The proposed Spencer Ridge development in North Raleigh — at the corner of Falls of Neuse and Raven Ridge roads — might well have gotten approval from the Raleigh City Council despite what appears to be substantial and credible opposition. Ultimately, the council sent the developer’s request back to the planning commission for more work.
OK ... but the planning commission had voted unanimously to recommend that the council turn down a rezoning request for the property, with members saying it didn’t follow the city’s carefully constructed comprehensive plan for growth. That plan is supposed to guide development and see that the right projects go in the right places. That a shopping center, for example, doesn’t disturb a residential neighborhood, or that a project doesn’t create traffic problems. It’s a good plan.
It’s also a plan under constant pressure from developers who want to push ahead with projects even though they might not fit the plan. That’s all right, in that developers are in the business of innovation and trying to accommodate growth. And sure, there might be times when exceptions to the plan are warranted.
But in this case, an active North Citizens Advisory Council voted in August 224-89 to oppose the project, which would be two miles north of Interstate 540. That’s a fairly strong signal. So is the opposition of Councilman David Cox, who won his seat on the council due to his high-profile opposition to a proposed grocery store in the area he thought was out of place.
“It would dramatically change the character of the area,” Cox said. What he meant by that, apparently, is the sentiment expressed by neighbors that the development would boost traffic, require trees to be leveled and create more “light pollution” such as lamp posts.
Cox’s opposition last year to a Publix grocery store at Falls of Neuse and Dunn roads was effective, and a developer now plans a senior living center at that site, which has gotten a more positive response.
That’s an example of how the comprehensive plan can work, and how proposals to the planning commission or the council can be constructive not just when approved and built, but when discussion, and community activism, prompts changes which result in better choices. And while the commission may not always make the right call, it deserves the council’s deference in most cases for its close scrutiny of each case.
As debate proceeds on this proposal, we’ll see if that happens. But the commission’s initial rejection, supported by the CAC in the area, seems unlikely to justify the council’s reversing what the commission decided, barring big changes in the plan.