regulated price points. The City Council is scheduled to talk about options for allowing affordable housing as voluntary zoning conditions during a work session Tuesday.

Paul A. Specht: 919-829-4870, @AndySpecht