Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Luxury Liners


Luxury not selling

Sales of all Triangle homes have been off 28 percent through the first nine months of the year. But sales of luxury homes -- those $500,000 and above -- are off 66 percent, according to a Triangle Area Residential Realty report that tracks the luxury market through Sept. 30.

The market for homes above $1 million, albeit small, is particularly shaky. At least 121 homes priced above $1 million were sold during the first nine month of 2008. That's down 28 percent from last year. At the same time, the number of million-dollar homes listed for sale grew 59 percent -- more than twice the growth rate of all listings.

"Developers kind of were convinced that we were Atlanta and that we were going to have this massive influx of people who were going to buy $1 million housing," said Stacey P. Anfindsen, an appraiser a Birch Appraisal Group of Cary, who prepared the report. "That's the bet that they made. And they lost."

In Fallonia's neighborhood, this translates to 4 unoccupied speculative monoliths and at least 4 unsold but occupied overthetoppers. In addition, two are currently being readied for the market, one other avoided foreclosure by selling for a $500,000 loss.

The greatest mystery is the unoccupied owner built mansionette (you can't be a mansion on less than .5 acres, can you?) nearby. Best guess is that by not occupying until after the new year, the gargantuan property tax increase is avoided a little longer. A little troublesome considering every one on the street got whopped, except the most expensive house out there.

Is there any wonder why these massive replacement homes are seen with mixed feelings in older neighborhoods?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Loopholes vs Landmarks in NYC | Preservationists See Bulldozers Charging Through a Loophole | By ROBIN POGREBIN | Published: November 28, 2008

Hours before the sun came up on a cool October morning in 2006, people living near the Dakota Stables on the Upper West Side were suddenly awakened by the sound of a jackhammer.

Preserving the City
The Wrecking Race
This is the second in a series of articles examining the workings of New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Preservationists lost a battle to protect the Dakota, built in 1894 and shown here in 1944, after the owner secured a stripping permit.

Soon word spread that a demolition crew was hacking away at the brick cornices of the stables, an 1894 Romanesque Revival building, on Amsterdam Avenue at 77th Street, that once housed horses and carriages but had long served as a parking garage.

In just four days the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission was to hold a public hearing on pleas dating back 20 years to designate the low-rise building, with its round-arched windows and serpentine ornamentation, as a historic landmark.

But once the building’s distinctive features had been erased, the battle was lost. The commission went ahead with its hearing, but ultimately decided not to designate the structure because it had been irreparably changed. Today a 16-story luxury condominium designed by Robert A. M. Stern is rising on the site: the Related Companies is asking from $765,000 for a studio to $7 million or more for a five-bedroom unit in the building.

The strategy has become wearyingly familiar to preservationists. A property owner — in this case Sylgar Properties, which was under contract to sell the site to Related — is notified by the landmarks commission that its building or the neighborhood is being considered for landmark status. The owner then rushes to obtain a demolition or stripping permit from the city’s Department of Buildings so that notable qualities can be removed, rendering the structure unworthy of protection.

“In the middle of the night I’m out there at 2 in the morning, and they’re taking the cornices off,” said Gale Brewer, a city councilwoman who represents that part of the Upper West Side. “We’re calling the Buildings Department, we’re calling Landmarks. You get so beaten down by all of this. The developers know they can get away with that.” ...

Loopholes big enough for bulldozers to drive through seem to be quite the problem in every area interested in balancing preservation of that which makes a place valuable and growth which is positive. We have our own loopholes around this town, which is why your neighborhood may have historic status and a teardown problem at the same time. In New York, it boils down to this.

Under current rules, once a landmark hearing has been scheduled, building owners may not obtain demolition or alteration permits. But if such a permit is secured before a hearing is scheduled, as was the case with Dakota Stables and 711 Third Avenue, the work may proceed without penalty.

Safeguards crumble because the landmarks commission and the buildings department lack an established system of communication, and commissioners often are unaware that permits have been issued. There is also no set procedure by which the buildings department alerts the commission when someone seeks a permit to strip off architectural detail.

The NY Times six month study of landmarks, commissions and preservation can be found here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Handy Dandy Civic Calendar

This link comes with a definite slant toward the C-side, it is also comprehensive and good radar for Community Confrontations.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Article found on an internet reading romp

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Dreaming of a bungalow?

Today's abodes could benefit from modesty

Kelvin Browne, National Post
Published: Saturday, November 15, 2008

In a recent conversation with Paul Goldberger, architecture critic for The New Yorker, he said tough economic times make us appreciate modern houses more, the kind often built in the subdivisions of the 1950s. "The modern-style houses of this period are typically modest but well-designed, making good use of their relatively small space," says Mr. Goldberger, arguably the most influential architecture commentator in the U. S. Since we can no longer afford behemoth teardowns, with multi-garages and four ensuites, will a Don Mills bungalow be our dream home again?

Modern or not, most 1950s houses were small compared with today's homes. The U. S. National Association of Home Builders statistics show the average American abode was approximately 1,000 square feet in 1950 and had grown to 2,400 sq. ft. by 2005. While families were larger in the 1950s, houses were not; it was usual for a family of five or six to feel lucky to live in 1,200 sq. ft. In addition, there was usually a basement and carport or, if the family was well-to-do, an enclosed garage.

People lived in the living room because -- where else? If there was a family room, it was a breakfast nook connected to the kitchen. Children often shared bedrooms and most always a bathroom. If parents had an ensuite, they were doing well. No one had huge closets. It may be naive, but I don't think people had as many clothes or as much stuff in general. Photographs of 1950s homes illustrate a more minimal style than today's. It could be a magazine illusion with all the heavy curtains and French furniture arriving after the magazine photographer left, but I don't think so. The rooms were smaller and people didn't have the credit we did, at least until recently.

Families in the 1950s didn't know they were saving on the costs of addiction counselling because parents in close proximity to their children knew what they were up to. As well, like it or not, everyone had to try to get along because you couldn't disappear to your wing of the house and avoid your parents or sibs. No reality-cum-psychotherapy shows for these families.

They didn't know it then, but 1950s families were living energy efficiently because they had less space to heat and cool. Air conditioning was a luxury; a wall unit in a bedroom was the norm. They didn't have mammoth stoves or commercial-size refrigerators that guzzled energy. (More home-cooked meals and less need to have a week's worth of frozen pizza in the freezer.) Few had washers and dryers; clothes were hung outside to dry until subdivisions got snotty and outlawed clotheslines. There weren't a million energy-wasting gadgets. People raked lawns and didn't use leaf blowers. If there was a television, there was only one and the family watched it together.

"Modern houses tended to make good use of natural light, and the best had good relationships between interior and exterior spaces," Mr. Goldberger says. The most lauded examples of connection to the outside, and the expansion of perceived living area, are the classic plans of Frank Lloyd Wright. In the home magazines of the time, someone was always extolling the virtues of sliding glass doors and windows that let in garden views.

Modernists were concerned about natural heating and cooling, or positioning houses for natural ventilation. Think of Richard Neutra. Lattices above windows became standard design elements but also allowed for passive heating while blocking unwanted noon sun or sun during the summer. Traditional houses favoured in the ritzy subdivisions of the 1990s didn't care about working with nature. They were restricted by Georgian or other style conventions and couldn't, but even if they could, why bother? Heating and cooling was cheap; 1990s cottages were the worst offenders. They inevitably had huge windows facing west (to capture the sunset) that required the house be massively air-conditioned to make it livable. So much for the natural cooling of lakeside summer living.

