Raleigh council plans more talks about pedestrian-oriented road designs

ccampbell@newsobserver.comSeptember 9, 2013 

Weeks after transportation planners rebuffed a developer’s plan for a walkable Walgreens store in Northwest Raleigh, Councilman Russ Stephenson is calling for further talks about how to make the city’s streets less car-focused.

At last week’s council meeting, Stephenson called for the council’s comprehensive planning committee – which he chairs – to discuss the road design categories in Raleigh’s new development code.

“Very little has been done to accomplish our Comprehensive Plan goals” for a more walkable, transit-friendly city, he said. “The tools with which to do it are very car-centric.”

Stephenson’s committee will meet in the next month or so to discuss street designations – the map showing how wide Raleigh roads will be in the future and whether they’ll include bike lanes and sidewalks.

Council members want to review several streets in particular, including Creedmoor Road and South Raleigh’s Penmarc Drive and Water Works Street. The latter two currently have an industrial designation, but the city’s long-range plans call for more mixed-use development, Stephenson said.

Councilman Thomas Crowder said it’s important to get the street types right. “I think there’s going to be a huge public outcry if we don’t look at some of these corridor designations,” he said. “We don’t want to replicate some of the conditions we have on Capital Boulevard.”

Another street that Stephenson wants to address is Strickland Road near Leesville Road, the site of the proposed Walgreens. Last month, Stephenson called for an unusual meeting on the project, saying city planners had failed to respond to the developer’s inquiries about the planned drugstore.

Stephenson said he was interested in the plans because the developer was seeking an unusual pedestrian-friendly model for Strickland Road at its entrance. The original plan placed the store next to the sidewalk, with angled parking next to the street.

That road design, called a “multi-way boulevard,” didn’t meet city code and was rejected by the N.C. Department of Transportation, City Planner Mitchell Silver wrote in a memo.

“The application of this roadway would have major consequences on surrounding property owners, who would have been required to dedicate a large amount of right-of-way upon redevelopment,” Silver wrote. “Staff felt the application of this roadway was inappropriate.”

Developers later submitted plans for a traditional suburban Walgreens design and got approval. Stephenson now wants to include Strickland in future discussions because neighbors told him they would like the area to evolve in a less car-centered way.

“Whether it raises additional questions about our long-range Comprehensive Plan goals – that’s just a great next conversation to have,” he said.

Campbell: 919-829-4802; Twitter: @RaleighReporter

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