The Great Sinkhole of Oakwood

Chris Crew was born in Morganton, NC and moved to Raleigh in 1964. He’s been a resident of Historic Oakwood since 1975.

Educated at NCSU and UNC-Chapel Hill, works for the State of NC in Public Safety. Preservationist, Cook, Trombonist, Brewer, Choirboy, Grandfather.

Chris delivered the following comments to City Council on May 2, 2023

Madam Mayor, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Council, Madam Manager:

Thank you for the opportunity to address you this evening.

Last month, I ended my comments concerning Preservation with a wish to find an opportunity to congratulate you. Thank you, Mr. Branch, for offering that opportunity by postponing the Shaw University re-zoning request to allow more input and investigation. As the request comes back for more discussion, please do not lose sight of the significant impacts, both intended and unintended, that the request will have on historic and cultural resources and generational wealth in the surrounding neighborhoods and community.

A Preservation mindset includes conscious attention to infrastructure. If you are not aware of the “Great Sinkhole of Oakwood,” please bring yourself up to speed. This problem is indicative of what is to come as more infill and impervious surface gets added to our historic core and places more demand on infrastructure. Although the drain involved in Oakwood is ostensibly “a private system,” please bear in mind that the pipe receives every drop of runoff from the public right of way via the city street drop-inlets in an almost 55-acre area. This makes it a functional part of the Municipal Stormwater System regardless of ownership. It drains 2.4 million square feet of collection area. If we assume 60% impervious surface, we have about 860,000 gallons of runoff from every inch of rain that falls. All of it trying to drain through a single, century-old pipe. There is potential for property damage and there are likely adverse Federal water quality implications. We must keep these facts of physics in the front of our mind when considering Preservation and the push for new and infill development at greater density.

The Transportation Overlay District proposal is still lacking in attention to Preservation. I have been to several public and neighborhood meetings in the past few weeks regarding the New Bern Transportation Area  Planning and listened to questions (still unanswered) about what algorithms drew the re-zoning lines. There are deep concerns about impacts and outcomes that have not been included in City Staff presentations. Citizens have been referred to sophisticated mapping and viewing tools on the City website designed for professional planners. Most citizens don’t have a clue how to use the tools. As it stands, we MIGHT get efficient and effective public transportation; we MIGHT get a few more affordable housing units. What we WILL get is probable loss of existing affordable housing units. City planning had no estimate as of last week of how many rental units are in the areas subject to rezoning. There has been no discussion about the potential negative impact of these zoning changes on generational wealth in Southeast Raleigh. Please consider these factors as you assess whether the TOD is ready to move forward. My observations as a Planner and my gut instincts say that it is far from ready to fly.

Thank you.


More images of the Great Sinkhole below

Note – In 2020 the City issued a permit to Grayson homes to relocate approximately 100’ of the drain pipe across the lot at East and Lane by replacing it with approximately 300’ of pipe going around the back of the lot with 3 90-degree turns and reconnected to the century old pipe. The pipe is about 25’ below grade. The relocation allowed the lot to be subdivided into 3 buildable lots and maintain a 10’ easement for the pipe. Density? Yes. Missing Middle/Affordable? Nope.

It doesn’t take an engineer to understand the impact of those turns on the forces acting on the pipe.

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