Mr. Goldberger doesn't say that affluence made us thoughtless but he does point out how thoughtful many modernist houses are. He says they were about how people really lived and how design could make lives better. That Don Mills bungalow's goal wasn't a stage set for pretension and conspicuous consumption, but rather about making the day-to-day lives that most of us live quietly better.

Copyright © 2007 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

WRAL on Oberlin Village Cemetery

Groups hope to resurrect historic cemetery
nov 12 2008 |
Community groups are seeking state support to restore an abandoned cemetery near Cameron Village that contains the graves of some of Raleigh's earliest freed black families.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Triangle Tribune on Cameron Village Development

Community fights to protect integrity of Oberlin Village
Published Tuesday, November 4, 2008 | The Triangle Tribune | by Sommer Brokaw
RALEIGH - Neighbors are concerned that a six-story building at Cameron Village shopping center will increase traffic and encroach Oberlin Village, a historically black community.

Fallonia is a big fan of Oberlin Village. Nothing says Raleigh better than this nestled community.

Oberlin Village was founded after the civil war in 1865 when farmland west of Raleigh owned by Lewis Peck was divided into 175 acres bounded by Cameron Park, Glenwood Avenue, Fairmont and Hillsborough streets, and sold to newly freed blacks from slavery. By 1868, Oberlin had 750 residents. The community became a part of Raleigh in 1920. The population started to decline as the Great Depression descended on Oberlin as well as the rest of the country, and aging citizens with no social security lost their property. The next wave of property loss was during the 1950s with the widening of Wade Ave.

Nibbled around the edges, property lost for roads, the park, and office buildings, we are down to remnants.

Fallonia believes the the greatest danger to the integrity of Raleigh's heart is Not Paying Attention. If powers that be wrestle publicly with the past, the present, and the future, informed decisons will at least be made with intention. This is why process is so important.

Raleigh is traveling down a slippery slope with blinders on. We need more Community Involvement, not less, to make this the City we say we want to be. These are not NIMBY issues, but historical issues. Once the heart and the history are replaced with generic development, where will we be? Who will we be? Are we who we envision being?



We are a 21st Century City of Innovation focusing on environmental, cultural and economic sustainability.

We conserve and protect our environmental resources through best practices and cutting edge conservation and stewardship, land use, infrastructure and building technologies.

We welcome growth and diversity through policies and programs that will protect, preserve and enhance Raleigh's existing neighborhoods, natural amenities, rich history, and cultural and human resources for future generations. We lead to develop an improved neighborhood quality of life and standard of living for all our citizens.

We work with our universities, colleges, citizens and regional partners to promote emerging technologies, create new job opportunities and cultivate local businesses and entrepreneurs.

We recruit and train a 21st Century staff with the knowledge and skill sets to carry out this mission, through transparent civic engagement and providing the very best customer service to our current citizens in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.

Adopted: June 3, 2008

Turning our need for a community conversation into a political hot potato is another way of ignoring the issues. To be part of the conversation is to be a part of improving our future, not a roadblock to it.

Judith Guest, executive director of the Latta House Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes the history of the Latta House, which is a part of Oberlin Village, disagrees. "It's not that we're against development," she said. "The main thing is it needs to have some further review prior to the city saying there's a free pass to ignore the Wade/Oberlin small area plan."

Continuing to project that neighborhood groups are against development is misleading, untruthful and downright damaging to our collective future. We all rise or fall by decisions made by individuals, business interests, and the communities that support them. Thinking long and hard, and aloud, is required before we displace more of our valuable long-term residents.

It is a one-way street from destroying the past to an unconnected future. Planning is the process by which we do better.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Being PC about the PC

Todays N&O runs an update on the stalled Planning Commission nomination process.

Expansion of planning panel may end standoff

Bracken reports:

RALEIGH - When the City Council announced a proposal to increase the size of Raleigh's Planning Commission last month, it was a creative solution to a festering problem.

For several months, the eight-person council has been divided over two candidates nominated for one open seat on the 11-member commission. The division has spilled far beyond the council table and into Southeast Raleigh, a predominantly black area of the city that has been represented by council member James West since 1999.

It is about time the composition of the Planning Commission undergoes some public scrutiny. Thirteen members would certainly be better for a city the girth of Raleigh. As an observer of the process for several years now, Fallonia still cannot figure out what qualifications gets one nominated. And, FP must add, her up close and personal observation of the deliberations of the PC left her wondering how a concerned citizen knew more about zoning codes in Raleigh than some of its members.

Looking for the right word here, would the Raleigh PC be a shame or a sham for a city with this amount of talent and expertise? Researching other cities for their solutions to growth problems show either the Planning Commission, the Planning Department, or both, to be very involved in looking at long range consequences of rapid growth. While there is expertise on this PC, there is not always a majority of expertise making the quorum. Are daytime meetings a problem with this concept too.

You can begin your own research here.

From the N&O:


* Members serve two-year terms and no more than three consecutive terms, or six consecutive years.

* The City Council's proposal would increase the size of the Planning Commission from 11 to 13 members.

* Under the proposal, the City Council would appoint 10 city residents, and the Wake County Board of Commissioners would appoint three people who live in Raleigh's extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ. (The council currently appoints eight Raleigh residents to the Planning Commission, and Wake County commissioners appoint three ETJ residents.)

* The proposal will be discussed at a public hearing Nov. 18 at City Hall.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Heard on NPR

NPR has been producing an ongoing series on land use. Today they revisit Harlem, and effects of the gentrification on this culturally-changing historic area.

Growing Pains Come To Harlem | by Alison Stewart

One Harlem, Many Meanings

For a successful real estate agent such as Willie Suggs, the gentrification in Harlem is about business.

"It's not cultural," she says. "It's an economic transformation of a neighborhood from one economic class to another and clearly that's been happening in Harlem."

For longtime resident Dolores Early, 72, the word "gentrification" conjures something different.

"Homelessness comes to me, so a very sad situation comes to mind," Early says.

A newer arrival, artist Misha McGowan, sees a positive side of the renewed interest in uptown Manhattan.

"I love the fact that it's been restored to its former beauty. I don't mind most of the development," McGowan says.

Lucille McEwen, president of the Harlem Congregation for Community Improvement, which helps create affordable housing, is practical in her assessment of the changes.

"Sometimes, we say we are victims of our own success in rebuilding the community," she says. "But it's a much better option to be concerned with gentrification than to be concerned with high crime and blight."

Drugs, crime and poverty made for a powerful triple threat that decimated Harlem in the 1970s.

Once-stately brownstones became abandoned, graffiti-ridden dens of illegal activity. Locals who couldn't afford to move or didn't want to leave were living in an area that had few services and an uneasy relationship with police.

In the 1980s, New York City took ownership of many of the ruined homes and gave good deals to those willing to fix them up. The residential real estate market took off in the '90s.

The other side of the coin shows shades of another reality, one born in commerce, but not so compassionate on the ground.

A Fight For Low Rent

Low rent is one of the things that keeps Early in her apartment despite its problems. Her husband opens a hall window and reveals a smelly mass of black water and refuse just a few feet from their front door.

"This is a condition that has been here for years," Early says. "But recently they decided not to clean it. I've been complaining about it for over a year."

Her apartment is rent stabilized, but she believes her landlord wants her out.

"Some of the apartments, they're getting $1,500. Some of them, more than that," Early says, adding that she pays $474.02.

Low-income housing is at the top of the list for community leaders who want to embrace the economic growth but protect the people.

