The primary focus of the meeting was the impact of the development ordinance (commonly referred to as the UDO for Unified Development Ordinance) on neighborhoods. Our own neighborhoods have been faced with rezoning proposals for building out-of-scale, very large, high intensity retail and housing directly within our neighborhoods. We are the first test cases of the new development ordinance and we are very concerned.
Under the new development ordinance Raleigh is poised to rezone a large number of properties as so-called Neighborhood Mixed Use centers. On paper these neighborhood centers sound like great additions to any neighborhood. They will feature corner stores, coffee shops, small restaurants, with a mix of housing and offices. The descriptions of these retail centers are reminicent of the type of businesses one would find in a small town or village.
Unfortunately, the development ordinance which was supposed to make this vision a reality is too vague and unrestrictive. Did you know that it is entirely conceivable to build a 50 foot tall warehouse (think BJs or Costco) in a neighborhood center? Did you know that a developer could build a 14-bay gas station (think Sheetz) in a neighborhood center? Did you know that a developer could build a 70,000, 80,000, even a 200,000 square foot strip mall in a neighborhood center? Did you know that developer could build 75 foot tall, 7-story apartment building in a neighborhood center? And it would all be visible from your kitchen window or backporch.
These are not exaggerations. Homeowners are facing exactly these kinds of proposed developments. Homeowners living near Falls Lake (in the watershed no less) are facing a rezoning proposal for a 67,000 square foot strip mall with parking for about 350 vehicles. Homeowners along Hillsborough Street are facing a rezoning proposal for a 75 foot tall, 7-story student apartment building. Homeowners along Buffaloe Road recently faced a rezoning proposal for a 14-bay gas station. Homeowners near Meridith College are faced with a rezoning proposal for a monstrocity of a building that is five stories tall that is proposed to cover an entire city block. Homeowners along Leesville Road have been faced with the possibility of development yet another large strip mall.
These are the first real cases under the UDO. We fully expect more to come to other properties that are being remapped to these neighborhood centers. Check back on this website as we reveal where these neighborhood centers will be located to see if you will be affected.
In the meantime discussions will continue with the Planning Department and City Council to explore changes to the development ordinance to protect our neighborhoods. And by all means, contact your City Councilors at firstname.lastname@example.org to express your concerns.