Excessive development uproots the City of Oaks

High-rise luxury apartment buildings take a toll on roads with increased traffic.
High-rise luxury apartment buildings take a toll on roads with increased traffic. clowenst@newsobserver.com

Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane says the two issues that Raleigh residents were most concerned about were drivers speeding through neighborhoods and stormwater drainage.

I agree that those are serious problems, and I think if we look at the root causes of both of those issues, in many cases they can be traced back to what I consider the No. 1 problem: inappropriate development.

When multistory apartment complexes are built in areas such as Hillsborough Street, Clark Avenue and Oberlin Road where existing infrastructure can’t handle the increased volume of traffic, drivers start cutting through neighborhood streets that were never designed for that kind of traffic or for that volume of traffic.

I have heard members of the City Council say that Raleigh needs to have more high-density infill to prevent sprawl, but Raleigh needs to have appropriate transit infrastructure in place first. (Also it would have made more sense to spend money on adding and improving bus shelters rather than putting in bike lanes and supporting bike share programs – bus shelters would have been a bigger benefit to a larger group of residents and would have had a more significant impact on traffic congestion.)

As far as stormwater drainage, a huge problem in my opinion is the increasing practice, especially in older neighborhoods inside the Beltline, of tearing down small houses, clear-cutting lots and building huge houses with huge driveways that overwhelm their lots and tower over nearby houses. They contribute not only to stormwater runoff but to increased waste to landfills when entire houses and huge trees are scrapped in favor of this kind of development.

Additionally, this kind of development will contribute to sprawl because when $300,000 to $500,000 homes are torn down inside the Beltline, many developers insist they must replace them with $1 million homes in order to make a profit. That means that pretty soon only multi-millionaires will be able to afford homes or apartments inside the Beltline. Our teachers, sanitation workers, restaurant staff and other middle-class workers will be forced further out into the suburbs. They will need to commute to their jobs in the city, further contributing to sprawl.

I implore our City Council and city planners to take a closer look at the multistory apartment development that is running rampant in Raleigh and that will turn us into gridlocked cities like Atlanta if we don’t act soon.

It is imperative for the entire council and city planning and transportation staff to act quickly before we destroy what we love most about our City of Oaks.

Stefanie Mendell, a retired international communications executive, is a Raleigh resident