It is a well done story. The names may change, but the story is the same as the have-much and have-lesses fight for their home turf. There are forces in common, whether Harlem in NYC or Whitaker Mill Road in Raleigh. The challenge is figuring out how to grow in a respectful way. Fallonia believes it begins be seeing each other as real people.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Good Question

Letter to Editor | News & Observer | here

Because good schools help us sell homes and therefore help preserve property values in Wake County, we will never understand why Realtors are not leading the fight for stable funding for better schools.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Comprehensive Planning Committee Votes to Pave

City committee recommends paving Broughton lawn
BY DAVID BRACKEN, Staff Writer | News & Observer | Raleigh NC

RALEIGH - Raleigh's Comprehensive Planning Committee recommended Wednesday that Broughton High School be allowed to pave most its front lawn to add up to 100 student parking spaces. ...

The Comprehensive Planning Committee is the third city body to weigh in on Broughton's plan to turn its tiered lawn into a parking lot. The plan has received the support of the Raleigh Historic Districts Commission, but was rejected by the city's Planning Commission last month. ...

At one point during the meeting, Baldwin asked Mitch Silver, the city's planning director, how the Historic Districts Commission and the Planning Commission could have such different positions on the same plan.

"We're dealing with the memory of a place, which is not covered in a code," Silver said.

The full City Council is expected to vote on the recommendation during its Tuesday meeting.

Monday, October 20, 2008

At Home in the Hamptons

One/third acre-lot rings a bell.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Last Hope for Stanhope

View Larger Map

Letter to the Editor | News & Observer | Raleigh NC

In your Oct. 15 article "City approves two projects," council member Nancy McFarlane said, "I feel I have a real fiduciary responsibility to the city to make sure we have good development that would help the city as a whole."

McFarlane's comment suggests that she would be abdicating her fiduciary responsibility by honoring the city's comprehensive plan. The two are not mutually exclusive, and the councilor knows they are not mutually exclusive. To suggest that they are is dishonest.

The problem is that the corporation in question wants to make more than a profit. It wants to make a killing.

A profitable student housing complex could exist comfortably within the bounds of Raleigh's comprehensive plan.

--Tom Hennessy, Raleigh

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Up in the Northeast Corner

Here Quoth a Realtor/Lawyer from a distant blog:


A reader asks, "This post brings up a question that has been nagging me for a while...does it make sense to put money into a now depreciating asset in anticipation of making it more desirable to sell at a later date? What determines whether or not a house is a 'tear down'? "
. . .

What makes a tear down? In happier days, any older house that sat on decent land was quarreled over by builders and first time home buyers alike - picture sea gulls fighting over a fish carcass. Now that the builders are on hiatus there are fewer tear downs and a much better opportunity for young families who can't afford a mansion to move in, maybe add that new kitchen you so wisely avoided, and live happily ever after. Personally, I like that development; I represent a couple of builders, whom I like and admire, but I also live in this town and I'd be glad to see the return of "normal" families.

Another neighbor heard from.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Alexandria Says Yes to Infill Standards

Looks like a plan to me. Oh yeh, a Plan, that's what we wanted.

I guess Santa isn't going to bring this to Raleigh this year since Alexandria got it. For the uninitiated, (citizens of Raleigh) this is what studying a problem looks like. I think this is called Planning.

Infill Task Force
City Council Approves Comprehensive Infill Regulations

On Tuesday, June 24, the City Council approved the recommendations of the Infill Task Force, with a few minor amendments. The recommendations are comprehensive, and include amendments to the zoning ordinance for the following:
  • Height
  • Front setbacks
  • Garages
  • Floor Area Ratio
  • Tree Coverage
  • Teardowns on Substandard Lots
The amendments are generally applicable to one- and two-family dwellings in the R-20, R-8, R-5, R-2-5, RA and RB zones, outside the historic districts. To view the new ordinance language on the above, please see the following link to the Council docket item:

The regulations are effective as of Wednesday, June 25, 2008. As such, all new applications submitted from that day forward will be subject to the new regulations. Any complete applications for building permit or grading plan submitted prior to that day will be processed under the prior rules.

In addition, the City Council directed staff to prepare a scope, timeline and budget proposal for a Citywide Pattern Book to bring back for their consideration in Fall 2008.

If you have any questions or comments, or have a specific project that you would like clarification on the applicability of the new regulations, please contact Peter Leiberg or Valerie Peterson at 703-838-4666. Planning Commission recommended approval of Infill Task Force recommendations at its June 4 hearing. The recommendations will go to City Council Hearing on June 14 at 9:30 am.

Background on the Infill study:

In April 2007, City Council approved a Resolution to establish an Infill Task Force, whose mission is to:
  • Study the impact of large new housing construction and major residential additions in existing, established single-family neighborhoods.
  • Analyze existing City regulations that pertain to limiting infill impacts and make recommendations to the Planning Commission and City Council for any regulatory changes.
  • Keep the public informed about the study, briefing the community at large on the progress of the infill study, and briefing the Planning Commission and City Council on their analysis and recommendations.
Schedule & Meeting Agendas

Infill Task Force Members:
[snip], Chair, Planning Commission
[snip], Architect
[snip], Builder/Developer
[snip], Architect
[snip], Northern Virginia Association of Realtors
[snip], Resident, Mt. Jefferson/Del Ray
[snip], Resident, North Ridge
[snip], Resident, Rosemont
[snip], Resident, Strawberry Hill

Meeting Materials:
June 3 Planning Commission Hearing
  • Infill Task Force Recommendations
Thursday, May 1, 2008, Infill Community Meeting
  • Presentation
April 17, 2008
  • Agenda
  • Draft Proposed Zoning Ordinance Changes (proposed new language underlined in red, and existing language in plain text)
  • Height Definitions
  • Subdivision
  • Substandard Lots
  • FAR and Related Changes
  • Average Front Setback and Threshold Height
  • Supplemental Regulations
  • Overlay Districts and Pattern Book (Policy Recommendations)

April 8, 2008 Joint Worksession with Planning Commission and City Council
› Presentation
› Summary Table of Preliminary Recommendations from Infill Task Force

March 18, 2008
› Agenda
› Meeting Summary
› Detailed Discussion of Potential Regulations
› Proposed Regulations and Staff Recommendations

February 21, 2008
› Agenda
› Meeting Summary
› Presentation
› Presentation on Annapolis, MD Conservation District
› Overview of Existing and Proposed Regulations

January 30, 2008
› Agenda
› Presentation
› Meeting Summary

January 17, 2008
› Agenda
› Presentation
› Meeting Summary
› Preliminary Concepts for Consideration FAR and Bulk

December 6, 2007
› Agenda
› Presentation
› Preliminary Concepts for Consideration
› Meeting Summary

November 15, 2007
› Agenda
› Presentation
› Meeting Summary

October 25, 2007
› Agenda
› Meeting Summary
› Summary of Infill Measures in Other Jurisdictions

October 16, 2007
› Agenda
› Meeting Summary
› Presentation

August 28, 2007
› Meeting Summary
› Presentation to Infill Task Force

Background Information:
  • Interim Ordinance #4457
  • Emergency Legislation Enacted Addressing Residential Infill Concerns
  • Staff Report on Infill Interim Regulations June 6, 2006
  • Presentation to Planning Commission March 9, 2006
  • Report to Planning Commission March 9, 2006

Sunday, October 12, 2008

How Tall Is It??

After watching the discussion on height this week -- in Stanhope and Cameron Village areas -- Fallonia has been doing her homework and researching the impact of height on communities. We know that height in infill homes is quite an issue. What about when commercial projects are being built in the edges of neighborhoods? You know, this ...

