The Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of Z-67-21, located at the intersections of I-440 at Lassiter Mill Road and Lassiter Mill Road at Six Forks Road. This despite strong concerns expressed by area residents concerning the impact on fire safety, traffic, and neighborhood quality of life, as well as concerns about inconsistencies with the Comprehensive Plan, the Future Land Use Map, and the Midtown Area Plan.

Midtown Raleigh resident Larry Helfant sent the following email to the Planning Commission reiterating resident concerns.

Thank you for listening to the public speakers today. I recognize the limitations on further amendments to the application and the need to take a vote due to limited time on your calendar. However, I wish that you would have delayed the vote until both Roberta Fox and Nicole Bennett were present.

From my perspective, the Comprehensive plan, the Midtown area plan, the residents of Midtown and public fire safety all took a back seat to high rise density (without affordable housing) that exceeds the building height recommendations of the Future Land Use map for this area.

For the record, please enter the following public comment for Z-67-21 that was not heard this morning in consideration of other residents that presented their views on this rezoning.

As I review the latest amended application, I have to ask what public benefit does this rezoning offer. Past Kane Realty rezoning applications had an appeal to the community and offered public benefit. This project just doesn’t make sense. 

Retail businesses will be reduced, although this won’t be clear until site plan stage. 

Fire safety for the community is at risk due to a planned 12-story building that will wrap around their current location. 

Available parking will be reduced due to building on available parking lots. A transit station will be provided but it is unclear where anyone will park or access the site. 

There are just too many unanswered questions without the further detail that will be revealed at site planning stage.

I have read the Staff report of 4-29-2022 and have concluded the following:

The rezoning application is not consistent with the Future Land Use Map (AP-MT 1). Permitted zoning is for 12 stories, with a recommendation of 20 stories.

The rezoning application is not consistent with the Comprehensive Plan due to building heights, building transitions and lack of Affordable Housing.

The traffic report, using different metrics, is inconsistent with the TIA just completed for Z-45-21.

The seven conditions proposed by the applicant do not satisfy the deficiencies cited for the Comprehensive plan and do not offer a good alternative to the public safety demands of Fire Station 9.

  • Condition 4 discusses the dedication of land for a City bus transit station within the Six Forks Node but still includes the language of an alternate site within 1/4 mile of the rezoning site.

It should be noted that alternate transportation routing and location of buses was necessitated by the proposed building locations that prevented bus transit as it currently exists today.

  • Condition 6 provides dedication of land for either improvement or relocation of Fire Station 9.

In plain language this means a relocation of Fire Station 9.

It should be noted that past Fire Station improvements, expansions or relocations have historically taken 1 to 3 years to complete. In the interim, the engines and manpower are transferred to an alternate location. In this case, it would probably be Fire Station 11, located on Brentwood Road, which would increase response time dramatically. You cannot build a fire station, which would need land development, in six months of Site plan without a planned alternative.

Please revise the condition such that the current Fire Station remains in place and active until a new station can be provided and is ready for immediate occupancy.

  • Condition 7 provides a step back for building heights of 13 stories or more. This is still inconsistent with the Comprehensive plan and area plan, which requires transitions from neighborhoods when buildings are greater than 5 to 7 stories. 

This transition should be applied to the 12-story building that is proposed along Rowan Street, a main entrance to residences of North Hills. It is also inconsistent with the 4-story apartments of the Lassiter that will sit right next to the proposed 12-story building.

The applicant should know this because it is the same transition that was necessitated in the current construction along Lassiter Mill Road. Rowan is a small neighborhood undivided street that cannot handle any additional traffic. 

The 12-story building is directly across from a school and residences thus requiring a transition of height. Currently, Rowan is used for car pool parking due to limited off site parking within the neighborhood or at the nearby Walgreens parking lot.

A couple of final points: 

You don’t double office and residential space without a traffic impact. The Midtown area does not have the luxury of a matrix of streets, as are available downtown. When motorists need an alternative route, they will use neighborhood streets, disrupting the quiet suburban environment that people moved here for.

You don’t remove available parking without concentrating both auto and pedestrians into a tighter space.

Building tall buildings along the perimeter of the shopping area will keep available retail spaces secluded and businesses will lose the customers they should gain by visibility when that visibility is obstructed.

Finally – what is the final price that residents must pay for allowing development to continue without infrastructure spending on roads and public safety? Is a twelve-story building worth displacing a Fire Station that has served the community since its inception? Is it necessary to construct a 30-story building in clear view of someone’s back yard? Do you really think a 12-foot step back makes a difference?

Too much building height without any public or retail benefit or affordable housing availability. 

Please follow the Six Forks study and Midtown survey results that rejected elevated multistory buildings in this area. Please consider the recommendations of the Midtown CAC and limit building heights as recommended in the Comprehensive plan and Future Land Use Map!