Bob Geary ia a founding member of Livable Raleigh, former member of Raleigh’s Planning Commission and a former Indyweek columnist.
Bob spoke to the Raleigh City Council January 30, 2024 at the Public Hearing for Z-92-22
Here’s what he said:
Foreward from Livable Raleigh: At the end of the January 30 Public Hearing, Council took no action on Z-92-22 and held it over until their March 5 meeting. Based on the conversation at the council table after public comments completed we are cautiously optimistic that council is heading in a positive direction. A few comments we heard. Council will work on modifying the TOD before taking any action on upzoning. The TOD will not be mapped over properties that are covered by an NCOD (Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District). The council will start their efforts with vacant properties, city-owned properties and strip malls leaving residential properties to be worked on later. Council asked staff to break up the corridor into smaller tracts that can be worked on individually in order to make decisions based on the different characteristics of different segments of the corridor. Councilors also recognized they have to ensure the affordability density bonus and height entitlements are set carefully to incentivize the use of the bonuses.
Bob Geary’s remarks follow:
My remarks to Council: Why Z-92-22 is deceptive to the point of being deliberately malicious.
This rezoning case is actually 2 cases in 1. It is really irresponsible of city staff to layer them one on top of the other in the same proposal. Indeed, Z-92 as written seems like it’s designed to trick us – the public, and well-meaning (I hope) groups like WakeUp Wake County – into thinking that by supporting it, they’re promoting affordable housing as part of future density in the New Bern Avenue corridor. When in fact, if approved as written, only the density will happen, in the form of typical 5-story “luxury” apartment buildings, while the affordable part will never occur and, actually, was never meant to occur.
A polite term for Z-92 is that it’s a fake-out. Please don’t fall for it. Break this down, and take it one part at a time.
So Z-92, Part 1, is a proposal to apply the Transit Overlay District ordinance to a long wide swath of New Bern Avenue and nearby properties. The TOD itself is written and adopted. The question now is, where to apply it, or “map” it over the existing zoning.
On this part, I urge Council to measure twice, cut once. Staff’s proposal is overly broad and unnecessarily so. Council should put the TOD mapping element of Z-92 into committee, refine it, and dial it back. It can always be expanded. But once you map it over places it doesn’t belong, it’s virtually impossible to remove it.
Please, proceed with care for the communities that will be impacted by this.
Here’s the good news about the TOD ordinance itself. It has real incentives for affordable units in taller apartment buildings. Are the incentives strong enough? Robust enough? Probably not. They’d result in 8% of the apartment units, plus or minus, being rented at somewhat reduced rents, in a 5-story building — which is the standard stick-built apartment building we see all over Raleigh.
But 8% is better than nothing, which is what you are getting now without the TOD.
So now we come to the mysterious part of Z-92, which is a wholly separate plan and has nothing to do with the TOD ordinance. In fact, this part of the case, if it moves forward, would obviate the first part.
In Part 2, staff is asking Council to up-zone everything in the corridor to 5 stories or more. If you do that – and what a farce it will be if you do – you will obliterate the Affordable Housing incentives in the TOD.
Remember the 8% AH units you were going to get, due to the TOD overlay, in every 5-story building? Poof, they’re gone. Every 5-story building will go up by right with zero, nada, no affordable units at all. Why would any builder include a single affordable unit when this part of Z-92 would entitle them to charge full market rents for every unit?
Please, ask yourself why staff is proposing to put the TOD overlay in place and then, head fake! Wipe it out in the same rezoning case with a totally unrelated and massive up-zoning of 744 properties. Ask yourself why Mayor Baldwin thinks that’s a good idea.
If this part of Z-92 were to be adopted, on the premise that it somehow promotes affordable housing to support the BRT service, when in fact it does just the opposite, you’ll be falling for the head fake, and be up in the air, helpless as you watch the developers drive to their goal of maximum profits with zero community benefits. Don’t fall for it. And don’t let Mayor Baldwin bully you or rush you into a decision you’ll regret — and the communities along New Bern Avenue, the historic African-America communities of Raleigh, will regret.
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