In a letter sent to the Raleigh City Council, former Mayor Nancy McFarlane outlined concerns she’s heard from the community about a proposal to rezone land in North Hills to construct buildings as tall as 12, 30 and 40 stories.
McFarlane, who served as mayor from December 2011 through December 2019, stated in her letter that, “North Hills is a great area, but it is not a downtown.”
The letter comes as the Raleigh City Council is set to consider new rezoning requests submitted by Kane Realty during its Tuesday night meeting.
Read Nancy McFarlane’s full letter to the city council: Click or tap here
“When this city council states that affordable housing is a priority for them, I’m not sure that this rezoning request addresses the problem,” McFarlane said. “More density, less parking requirements and more traffic do not seem to be a solution to anything.”
McFarlane’s letter also mentioned traffic concerns about Kane Realty’s proposal to build three 40-story buildings and one 30-story building. Kane Realty wants the ability to build up to 30 stories along Lassiter Mill Road and up to 40 stories along Six Forks Road.
“My understanding is that the city council has not required a Traffic Impact Analysis to be done,” McFarlane wrote.
McFarlane also discussed the traffic configuration differences between downtown Raleigh and North Hills.
“When we build a tall building in downtown, we have a traffic grid that allows entry and exit many different options,” McFarlane wrote. “North Hills is built in a suburban area where you have an area of density served by just a couple of roads, which are all surrounded by cul-de-sacs, which empty onto those main roads.
“This is complicated by the fact that all of this traffic must flow through North Hills to get to the Beltline.”
McFarlane said she does not think the city has the infrastructure to support Kane Realty’s proposal for North Hills.
In the tallest towers, Kane is offering to include affordable apartments based on Midtown’s median-income to try to get the rezoning approved by the Raleigh City Council.
McFarlane also brought up the proposal’s 650-square-foot “micro units.” WRAL News previously reported that Jamie Schwedler, the developer’s attorney, described them to a city council committee as 600-square-foot “micro-units” renting for around $1,500.
“It is also my understanding that there are existing units of this size currently on the other side of Six Forks Road, across from this project that rent for $2400 [per] month,” McFarlane said.
Kane Realty’s second new proposal is to step-back on building heights in the Lassiter District. It means the tallest part of the building would not face Rowan Street, right across from single-family homes and a school.
“It really goes back to having a really good overall comprehensive plan, which we do,” McFarlane said. “But how many times can you one-off it just to do something different?”
The new rezoning conditions are set to go before the Raleigh City Council for the first time during the 7 p.m. Tuesday meeting.
What others say about the proposal for North Hills
In the 1990s, Bob Mulder served for four years as chairman of the Raleigh Planning Commission. During that time, he said the commission never dealt with rezoning requests to reach the heights developers want to take the city’s skyline now.
“Over time, the development regulations have changed, so a person like me could end up with a multi-story, multi-unit building next to me,” Mulder said.
Mulder believes Raleigh leaders now need to slow down denser development until the city’s infrastructure and transit can support it.
“They’ve taken a sledgehammer approach to spreading density all over the city,” Mulder said. “They just really didn’t think about the consequences at all.”
WRAL News searched rezoning cases and discovered the city council has approved 19 rezonings to allow buildings up to 20 stories or taller. There are 19 more are working their way through the rezoning process as of Tuesday, with most of them clustered in downtown, Midtown and Brier Creek.
The areas are designated as “growth centers” on a map Mitchell Silver helped develop when he was the city’s planning director from 2005 to 2014.
“That’s where you’re going to see more density and more height, but in exchange, your neighborhoods will be protected from encroachment of more intense development,” Silver said.
Silver mentioned how the number of people moving to the area have prompted leaders to consider building vertically.
“We did not have enough land to do [three-story] or [single-family homes,]” Silver said. “We would run out of land.”
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