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The city’s next high-rise building will have to offer twice as much open space, but not everyone will necessarily get to enjoy it.
The Raleigh City Council is working on major changes to its development code, and a discussion Monday centered around what’s known as the “outdoor amenity” requirement. The council voted to double the percentage of space required in downtown and other high-density districts to 10 percent of the overall square footage.
Developers have a range of options to meet the requirement. In downtown, the Wells Fargo tower’s “amenity” consists of outside entry areas and the outdoor seating area at Cafe Carolina. But a few blocks down the street, developers of the PNC Plaza building opted to build a rooftop pool area for condo residents. Both areas are large enough to meet the newly increased requirement.
Councilman Thomas Crowder said he’d prefer developers stay away from rooftop, residents-only facilities. “I think it’s important that we can have privately owned public space, and I think that’s what we’re trying to do,” he said. “I would hold out the Wells Fargo tower as the poster child for where we should be heading.”
But Councilwoman Mary Ann Baldwin was concerned about the safety implications of requiring public space, particularly in residential buildings. Others worried about the legal implications of more stringent rules on amenity areas.
Also at Monday’s council workshop on the unified development code:
Review of site plans: Several council members weren’t fans of new procedures that let city staff approve construction site plans without any review from elected or appointed officials.
Crowder said that change would give the community less control in new developments. “I feel like we do not have those protections,” he said. “We’re not going to know about it until they’re in concrete and mortar.”
Even on an appeal, developers wouldn’t go before the council or planning commission, instead seeing the board of adjustment. An alternate proposal to have the planning commission review site plans, according to city staff’s report, “abandon a timely and predictable administrative review process in favor of a mandatory planning commission review for all site plans where the ultimate outcome is uncertain.” State law changes would put more projects through that process.
City planning staff said the lack of a hearing shouldn’t pose a problem if design rules are adequate. “At the end of the day, are you comfortable with the regulations we have, and if not, what’s missing?” deputy city attorney Ira Botvinick said.
Mixed-use guidelines: The council also approved new guidelines for apartment and townhome developments in mixed-use districts.
Multi-family buildings will have to be constructed within 30 feet of the street, and driveways and parking lots can’t separate the buildings and street. The goal is to give future developments a less suburban look; overall, the new development code aims to create more compact, walkable, transit-friendly city.
The city council will hold its final review meetings for the development code in the coming weeks and could vote on the entire document later this month.