There's a chance after all that the Raleigh City Council will do something soon about the rash of teardowns in older neighborhoods and the weak standards that govern "infill" construction. The council's been kicking that battered can down the road for five years, ever since the battle of Bickett Place, and was fixing to kick it again in early May—despite the pleas of neighborhood activists—when it rejected Raleigh Planning Director Mitch Silver's attempt to hire an expert consultant. Silver said that, without some help, his overstretched department will be a long time getting its arms around infill's complexities. (See "Infill: New Growth Ousts Old Charm," May 9.)
But last week, Councilor Russ Stephenson put another idea on the table. Instead of waiting to tackle all the thorny infill issues, Stephenson said, let's try to deal quickly with just the height issue. That is, if most houses in a neighborhood are one-story, is the city's standard height limit too liberal to protect it? (It's 40 feet plus half the roof pitch, which adds another 2-3 feet.)
"From everyone I've talked to," Stephenson says, "90 percent of the infill problems seem to be about height." If the council can resolve it, he added, other issues like total lot coverage, contextual standards and design could get easier. If it can't, other members may decide that Silver was right.
On Stephenson's motion, the subject was sent back to the council's Comprehensive Plan Committee, where it was listed for discussion at today's meeting. —bob geary