Urban Form/Community Character
The height, design, materials, and location of buildings contribute to the quality of the urban environment. That quality can be degraded by buildings that are of inappropriate scale and insensitive design. Existing buildings in the [snip] Corridor are predominantly one or two stories in height, and many have large floor plates and blank concrete walls. New buildings might be taller and architecturally distinct and will therefore change the character of the area—both as viewed from the public spaces on the perimeter of the study area, or as experienced from the sidewalks, parks, and plazas within new mixed-use neighborhoods.

Research led to a study from Bellevue WA where this question was asked and answered. The url indicates it is an official city document. If any analysis like this has occurred in Raleigh, FP would like to know about it. Isn't this the sort of thing neighborhoods are asking for ... impact analysis? It just seems so willy nilly around here.

Locations of Taller Buildings
The arrangement of taller buildings can become a very prominent part of a community’s identity. Some urban critics assert that where taller buildings occur, they should be limited to iconic structures or public buildings, such as cathedrals, iconic towers, or major public buildings. This logic has been used to prohibit higher building forms in large portions of some cities (e.g., Washington, D.C., and Paris).

Others assert that if taller commercial and residential buildings are placed in the right locations, these buildings can provide a sense that a community has well-defined and carefully planned centers of development. By contrast, an urban form of high-rise buildings distributed across the landscape with no strong sense of focus can give the impression of unplanned and haphazard growth. Because they are visible from a distance, taller buildings can strongly affect community character and identity, for better or worse.

Maybe our comp plan will be a guiding light for us all. Surely they are up there doing planning in the Planning Department. Surely.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Teardown of the week (weeks ago that is)

No plans on file that reveal the future for this lot. Selling price is a couple of hundred thou over the property valuation.

Fallonia predicts something Eurofabulous, in the $2.5-3.5M range.

Zoning R-4
Acreage .31
Permit Date 8/15/2008
Permit # 0000077258

Transfer Information
Pkg Sale Date 7/9/2008
Pkg Sale Price $825,000

Heated Area 2,125
Originally built 1944

Location Location Location ...

Fallonia's concern is that a family could move in and work with this house, as a good investment and a growing home. When the neighborhood's "entry level" houses -- those of good size and quality -- are demolished for an expensive and speculative upgrade (and yes, this is an LLC doing the job, not a homeowner), then we are basically shutting out potential good neighbors and a diversity of community. As a city, we need to pay attention to this, and to one other thing: will our economy be able to sustain this many multi-million dollar homes?? These ITB neighborhoods have been more expensive for decades, but this is something else.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Raleigh any more

FROM THE N&O | David Bracken | 10/07/08 | 2:53 PM

Raleigh Council OKs development proposals

RALEIGH - The City Council approved two development proposals today that have drawn intense interest from residents who live nearby the projects.

The council voted 6-2 to allow a developer to build a private 10-story student apartment building and a parking deck off Hillsborough Street for N.C. State University students. The project, called the Stanhope Center, was first submitted to the city 10 months ago. ...

The council also voted 5-2 to approve Crescent Resources request to rezone 2.67 acres at Clark Avenue and Oberlin Road in the Cameron Village shopping center in West Raleigh.

The rezoning increases the height limit on any building it constructs from 50 feet to about 85 feet. The building could include up to 28,000 square feet of shops and 232 apartments or condominiums. ...

More information about developments in Cameron Village can be found here at New Raleigh dot com.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Oberlin Village Needs You ...

Oberlin Village -- on the edge of Hayes Barton, Wade Avenue, Cameron Village, and University Park -- is on the verge of becoming a historic marker. When you know the story of this community, you have learned also about the history of the areas surrounding. This placard gives a glimpse of the rich history that Oberlin Road connects.

As a steward to the community; we will serve as a vessel to promote the history of the Latta School, its founder and other historic facets of Oberlin Village. These offerings will be rendered through educational and cultural
opportunities for all.


Following the Civil War, parcels of land were subdivided and sold to freed slaves. Oberlin Village would be one of Raleigh’s first communities of freed slaves. The land had belonged to a wealthy plantation owner, Duncan Cameron who was a North Carolina state politician and state banker. Former slave, James E. Harris, established Oberlin Village in 1866. He graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio for which the community was named after due to its opposition to slavery. It was also an institution that opened enrollment to African Americans. The 149 acres primarily consisted of farmland where its new citizens pursued self-sufficiency by erecting schools, businesses and places of worship. Some of the original homes were quaint and of Victorian style. Today, few can be found along Oberlin Road, Wade and Clark Avenues.

  • Wilson Temple United Methodist Church- Founded in 1865, the church was established to meet spiritual needs and to provide ministry to the Oberlin community. The church continues to this day to be a refuge with open hearts, open minds, and open doors. All are welcome! - W. E. McLeod, pastor.
  • Oberlin Cemetery- Located on Oberlin Road behind RE/MAX, the 142-year-old cemetery has laid to rest generations of Oberlin Village’s earliest residents. Some born unto slavery. The last burial is as recent as 2007.
  • Latta University-A former school and orphanage for the children of freed slaves. Founded by Reverend Morgan London Latta in 1892. The former slave of the Cameron family was one of Shaw University’s first graduates. The historic landmark was lost to a fire in January of 2007. It was the last of remaining of 26 structures. The 2-acre site is currently owned by the City of Raleigh. It’s the Latta House Foundation’s desire for it to be converted into a memorial teaching park and cultural center.
  • The following are some of the privately owned homes listed with the National Registry of Historic Places: Willis M. Graves House, Rev. Plummer T. Hall House and the John T. & Mary Turner House.


  • Dr. James E. Shepherd – In 1909 founded North Carolina Central University. Formerly known as the NC College For Negroes, it was one of the first state supported colleges in the nation for African Americans.
  • John H. Baker (1935- 2007) -served as North Carolina’s first black sheriff for nearly 2 decades. He was also a former pro football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • In 1956, Joseph Holt Jr. and his family would be one of the first to challenge Raleigh’s segregated school system.
  • Historic Oberlin Village had a host of educators, doctors and those who served in the military. Some honorably sacrificing their lives for our country.

  • “As a child, I can remember the early morning visits from the milk truck and the ice man. The neighbors who had farms would come by to sell fresh vegetables.” – Mrs. Minnie Pearce Turner Williams
  • “Easter Sunday everyone would visit Mr. Arthur Sheppard’s flower garden for a corsage or lapel. They would also pick flowers to place on the graves of loved ones passed.”- Mr. Joseph Holt
  • “There was a pond off lake Boone Trail where people would walk down for baptisms.”- Mrs. Rose Morgan Goode
  • “I do remember during the summer months when gypsies would set up camp in Cameron Woods. (Location of Harris Teeter) They would come in their wagons and were dressed in colorful clothing. They would stay for weeks.”- Mrs. Mamie Haywood

  • Contact the City of Raleigh’s Historic District Commission
  • Visit your local library or book store to read Culture Town by Linda Simmons–Henry
  • Tour the Raleigh City Museum
  • The senior residents are your best source yet. Make an introduction today!

This outreach placard was brought to you by
and sponsored by the

Oberlin Village has been vigilant in its civic participation to protect its heritage, key buildings, and cemetery. This inside-the-beltline community has given up homes for the city to build Jaycee park, the Wade Ave overpass, and has negotiated with developers on Oberlin Rd to protect their cemetery and a way in. It is giving up many of their old homes one lot at a time for business development, on Oberlin south, and new homes, on Oberlin north, of Wade.

Having recently resolved a way to coexist with the new developments across the street from Wilson Temple, they are sounding the alarm again, the problem now being the Crescent project at Cameron Village.

