The scene shifted from Northeast to Southwest Raleigh, but neighborhood reactions at the second City Council hearing on the proposed comprehensive plan were similar to the first: Folks like the plan, but they're not sold on the part of it known as the Future Land Use Map, or FLUM. (See related story, "Flim-flammed by the FLUM?" Aug. 10.)
"Overall, we think the plan is very strong, it's easy to understand, and it's exciting," said Jason Hibbets, spokesman for the District D Neighborhood Alliance (DDNA), a coalition of community leaders in City Council District D.
But while the plan calls for high-density developments around designated transit stops, Hibbets said, the FLUM, which recommends how land should be used—down to each individual lot—often undercuts it. The FLUM calls for too much density in some locations and not enough in others.
Several speakers questioned the FLUM's low-density designations around two rail-transit stops planned for West Raleigh, one at the State Fairgrounds and another near the Raleigh-Cary line. Ted Shear, representing the Avent West neighborhood, criticized these designations as "a gross underutilization of the rail corridor" on the west side, suggesting that Raleigh's planners are trying to steer transit north, toward Wake Forest, rather than toward Cary, RTP and Durham.
In the opposite vein, residents questioned the FLUM'S higher-density designations for lots on Wade Avenue near the Ridgewood Shopping Center and in neighborhoods bordering Cameron Village. In some cases, said Bill Padgett, chair of the Wade Citizens Advisory Committee, property owners quietly convinced the Raleigh Planning Commission to change the FLUM categories and thus the neighborhood densities, but neighborhood leaders were never notified. "The issue is, when do we get our citizens involved?" Padgett asked.
One particularly hot spot in the FLUM is a vacant 6.7-acre commercial tract on the southwest corner of Hillsborough and Morgan streets, where the city plans to install a new roundabout. The tract, now owned by a Charlotte-based development firm, backs up to the Pullen Park neighborhood, where the houses are generally small and half a century old or more.
In the FLUM, the tract carries a Central Business District designation, the highest density level that's reserved for downtown Raleigh—even though it's located several blocks west of St. Mary's Street, the proposed CBD boundary.
Paul Shannon, head of the Pullen Park Neighborhood Association, said his neighborhood,West Morgan, Cameron Park and the Hillsborough Citizens Advisory Council have tried since December to get the old Bolton tract, as it's known, removed from the CBD, but city planners have sided with the developers.
Leaving it in the Central Business District, Shannon said, makes the downtown area of the FLUM look like it has "a monster's head" that juts out from the real downtown "to eat our neighborhood."
Others said the appendage looked like "a dragon's head" or, as West Morgan resident and former planning commission member Betsy Kane called it, "a clenched fist."
Kane said that neither the comp plan, with its FLUM, nor the current zoning code contains an appropriate category for the area near the Hillsborough-Morgan intersection, which should properly be "a mid-rise, mid-density shoulder district" between the downtown and a diverse set of established neighborhoods.
Neighborhood leaders have been calling for the Central Business District boundary to be pushed back from St. Mary's Street to Glenwood Avenue, where it is now, or failing that, to Boylan Avenue, the street in-between.
City Councilor Thomas Crowder, who represents District D, favors that move. He also wants the Bolton tract removed from the Central Business District and designated a special study area. Until that study is completed, he said, an existing small area plan—which the FLUM would override—should remain.
Jim Zanoni, representing the Charlotte firm FMW Real Estate, said the owners of the Bolton tract don't intend to build anything on it at downtown densities. But Zanoni argued that the Central Business District designation is proper, since the land, while not located on the rail corridor, is near a potential alternative one that would cut through the West Morgan neighborhood.