There is a lot of interest in the new Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), and the changes it will bring to Raleigh. Citizens and citizen groups have flooded council with concerns about the effects to their neighborhoods and the city as a whole. I would welcome the opportunity to speak with you about some important issues the UDO remapping raises.
As an urban design consultant and an architect specializing in historic preservation, I’ve had a special interest, expertise and involvement over the past several years in the development of the UDO. The new UDO zoning rules are a vast improvement over the old zoning code toward implementing Raleigh’s adopted 2030 vision of growth that is more compact and walkable, with vertically mixed uses and more car-free mobility options. But that overarching drive to urbanize, redevelop and intensify has led to UDO rules that promote redevelopment in areas where there is no community consensus for redevelopment.
I have expressed these concerns in Council meetings and staff meetings, and I’ve made 23 presentations over the past 12 months to citizen groups across the city. My message has been this: while the UDO is intended to implement Raleigh’s Comprehensive Plan goals in a balanced way, the draft UDO rules tend to emphasize redevelopment goals at the expense of neighborhood preservation goals in a few significant ways.
Here is a short list of UDO rule changes and remapping changes that are needed to protect the healthy variety and older grain of neighborhood edges including Oakwood south of Edenton. Both of these UDO changes would reinstate protections that exist today in Raleigh’s existing zoning rules, but that have been eliminated in the UDO.
1. Do not remap new UDO zoning districts onto existing neighborhood edge fabric that impose more intense uses, such as alcohol-serving establishments. These changes will drive out low-density residential uses and promote more intense redevelopment.
Instead, create an updated version of the mixed-use buffer district in the existing code – one that protects the current healthy variety and older grain of the neighborhood edges. Develop a zoning district that is limited to low-impact, neighborhood-supportive office, retail and residential uses and apply it at neighborhood edges.
2. Do not eliminate the existing zoning code’s Transitional Protective Yard buffer protections for existing low-density residential uses. Eliminating these buffers will drive out low-density residential uses and promote more intense redevelopment.
Instead, incorporate Transitional Protective Yard buffers into the UDO’s transition rules and expand those rules to protect additional low-density dwelling types, such as attached single-family dwellings and dwelling-to-commercial conversions that preserve the neighborhood character and stability.
3. Council should convene a stakeholder group to work with staff to implement the UDO refinements outlined above – before the remapping is finalized. There is no point in rushing to adopt the new UDO remapping rules until they protect the healthy variety and older grain of our neighborhood edges.
These issues are of central importance to maintaining quality growth in Raleigh, and the current conversation is essential in helping citizens understand some of what is at stakes in the remapping process. What are your thoughts? Join the discussion!