The City Council will be hearing this zoning request at 1:00 pm on Tues, October 7. Research the issue here at See ya downtown on Tuesday.

The community’s history is often overlooked, and the village is often erroneously referred to as Cameron Village, a shopping center built in 1949 within Oberlin’s parameters. In recent years, development has erased much of Oberlin Village’s physical and historical landscape. While welcoming economic opportunities and urban growth, many descendants of the original villagers are ensuring that Oberlin Village is preserved and its history told.

Source:  Linda Simmons-Henry, Culture Town : Life in Raleigh's African American Communities (Raleigh, 1993) By Judith Guest, Latta House Foundation

Friday, October 3, 2008

Which Is It?

Bob Geary, over at, has a piece on the current quagmire known as the Raleigh City Council. In the news recently have been several bones of contention: the Planning Commission nomination process, and a couple of development issues in the old town. Is a recommended read....

The real irony lies in these quotes, tho.

The problem is defined here:

While these issues were being debated behind the scenes, The News & Observer reported that the four councilors have been meeting and talking as a group throughout the year, a practice that is completely legal but which Meeker nonetheless called "improper" if they were plotting to block a development project.

Under the state's open meetings law, five members of the eight-member council cannot meet in private because they constitute a majority capable of making decisions outside of public view. There's no bar in the law, though, against four councilors talking together—and such meetings, in various combination, are common in Raleigh City Hall.

And a suggestion from the Mayor to solve the other problem goes this way:

The initial council vote, two weeks ago, was 4-1 for Vance, with Meeker among the three declining to vote. His MM allies want the mayor to follow his past practice of "governing from the middle," which meant joining four-vote pluralities to make a majority. Meeker was noncommittal in an interview Tuesday.

"I'm encouraging the councilors to resolve that issue informally," he said.

Exactly how does he envision that happening?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008

McMansion Meltdown?

Finally, a top 10 list Raleigh is not on.

Towns That Could Be Hit Hardest by the Financial Crisis
by Prashant Gopal | Saturday, September 27, 2008 | provided by Business Week

The upheaval shaking Wall Street will hurt privileged enclaves as well as working-class neighborhoods from coast to coast. Find out which will fare the worst.

The story begins ...

How many former Lehman Brothers bankers or AIG executives are likely to be buying a Park Avenue apartment or a home in Darien, Conn., this year? Most likely answer: not many at all.

Reading the article shows that many of the nation's teardown hotspots are on the list of places expecting slowdowns. Of course all will be affected by this. But Fallonia predicts that activities such as this and this and this will be slowed as well.

Of course, we can never get these back.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Naturalist visits Fallon Park

This is a fine exploration of Fallon Park and its surrounds.

It is a clean, rock-filled creek with a wide range of trees and plants arranged around its slopes. There are small grass meadows at the top and bottom. It serves a surrounding community that maintains rich, semi-organic plantings in its large yards, and it drains steep wooded slopes with older houses and little construction. The creek’s quality reflects all of that.

And this observation is exactly why residents were so concerned about this little park that they requested a zoning that reflected the build-out of the current area.

Enjoy the virtual visit.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Community Conversations III


The Economic Benefits of Community Character
Donovan Rypkema, Place Economics, and Pratt Cassity, UGA Center for Community Design and Preservation

Our community character (the physical, natural, social and cultural elements of our city and its neighborhoods) and the
strength of our economy are what consistently make Raleigh one of the ten best places to live in the country. Don Rypkema and Pratt Cassity, both national experts in urban design, historic preservation and economics, will discuss how our priorities for community design and preservation affect our city's economic future.

Continue the conversation with your friends and neighbors over coffee and dessert after the lecture.

Monday, September 22, 2008
7:30 - 9:00 pm
Long View Center
Lecture is free and open to the public.

Sponsored by the Raleigh Historic Districts Commission,
in partnership with Preservation North Carolina and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Charlottesville VA keeps track

1. The desire for greater density lead to the demise of some decent looking houses in the University area, such as 2006 Jefferson Park Ave., demoed to make room for a 20-plus-unit apartment building. 2. Modest, run-down homes in the University area, like this one on John Street, have been particularly likely to be replaced by higher density housing. 3. Some older single-family residences across the city have been torn down to make room for newer single-family residences, as was the case with 606 Monticello Avenue. 4. Not everything demolished has been replaced, as is the case at 723 Nalle St. It is one of 15 homes torn down in Fifeville in the past five years.

Oh no, not Charlottesville...

Places we've lost

Looking back at 80 demos in five years

BY WILL GOLDSMITH | (Charlottesville News and Arts)

When she took over as city preservation planner in 2003, no one told Mary Joy Scala to keep tabs on torn-down buildings. “We only keep building permits for three years,” says Scala. “I just thought there should be a record of what was destroyed.”

The result is a trio of 1" three-ring binders with property cards and pictures of the demolished buildings. Some fourscore demolitions have taken place in the past five years, a time during which the city has seen a development renaissance thanks to the confluence of a bubbling housing market and philosophical shift during the mayoral era of Maurice Cox towards encouraging density. On a rainy weekday, I trudged down to City Hall to see what could be gleaned by combing through Scala’s binders.

For the most part, they are page books of modest homes that had to make way for “progress”—bigger buildings with more units and modern amenities. The University area in particular has been hard hit by demolitions, either because of institutional expansions or landlords capitalizing on the higher density afforded by Council in 2003.

Monroe Lane lost at least half a dozen residences to condos and medical center projects. Valley Road and Brandon Avenue were scourged for the South Lawn project, though property owners there were well remunerated for their loss—UVA bought several of the bulldozer-marked houses for more than $1 million each. On Wertland Street and Jefferson Park Avenue, Wade Apartments took down older rental units to turn them into nicer new units. Further down JPA, two stately residences at 2006 and 2101 vanished in favor of, respectively, a multiunit apartment and a grassy lot.

The most infamous University area tear down was done by the Thomas Jefferson Scholars Foundation when it demoed 124 Maury Ave. (a.k.a. the Beta frat house), an elegant residence designed by notable architect Eugene Bradbury. But the TJ scholars also took out two less striking ranch-style houses on Clark Court to make room for their new graduate fellowship center.

Not all the tear downs are residential. The Terrace Theater, for instance, was torn down last fall to make room for the new Whole Foods on Hydraulic Road, and a Donut Connection building was obliterated for the cool two-story Arch’s.

Around the rest of the city, demolitions have been mostly scattered affairs, though Fifeville and the area of Belmont closer to Carlton Avenue have lost more than their fair share. Neighborhoods both old and rich, like North Downtown and Rugby Road, have largely been spared the wrecking ball, but even those places have seen a handful of demolitions. For instance, after buying 906 Fendall Terrace in 2004 for $530,000, Michael and Prudence Thorner tore down a five-room 1,760-square-foot house and replaced it with an eight-room 4,000-square-foot house.

What Scala’s binders can’t explain, however, is why a house was demolished. Unless a building has local historical designation, a demolition permit is relatively easy to obtain and requires no justification. That means that there is no catalogue of a building’s flaws, of its cracked foundation or its leaking roof or its rotten framing. No judge publicly proclaims its sins before consigning it to the crowbar. The city assessor’s property card, with its simple numbers on rooms, square footage and year built, is all that will remain of those deceased dwellings that once gave Charlottesville shelter.

Same here. And the demo permit fee is $75 in our neck of the woods. Hardly a hardship.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Good Morning, Raleigh

Over at Goodnight, Raleigh! a photo essay on Raleigh's "Nail Buildings" was posted 09.08.08.

