The Raleigh City Council found itself in a bit of a quandary recently. Not the kind of quandary that arouses the passions of hundreds of loud people who cram into Council chambers, but a quandary nonetheless: how to let bars into some neighborhoods without letting those bars take over the neighborhood. As it turns out, this is not a simple thing to regulate.
Our tale of bureaucratic woe begins last year, when the council was reviewing proposed amendments to the Unified Development Ordinance it had approved in 2013. One proposal was to allow houses of public intoxication into areas zoned NX—government-speak for commercial mixed-use developments, usually within a couple of hundred feet of residential areas. This isn't a lot of territory, mind you: a little more than 500 of the city's 92,838 acres.
Right now, bars aren't allowed in NX. The council wanted to change that. This is where the wicket gets sticky.
Because bars are governed by the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, local municipalities can't regulate things like the bar's size or hours of operation. (The ABC's only limitation is that a bar can't be near a church. Jesus actually turned water into grape juice, guys.)
In April, after the council initially approved the change, council member Russ Stephenson used his time at the end of the meeting to beg his colleagues to reconsider: "I'm just giving you guys fair warning; this may not be what you want to do." They agreed, and kicked the matter to his Comprehensive Planning Committee.
The solution city planners came up with, it seems, is to regulate around the ABC. Future bars in NX zones would not be permitted to feature live performances, outdoor seating or dance floors. Cue your best Footloose joke.
The changes now head back to council. The likely result is that prospective bars will locate in friendlier zonings anyway.
Also from the Triangulator Unified Development Ordinance Desk (because we haven't bored you enough already): The long-simmering war over a proposed North Raleigh grocery store is, well, still simmering, even after the developer pulled out.
Last week some 50 residents crowded into a town hall hosted by council member Wayne Maiorano to once again vent their frustration with what they've come to see as an inevitability: a massive grocery store development at the intersection of Dunn and Falls of Neuse roads.
A yearlong rezoning battle resulted in a Florida developer, Morgan Property Group, withdrawing its plans for a 58,000-foot shopping center on the parcel of land earlier this month and City Council unanimously denying the rezoning. But the land, like all of downtown and some other sections of the city, is slated for remapping under the new UDO guidelines.
The proposed zoning category would allow for "a variety of residential, retail, service and commercial uses all within walking distance of residential neighborhoods," according to the UDO.
Current zoning limits retail to 3,000 square feet of floor space and prohibits the mainstays of tragic strip malls everywhere—drive-ins, drive-thrus and gas stations. Residents want to keep it this way.
"What did the City Council vote last week mean? Was that just a joke or what?" asked resident Nancy Nacrelli. "Why did you all unanimously OK denying the rezoning of Dunn and Falls of Neuse roads?"
Maiorano said the remapping guidelines were created by city staffers, the Planning Commission and a team of consultants. The council votes on remapping based on their recommendations.
"The UDO is being implemented," Maiorano said. "It's now getting road tested. Part of what we've got to do is look back and say, Did we get it right?"
But there's a perception among residents that city planners are advocating for a destination shopping center in their neighborhood, despite two recent failed rezoning proposals for large-scale retail. (The other proposal was denied in 2008.)
"If the remapping goes through, could the applicant come right back proposing essentially the exact same thing, or something worse?" asked resident George Farthing.
"Now it is up to the Council to decide whether to keep that zoning, or make a change," planning director Ken Bowers responded. Sounds like a yes to us.
White privilege alert: Durhamites already knew that gentrification is in full bloom. ("That cute Victorian in Old East Durham?" said the nouveau riche whose software company just went public. "I'll take two!")
Now we have the data to prove that white flight into undervalued and historically black neighborhoods (yes, you read that right) is rampant.
At a recent presentation by People's Alliance and People's Durham, Mel Norton delivered the bad news. The most egregious example is in Cleveland-Holloway where, adjusted for inflation, over the last 10 years median home prices have increased 391 percent from $48,000 in 2005, to $236,000 today. For context, the median home price in Durham is $164,000.
In Old North Durham, the uptick is 92 percent; in Burch Avenue, 117 percent. In old east durham, saddled by foreclosures during the housing bust, people are just now taking note: Three houses are for sale, each for $200,000, when the median home price in that area is only $72,000.
We want diverse neighborhoods, but before you flip that bungalow in Walltown, think about the consequences for long-time residents—as in they can't afford to live in their neighborhood anymore.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Twerk elsewhere, please"