Friday, January 4, 2008

Raleigh Builders' Perspective on your Community

This letter is circulating as a call to arms for this Tuesday's City Council Meeting.

Despite the actions of the Raleigh Planning Commission in December, our City Council is getting ready to force something on every property owner in the City of Raleigh. If you care at all about the value of your home and property, PLEASE let your voice be heard. At the meeting of the Planning Commission in December, there may have been 50 or 60 supporters of our property rights.

It is not enough to write these people an email. You should go to the meeting! The Council has scheduled this meeting on short notice in the middle of the day so that most of us cannot be there. Forward this message to everyone in your address book. The internet is the only way to get people who care about this to stand up and defend our rights as property owners. They have NO BUSINESS telling people what size addition to put on their homes.

Currently the City of Raleigh has CAC's or Citizen Action Committees to review proposed changes in established neighborhoods. However, the City chooses not to utilize this option, as it is too hard to enforce.

Instead, they'd rather create new laws and rules to wrap around the ones they already won't enforce. I for one am sick and tired of having someone who doesn't even live in my neighborhood trying to control my home and my neighborhood. [note from FP: me too]

This effort by Councilmen Thomas Crowder and Russ Stephenson is part of an overall anti-growth message that just a few people want to send to the business community. That message is that growth is bad for Raleigh and that new homes and/or cleaning up and rebuilding old neighborhoods is bad business. This all comes just days after Wake County doubled the value of your property for tax purposes. It will take eight years for them to revalue your homes again, all the while the market value will be declining because people who want to remodel, add-on or tear-down will move to a place where adding on to or replacing old homes is welcome.

PLEASE look into this, write your city council representative, and attend the meeting on Tuesday at 1pm. Your retirement nest egg will definitely be adversely affected.


Fallonia has tried to stay out of the fray, but this letter is over the top, so it is fair game.

Red herrings include FEAR (loss of rights, control, anti-growth) and MONEY (bad business, market value, retirement nest egg) and FREEDOM (restrict your additions or renovations, restrictive regulations). None of this is true. I was amused to see that our neighborhoods need their help in cleaning-up. Freudian slip mayhaps?

What we at OTT-ITB advocate can be summed up in this statement found at Tulsa OK's Preserve Midtown site (whose excellent resources I have been sharing this week).

What is infill?
Infill is new construction that 'fills in' empty lots in areas that are already established. Good infill should "develop seamlessly within an existing urban fabric, balancing, completing, and/or repairing the surrounding sectors." Key considerations are:

"Setback is the distance from the front facade of the house to the steet and should be the same distance as other houses on the street. Height should be compatible with the height of buildings surrounding the lot. Mass pertains to the bulk of the house. It should be similar, rather than wider or longer than its neighbors. Scale of the house's height and width should be compatible with the proportions of other homes in the block. Facade, the face of the house, should not appear flat, nor should it be dominated by a garage. Windows and Doors should emphasize the vertical, taller rather than wider. Roofs should have a pitch, or angle of roof, that is similar to others in the neighborhood."
Glossary of Terms (The Lexicon of the New Urbanism: MCDA, Minneapolis, MN)

If you live in a neighborhood you love in Raleigh, the City Council meeting on Tuesday, January 8 at 1 pm, is vitally important to you. This weekend is the perfect time to contact your councilors and let them know your position on Infill Standards. While the matter is being studied in the Planning Department, now is the time for INTERIM measures that will protect your street from irreparable changes until this is sorted out. Please contact the city today and let them know you are concerned. Their addresses are HERE. Be sure to include your name/address/phone so they know you are a resident.

Attending the City Council Meeting is a good civics lesson. Standing room only.


Anonymous said...

The comment about Russ Stephenson and Thomas Crowder being anti-growth is completely off base and quite extremist. Neither of these two councilmen are anti-growth. Anyone who thinks so has not been listening to their comments or the on-going debate.

Anonymous said...

In an N&O article in the past couple of months or so there
was mention that the total number
of infill projects inside the beltline was about 600 or so since 2002.I
think it would be interesting for the
City to send out a survey to each of those infill projects
as well as the homes on either side.
The survey to the new project could ask the new owners if
they had consulted with their new
neighbors about what they were going to build, and what kind
of reception they received.
Each of the neighbors would also receive a survey asking
questions about their perceptions
about the new house next door. Anonymity would have to be
guaranteed, but for the
purposes of the city, the surveys would have a single
identifying number that could be tied
back to the individual properties. The only thing the public
survey would show are comments
by both the new home owners and the adjacent two (maybe
more? )neighbors.

This kind of survey, I hope, would show if there really was
a major problem with infill. Are the
complaints broad or are they generated by only a few
situations? For example, if the
complaints are generated by less than 10 projects out of the
total 600 or so, is there really a
need to do anything?

In addition to the survey, I would like to suggest another
idea for the short and near term that
might help in coming up with a solution for the infill
issue. What about setting up a
Commission that would meet twice per month to review and
comment on any infill projects.
The Commission would be made up of architects, builders and
neighborhood residents. The
Commission members would comment on issues of scale,
setbacks, design, etc. There
would be a vote but it would be non-binding on the
individual(s) who is proposing the infill

I think this would be a good way to accomplish at least
three objectives. One, it would give
this issue a higher public profile and thereby a greater and
more sustained level of
discussion. Second, the peer review and the pressure it may
bring on a project might help it
become better for the neighborhood. In addition, this peer
review group may generate idea
that could become useful in crafting a reasonable set of
regulations if a survey shows a
definite need for some type of action.

Bob Mulder