Code ties council’s hands on controversial driveway near Cameron Village

ccampbell@newsobserver.comOctober 12, 2013 

— City leaders are reviewing yet another development proposal for Cameron Village, and traffic is again the primary concern.

But this time, there’s not much the Raleigh City Council can do to stop a possible driveway entrance on Van Dyke Avenue. That’s the primary objection to a new medical office building that could replace a historic home at Van Dyke and Oberlin Road.

Denise Jones lives on Van Dyke and wants developers to put the entrance on busier Oberlin Road.

“We do not want to have that type of access on our street,” she said. “I had neighbors crying because their children play there. They’re concerned about their families. ... We encourage development here, but not down our streets where our families are.”

While city council members are receptive to the concerns, they’re not able to mandate where the driveway will be built: The city’s code doesn’t allow that as a condition for rezoning, city planners and attorneys told a council committee on Wednesday.

That left the council without options, and neighbors will have to hope developers or city planners nix the Van Dyke driveway at a later stage in the process. The council’s comprehensive planning committee left the issue unresolved; it will now go back to the full city council, which will decide whether to schedule a public hearing in November or December, planning director Mitchell Silver said.

Still, the rezoning request raises the larger traffic concern on Oberlin Road. Councilman Russ Stephenson said a long-term solution is needed to prevent jams where northbound Oberlin narrows to two lanes – meaning a single car trying to turn left can back up traffic.

He brought up possible solutions at last week’s meeting, though they can’t be tied to the office building rezoning request. Stephenson favors a new roundabout at the corner of Oberlin and Van Dyke, and he showed off diagrams he’d put together himself.

But he said city transportation engineers have drawn up a circle so large it would require the Community Deli to be razed. They note that the circle can’t be too small or it won’t accommodate truck traffic to Cameron Village.

Stephenson said he wants to make sure the proposed development doesn’t take any of those options off the table. “I would hate to put conditions on this case ... that would limit our ability to end up with a long-term solution,” he said.

Silver said any changes to the intersection will be discussed next year as part of the Cameron Village Vicinity Plan process. Other options include adding a center turn lane to Oberlin, and some have suggested extending Van Dyke Avenue east to Daniels Street, which would improve the street grid system.

If the city council approves the office development after the public hearing, the driveway issue will get solved by traffic engineers before construction starts.

“You have to allow the engineers to exercise their best judgment,” deputy city attorney Ira Botvinick said. “It could be five, 10 years before this property is developed, and the conditions could be totally different.”

The developer, Manish Patel of Avance Primary Care, said he’s met with neighbors and wants to avoid the unwanted driveway. If the rezoning passes, he plans to build a two-story, 5,000- to 10,000-square-foot office building on the site.

“We are aligned with the residents’ wishes, and we are working to honor that commitment we made to the residents,” he said.

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

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