‘Nail Buildings’ or ‘Nail Houses’ are terms that were coined in China to represent the businesses and residences that refuse to allow their buildings to be demolished, even in the face of towering construction or a barren landscape all around them. The phrase refers to a nail in wood that is difficult to remove.

Must be why they invented bulldozers.

You may also want to take a night-time stroll down memory lane.

This is the while-you-were-sleeping view of Raleigh. Almost like being there. Almost.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sold on Claremont

Crabtree Creekview on Claremont changed owners on 8/13/2008.

The original house was razed on 3/15/2006, thus a 2.5 month flip-phase.

The sale price came in $500 lower than asking price, and $120K below tax value.

You really could see Crabtree creek really well from the porches last week during Gustav. Or in the driveway.

The Week in Preview

From the N&O:


Two historic areas in Raleigh are the subjects of votes this week.

Today, residents of the Glenwood-Brooklyn neighborhood across from Fletcher Park near downtown will be watching how Wake County commissioners vote on the George's Mews apartment proposal. Many residents oppose an effort to convert the 26-unit complex into low-income housing, including eight units for people with physical and mental disabilities. The $2.14 million project is to be funded by the city, Wake County and state agencies.

On Tuesday, the Raleigh City Council will consider the Wake schools' plan to make a parking lot out of the front lawn of 79-year-old Broughton High School. This is an appeal of the Planning Commission's 6-3 rejection of the school's plan last week.

More Glenwood-Brooklyn stories here:



North Raleigh News

Broughton's front lawn is covered here:


Planning Commission decision

Further reaction



Saturday, September 13, 2008

UP and CV Go At It

Keep up with things here.

In summary, regardless of the multiple requests by the neighborhoods to address issues concerning density that gut the Wade/Oberlin Small Area Plan and traffic congestion that will negatively impact the neighborhoods surrounding Cameron Village, the city planners have chosen Cameron Village as a site for more density without fully knowing how the current infrastructure of the neighborhood will support the dramatic increase in density.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

They Paved Paradise ...

Fallonia can't believe her eyes ... pave the front lawn at Broughton? Three Cheers for the Planning Commission. Or is it 1 cheer for the PC and 2 cheers for the neighbors who were paying attention and let their voices be heard.

Fallonia has been away on an extended non-holiday and is slowly catching up with local news. Please let me know if I have missed something in your neck of the woods. Better yet, submit a guest column for your neighborhood. Anonymity guaranteed.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Here's a Whale of a Tale

What is a view? It depends on Who is looking Where.

Who has a right to a view? It depends on Where the Money is.

If you are a resident of an established neighborhood, then something that comes along and obstructs the view and the sunshine can be regarded as a detriment to that property. The new guy on the block will see what they have done as their right, and very likely an improvement to the neighborhood. What about the original resident's right? A great time to invoke the golden rule (as an aside, a form of this rule exists in every religion on earth -- wonder why?)

Just when you think it can't get any muddier, along comes a new way of looking at it. In a story on NPR today, the battle over View has three sides: the residents -- the city -- and the billboard industry. Guess who's view is most important?

In Florida, Billboards Trump Trees

by David Baron

All Things Considered, September 8, 2008 · Across America, communities intent on beautifying their roadways often plant trees. But in some places, those trees have encountered a powerful foe: the billboard industry.

This is a story about 16 crape myrtles, four billboards and one road.

'Tacky Town' Gets A Makeover

U.S. Highway 192 is a six-lane strip of asphalt in Osceola County, Fla., outside Walt Disney World. Families come here to ride go-carts and roller coasters, buy T-shirts and gorge themselves at all-you-can-eat buffets. But back in the 1980s, this tourist strip was losing business to newer, nicer roadways. Its image needed improvement.

"It got its fair share of bad names," says Hector Lizasuain, who oversees the highway for Osceola County. "At one time, this place was considered 'Tacky Town,' 'The Failed Las Vegas.' I think that's what drove this community to do something about that and change that."

What the community did was launch a beautification project.

Highway 192 used to be exceptionally plain. It was lined by weed-filled ditches, with no sidewalks and poor lighting. It was drab.

So the property owners voted to tax themselves $29 million to make the roadway safer and prettier.

"Look at it today," says Lizasuain. "We have 10-foot sidewalks on both sides of the road. We have bicycle paths, well-lit bus shelters, information-filled kiosks. And that's not even mentioning the beautiful landscaping that we have out here."

Trees Vs. Billboards

The landscaping included 360 palms, 300 oleanders and 1,400 loquats, among other trees. But as the county made these improvements several years ago, some people were not happy.

"We alerted [the county] that … we've got a problem," recalls Craig Swygert. He heads the Orlando division of Clear Channel Outdoor, which owns billboards along Highway 192.

"The billboards were there first, and the trees started popping up, and they were done so in a way that they would block the view of the billboard," he says. He argued that by planting the trees where it did, the government was acting unfairly. "It's like, 'Hey, we're going to give you a permit to be in business, but then we're going to take it away after you've already invested all this money.'"

Clear Channel and other billboard companies complained that beautification projects on a number of Florida roads threatened their business, so they lobbied the state Legislature for protection.

A New Law

In 2006, lawmakers drafted a bill to outlaw the planting of trees on the public right-of-way in front of billboards. Each sign would be guaranteed a 500-foot-long view, uninterrupted by a single branch of leaf.

At the time, Randy Johnson was state representative for Osceola County along Highway 192. He supported the bill. "Those billboards are important, they feed lots of families," he testified at a hearing. "This is a tourism corridor. Tourism depends on billboards, not on trees."

Osceola County officials vehemently disagreed, but the Legislature passed the law, and it went into effect in 2006 just after the beautification project on Highway 192 celebrated its completion. A few months later, the state transportation agency announced that 38 of the newly planted trees were in violation of the law because they stood in front of four billboards. It said those trees would have to be cut down.

"I felt very — at that time — very betrayed," says Lizasuain. Others felt the same way.

"Have You No Shame?'

The Orlando Sentinel ran a front-page article about the trees' impending demise. The story provoked a strong public response.

Orlando resident Paul Adsett penned a letter to the editor. "It would be hard to imagine a more compulsive demonstration of the abusive power of an industry-lobbying group … to overrule the public interest in the name of corporate profits," he wrote. "To Clear Channel, Craig Swygert and Randy Johnson, I say, 'have you no shame?'"

James Browski, a homeowner in the Indian Ridge Oaks neighborhood near Highway 192, wrote angrily to Johnson: "Trees are beautiful, billboards are ugly. Thanks to you, ugly wins."

Orlando resident Sandra Butler posted a comment to an online discussion board. "What kind of ignorant person passed this law?" she asked. "Haven't the developers taken away enough trees and plant life?"

Who Controls The View?

The public outcry wasn't just about trees. It was about a larger issue: Who gets to control the view? Why should a private industry dictate what the public sees on a public highway?

"The issue of billboard companies seeking to cut down public trees is something that's happening all over the country," says Bill Jonson, who serves on the board of the advocacy group Scenic America.

Jonson calls this industry lobbying effort inappropriate — "because they're public trees" — but it has been effective. Several states now have laws that give billboards precedence over beautification projects, and those laws often leave local communities powerless to save their trees.

A Compromise

At first, it appeared Osceola County was destined to lose its fight against Clear Channel, but as the negative publicity spread, Clear Channel said it was open to compromise.

The county made an offer. What if it kept the trees pruned to limit their impact on the billboards? Clear Channel accepted the offer and said most of the trees could stay. But the company took a hard line against 16 crape myrtles clustered in the median. It insisted that those trees had to go.

