As the largest development proposal ever seen in Raleigh, John Kane’s Downtown South Project challenges all the normal processes for judging community impacts and benefits.
The political pressure for quick approval is equally off the charts, so much so that the City Council has scheduled special meetings designed to force the Planning Commission into wrapping up their Downtown South review in less time than a typical rezoning, even though its complexity and impacts are the largest ever seen.
Raleigh’s Planning Commissioners are Council-appointed volunteers who review development proposals and regulations. While some commissioners see the work as a stepping stone to political or business advancement, they all bring a spirit of community service. The work is a complex mix of legal, political and financial forces, blended into an endless triage of development analyses and recommendations to Council.
In this pressure cooker, two Planning Commissioners have recused themselves, since they are associated with Kane Realty. For the rest, it would be easy to throw up their hands and punt. But in an extraordinary display of professionalism and integrity, a majority of the remaining Commissioners are taking their oath of public service very seriously. They are working to produce a high quality set of recommendations – for a successful project that serves the public interest according to Raleigh’s community vision of sustainable and equitable prosperity. Their determination to speak up for the best interest of the public is a profile in courage.