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While the Raleigh City Council’s vote Monday caps off three years of planning and 47 public meetings to finalize a new development code, there’s still more work ahead before the document’s vision of a walkable, transit-friendly city goes into practice.
The unanimous vote will make the new code – known officially as the Unified Development Ordinance – effective Sept. 1. The 300-page document has guidelines governing everything from open spaces to bike parking and how close buildings should be to the street. The goal is to create high-density, mixed-use districts.
The UDO still must go through the mapping phase, when a host of new zoning designations will be matched to the appropriate commercial or mixed-use districts. Council members said they’d also like to revisit certain guidelines and make tweaks if needed.
“Adoption is not the end of the UDO, it’s the beginning of the UDO,” Councilwoman Mary Ann Baldwin said of Monday’s vote.
Among the issues the council must resolve before the code takes effect are the access points for new commercial developments.
Several council members are worried about new additions dumping traffic on neighborhood side streets to avoid traffic impacts on the busier roads they’d front.
The issue surfaced last month as developers presented plans for the 616 Oberlin apartment complex near Cameron Village. With heavy traffic on Oberlin Road, developer Jim Anthony wanted a second driveway on Daniels Street behind the property. Neighbors on the residential street worried about the extra traffic, and the project was scaled back on the Daniels Street side.
Councilman Russ Stephenson thinks that’s a bad solution to traffic concerns. “It’s really not a solution to the problem – it’s just shifting the problem to a neighborhood street,” he said.
Stephenson proposed a tweak to the code that would restrict access points behind a commercial or multi-family housing development. Developers could put driveways on the main road their buildings face or in the first block of side streets, preventing access to neighborhood streets behind the development.
Transportation planner manager Eric Lamb said that rule could have unintended consequences. “We would like to have the ability for the neighborhood to access” a shopping area, he said.
Lamb says flexibility is needed to create the safest traffic pattern possible. Drivers are safer when they don’t have to turn directly on a busy major road. “We want the access to come from the minor street” with mostly right turns, he said. “Left turns are the bane of transportation engineers worldwide.”
In addition to access points, the council also plans to revisit tree conservation rules, home garage requirements and guidelines for tall buildings downtown. Those issues will be discussed sometime this summer, senior planner Travis Crane said.
Proposed zoning maps for the code will be released near the end of the year, followed by several months of public comments. “Our goal here is to allow for a pretty lengthy public review period,” Crane said.