"That's almost like someone coming in and saying you've got twins, and one of them is going to be sacrificed to save the other," says Lizasuain. But he had no choice, and in October 2006, his crew cut the crape myrtles to stumps.

Lizasuain thought that was the end of the story, but he's since made a discovery. It turns out the crape myrtles did not die as intended. They are now sprouting through a bed of low-growing shrubs on the highway median.

Lizasuain is quietly letting the trees live. He keeps them trimmed to a tiny size so no one notices they're there, but to him they serve in silent protest to the billboard law. Should those in power someday change the law back in favor of the trees, the crape myrtles will be ready to emerge and provide a canopy of flowers that, for now, remains illegal.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Community Conversations: SEP 22, 2008

Two not-to-be-missed nationally recognized speakers together in one unique event!

The Economic Benefits of Community Character

Donovan Rypkema, Place Economics, Inc.
Pratt Cassity, University of Georgia Center for Urban Design and Preservation

Please join us for the third event in the Community Conversations series.

Our community character (the physical, natural, social and cultural elements of our city and its neighborhoods) and the strength of our economy are what consistently make Raleigh one of the ten best places to live in the country. Don Rypkema and Pratt Cassity, both national experts in urban design, historic preservation and economics, will discuss how our priorities for community design and preservation affect our city's economic future.

Continue the conversation with your friends and neighbors over coffee and dessert after the lecture.

Monday, September 22, 2008
7:30 - 9:00 pm
Long View Center
118 S. Person Street, Raleigh

Lecture is free and open to the public. Invite your friends to come along!

Sponsored by the Raleigh Historic Districts Commission,
in partnership with Preservation North Carolina and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

SOLD: to the only bidder

The .25 acre teardown lot at 2721 Cooleemee was sold on 8/22/2008 for the same price it was purchased 9/28/2007. The speculator of 2007 paid the taxes and for the house to be land-filled, thus losing money in the deal (not unlike the owners of many middle-person speculative  teardown lots in these parts).

The land has been on the market since the house was torn down earlier this year. The cottage was a rental home for many many years, and was on the market for possibly a year before its sale in 2007 for $50K less than asking price.  Same thing happened again in this sale market. 

The new owner has a home-design sign in front. If you google the name on it you get this:

Creepin Castles, Batman. 

Monday, August 25, 2008

NIBMY, LULUs, NOPEs and CAVEs dissected

The Social Functions of NIMBYism

United States Community / Economic Development Features Government / Politics Land Use

25 August 2008 - 5:00am
Author: Matthew J. Kiefer

Matthew J. Kiefer observes the full flower of NIMBYism today- no longer just satisfied with their backyard, NIMBYs have become NOPEs (Not On Planet Earth). This article originally appeared in Harvard Design Magazine, Spring/Summer 2008.

Opposition to new development is fraught with so many acronyms that you need a lexicon to decode them. The catch-all term is NIMBYism, sufficiently well known to merit an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary, which identifies its first use in a 1980 Christian Science Monitor story. The term arose to describe opposition to large infrastructure projects undertaken by public agencies or utility companies, such as highways, nuclear power plants, waste disposal facilities, and prisons. (These are known as LULUs, Locally Undesirable Land Uses) It has now extended outward in concentric circles of opposition, each with its own acronym: NOTEs (Not Over There Either), NIABYs (Not In Anyone’s Backyard), BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone), and even NOPEs (Not On Planet Earth!). It is also possible to find references to CAVE people (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) and NIMTOOs (Not In My Term Of Office).

In any event, opposition to development has long since entered its second phase, targeting not just LULUs, but also ordinary development projects. It is now a standard feature of the development landscape, a form of ritual performance art. As a citizen activist and author of a NIMBY handbook unapologetically observes, “Everyone is a NIMBY, and no one wants a LULU.”

Interesting read. Whatcha think?

So far in Raleigh Central this month, Boylan Heights got the message for Central Prison's new hospital when the trees went down, Sunnybrook Road residents awoke to find blasting notices for a 200 ft water reuse irrigation tank in their backyards, and Glenwood Brooklyn learned of new CASA plans. We have heard "we did what the law requires" a lot in these weeks.

The scale of new development projects and our ability to measure their impacts have also increased over time. As the burgeoning land use regulatory regime has gradually supplanted planning, the effectiveness of public agencies in establishing publicly accepted templates for growth has also diminished. Perhaps more importantly, we have come increasingly to rely on private actors to build public infrastructure as a component of their large-scale development projects.

These factors combine to almost mandate wider citizen participation in development decisions. While civic engagement may be dwindling generally, it has undoubtedly risen in the development arena. Filling the vacuum left by minimalist government, atrophied land-use planning, and an eroding social contract, NIMBYism is the bitter fruit of a pluralistic democracy in which all views carry equal weight.

I beg their pardon.

When it gets to the heart of it, the author does say this:

First, although it goes against the grain of every project proponent’s deepest instincts, to overcome their sense of oppression, the neighbors must be invited to actually influence development outcomes within the bounds of feasibility. Ceding some measure of control over the design of the project eliminates the “zero sum game” negotiation that characterizes most approval processes. It often leads to creative solutions and empowers the problem-solvers and constructive participants more than the extremists.

and this:

A second element is compensation. Every project has impacts, and most fall disproportionately on an identifiable subset of people within a narrow geographic radius, who generally believe, whether they state it publicly or not, that they are entitled to some special consideration for allowing some broader social need to be met at their expense.

And the grand finale:

NIMBYism serves many social functions. In an improvised and very democratic way, it forces mitigation measures to be considered, distributes project impacts, protects property values, and helps people adjust to change in their surroundings. It is a corrective mechanism that, if allowed to function properly, can even help to preserve a constituency for development. We owe the continued existence of many memorable places, from Washington’s Mt. Vernon to the Cape Cod National Seashore, to the efforts of past NIMBYs. In fact, if the forces that animate NIMBYism – attachment to place, increases in homeownership, and public participation in government decision-making – were waning, we would lament this more than we now bemoan NIMBYism. Though it’s not so easy to do, the only constructive approach is to accord development opponents the presumption of good faith and to engage with them.

Is worth a read.  Good faith would go a long way in the actions this past month. 

R E S P E C T ... 

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Right to Privacy

Privacy has many faces

Archived Thursday, August 14, 2008

The White County NEWS

A town divided - Helicopter debate heats up in Helen

by Kristen Mangum

About 100 people attended a public meeting about the helicopter business in Helen on Tuesday, Aug. 12.
White County News

A city is at odds, and a helicopter tour business marks the dividing line.

At the request of Eric McMillan, owner of Scenic Helicopter Tours in Helen, a public meeting was held in the city Tuesday, Aug. 12.

Approximately 100 people filled the Helen City Commission chambers at city hall.

Each person wishing to speak had three minutes to voice their opinion on the helicopter business, which began operations in the city earlier this year. Some exceeded their three-minute allotment.

Delbert Greear, who had attended previous commission meetings to voice his opposition of the business, was the first to speak.

“Enough is enough,” he said, adding that Helen is a “noise-sensitive area” and that he would continue to protest until the helicopter operation ceased.

When asked by Helen Mayor David Greear how many times on any given Saturday he sees or hears the helicopter, Delbert Greear said about 40 to 50 times. He said the helicopter flies 500 to 600 feet above his home in Helen.

Others, like Nancy Greear, said she was “very much opposed” to the business.

“The noise is devastating and the invasion of privacy unacceptable,” she said.

She noted her residence was in the “direct path” of the helicopter, which she said often flies over at five-minute intervals and many times late at night.

Nancy Greear also briefly mentioned environmental impacts and revealed that New York stopped allowing helicopter flights around the Statue of Liberty.

“I think if they're too noisy for New York, then they're too noisy for us,” she said.

“We are too small. This area's too congested. It's totally unacceptable.”

Helen resident Teressa Holtzclaw called the business “intolerable.”

Holtzclaw accused McMillan of making threats and bullying.

“I wish Mr. McMillan success,” she said. “In another line of business.”

Holtzclaw's address was met with both applause and jeers from the big crowd in attendance.

For every complaint, there was a positive remark about McMillan's business.

Helen businessman Art Connor told commissioners he was “personally glad that we have a helicopter tour in town. It has been a plus for my customers, a plus for the activities that I can direct them to.”

“And I can honestly say that I have never heard of so many people hearing so well,” he said.

“I hear the helicopter occasionally, I hear motorcycles occasionally, I hear trucks occasionally, I hear drunks walking down the street occasionally.”

“Correct me if I'm wrong, but are we a tourist town as we advertise ourselves, or are we a bedroom community of some mystical place?” Connor asked.

David Greear told Connor he did not believe “there was a single person in this room that he needed to remind that we're a tourist town. I think we need to be reminded that people live here.”

Connor was undeterred.

“As a business owner, with approximately 100 rooms, I've had zero complaints - not one,” Connor said.

He also was met with applause.

Dick Gay, owner of the Helendorf River Inn, did not share Connor's sentiments.

In fact, he previously sent a letter to the city reporting complaints from guests about the helicopter.

“I would ask the commission to see if they could alter the flight patterns and time of operation,” Gay recommended, referring to alleged night flights made by the helicopter.

Yet another proponent, Bill Adcock, felt “if you haven't seen Helen by air, then I don't think you've seen it.”

Several others, both in favor and against the business, addressed the commission. One opponent made reference to the helicopter noise as sounding like a “war zone,” while a supporter described McMillan as “respectful” and said “everyone should stop complaining and thank God we have ears to hear it.”

A compromise?

Following more than an hour of discussion, in which nearly two-dozen people spoke, McMillan addressed commissioners about some of the public's concerns.

Dressed in a suit and tie and accompanied by his wife and parents, McMillan also was joined by his attorneys.

McMillan said he was willing to try and reach a compromise.

Attorney Spencer Carr, of Carr and Gibbs in Clarkesville, defended his client.

“He's totally within his rights to fly that helicopter at 50 feet down Main Street, 12 times a day, 12 times an hour, should he choose so or desire,” Carr said.

“He can continue to operate how he wants to, but that's not why we're here.”

He revealed McMillan was trying “to be a good corporate citizen and to be a good citizen.”

Carr reiterated his client requested the public meeting “in the spirit of compromise.”

Carr, however, felt opponents at the meeting were not of that same spirit.

“The most disheartening thing I heard was [when] Mr. [Delbert] Greear said ‘we are not here for compromise.' Well, what a great spirit to come to a public hearing.”

“We're here for compromise,” Carr said.

Delbert Greear compared a compromise to being stabbed by a knife and pulling it out only halfway.

Carr touched on the complaint about the number of flights. He said even if 45 to 50 flights are made a day that's only five to six flights an hour during an eight-hour day.

As for the flights at night, McMillan said he made someone at the city (not during a commission meeting) aware that he would be doing later flights during the July 4 weekend. Other flights at night, he said, are personal flights he takes on his own after business hours.

McMillan and his representation suggested adjusting the flight pattern by cutting out his Chattahoochee Route and limiting the hours of operation.

The Chattahoochee Route follows the river and comes back around to the helicopter's headquarters at 865 South Main Street.

McMillan said that was his most popular flight.

“As myself,” McMillan said, “it's my helicopter, it's my business and if I want to fly at night personally I'm going to do it.”

“I'm not going to go out and do tours or generate income, but I enjoy [flying].”

“Now, I am willing to cut this tour out,” he said. “That tour constitutes a lot of money to me, that tour constitutes a lot of advertising for me. It's my highest exposure.”

The commission told those in attendance that it would take the information it heard into consideration.

State Rep. Charles Jenkins attended the meeting as well. While he did not address the commission, he sat in the front row for the entirety of the nearly two-hour meeting.

Following the meeting, Jenkins told the White County News he attended the meeting as a “fact-finding” assignment.

“I would hope that they could reach a compromise,” he said.

David Greear called the subject “an emotional subject on both sides of the issue.”

Last Updated: Thursday, August 14, 2008

Friday, August 8, 2008

Let me point you to ...

... this article and discussion over at New Raleigh.

Fallonia is a big fan of walkable and accessible living, which is why she designed her life around the same 5 mile diameter. And she loves going downtown again. The bus stop at the corner that goes there hopefully will return soon.

The question becomes how to open up areas to living / walking / busing and biking and not destroy the homes of the "pioneers" who settled in the core years ago when it was not the vogue. Very few intown dwellers chose to live here because it was a great value. They chose to live here because of a match with their values.

City dwellers have always had a good sense of character, or are characters themselves. Raleigh will not be Raleigh for long without them. The trick, my dearies, is to find that balance point.

Reality bite of the day:

Because we don’t have that (some of our peer cities do), we are left with this: a developer proposes a whole big pile on their own parcel, and they try to get 5 votes on Council. And who can blame them? Our city has provided no viable alternative for either the developers or the neighbors. The uncertainty costs everyone money and time, and no one knows what will happen next. It’s all just a matter of political gamesmanship.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Doing Durham

The State of Things on WUNC radio rebroadcast this interview today. Andy Rothschild has a vision and energy for Durham that understands the relationship between the city revitalization and entrepreneurs, artists, biotech, business, and and economic development. His company is changing the face of Durham. It was comforting to hear someone talk of making space for the "creative class" in the redevelopment of the city core.

Meet Andy Rothschild
Monday, August 04 2008 by Frank Stasio and Susan Davis

Scientific Properties is Andy Rothschild's Durham-based development company. He specializes in mixed use space that supports artists, musicians and writers as well as retail and private businesses. But, the company's name comes from his initial interest in biotech companies. Rothschild is a medical doctor who left his stethoscope behind to be a part of his adopted city’s revitalization. Host Frank Stasio meets Andy Rothschild today on "The State of Things." This program was originally broadcast on Monday, May 19, 2008.

Some select points:

  • We need a local base that will support and sustain the real estate that is created.

  • Real estate is not created in a vacuum. We are creating a platform for locally owned businesses and local residents.

  • Making space for the "creative class" in the redevelopment of the city core is essential to its success.

  • Successful redevelopment involves looking carefully at your city, asking "what are the assets and threats to our area?"

  • City redevelopments are resulting in a look of sameness spreading thru our cities because of the prevalence of national brands. Sameness is not the way to differentiate your city. 

  • We will not have an urban center until we have a breadth and depth of residents populating the town. 

  • Nothing can do more to green your area than to revitalize your downtown. 

  • Everybody needs to be a part of the reinvestment in their communities ... for our ongoing benefit. Cities and counties need to do every thing possible to encourage responsible development projects. Everyone who has a seat at the table ... not just the government parties, but also the those doing the work, should be part of this process.

  • Incentives should aligned in a strategic way with these goals. There is no smarter investment you can make than revitalizing and repopulating your city. Big questions of all of us, broader political bodies are needed to help provide infrastructure for sustainable growth.

    Great interview, a lot of knowledge passed on about redevelopment strategies in our unique southern cities. "Buildings are not enough." Vision, now that's another thing entirely.