Friday, May 30, 2008

Q & A

House destroyed in 2007.

The Planning Dept. held their second public workshop on Infill Thursday evening. Our Infill Study Go-To guy, Travis, did a good job of walking through the mine-field. FP learn a lot about Planning and Land Use terms and tools. The model he used showing the effect of various regulatory instruments was quite revealing. Of the 10 examples of what someone could build, the building envelope for Raleigh was pretty much full lot coverage with side setbacks of 5 and 10 feet. And, or course, Raleigh has one of the most generous heights in the county -- 40 ft to midline, not top, of the roof. Our neighbors in Apex and Cary are in the 30s.

Many questions were asked, and some feisty discussions took place. One question which keeps arising is why "people" assume that it is just "builders" who want property rights protected? And why, for heavens sake, are builders identified as the problem here?

Would someone like to take that question on?

Clue: If you do a search for property holdings by prominent members of the Renewal campaign, you may have to connect the dots to get the full story, but the holdings and sales are significant.

Fallonia has a question: how many of these neighborhood changes are driven by speculation and how many by a current homeowner? Isn't that the key difference between today's trends and trends of the recent past based on homeowner improvements?

What if this is about an emerging business model built on the loopholes in the zoning ordinances, which were designed for new development the 50s? RR can say it over and over, this is just about homeowner's rights, but it does not make it so. This is about cities catching up their zoning ordinances to current realities, to make sure these codes reflect the will of the City about who that City is. 

The city is allowing its once thriving neighborhoods to do hand to hand combat over the future of Our Town.

The combatants are, on one hand, the residents who bought and maintained their home in older neighborhoods because they love the ambiance of older neighborhoods. They are fighting to preserve their investment on the ground. And they have paid for that right through years of higher valuations.

The other side is fighting about the right to profit off investments. This is called speculation, no matter what the commodity.

Now, in Fallonia's world, if one group is fighting to keep from losing something valuable and irreplaceable, and the other side is fighting for the right to profit from something, you are looking at a winners and losers equation no matter how it is sliced and diced.

Such a pity ... this could have been a boon for everyone involved. The City owes it to ALL of its investors (is not the burden of support on the backs of property owners) to provide guidance through this in a timely manner. We are on the verge of messing things up for the people who live here -- big time. And that, my friends, will be a permanent loss, and the City will have to clean that up. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Fine Reason to Go to Oakwood Tonight

Preservation Calendar
Raleigh -- Community Conversations Series With Adrian Fine

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 @ 07:00 PM

Community Conversations Series
Adrian Fine, National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust's teardown guru discusses how lessons from around the country can be applied to Raleigh.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008, 7:00-9:00 pm,
St. Augustine's College Chapel, 1315 Oakwood Avenue, Raleigh
Free and open to the public
Sponsored by the Raleigh Historic Districts Commission and Preservation NC

If you have not noticed, the momentum is gathering around the issue of what is good infill and what is a problem. Tonight Raleigh has a rare opportunity to hear -- from the National Trust for Historic Preservation -- what they have learned around the country. Yes, this is not just a local problem, and by bringing in a larger perspective, Raleigh has a chance to learn how to balance growth and preservation – before it is too late.

Monday, May 26, 2008

NCOD Needs You

I think we need to be real careful about making such a sweeping change. Just like the mortgage industry found out by making loans too easy, these things can backfire and mess things up.
—Planning Commissioner who expressed concern that one vote per property owner was not fair for people who own multiple properties in a neighborhood.

Official Agenda – 
May 27, 2008, 9:00 AM
City of Raleigh Planning Commission
Room 201, City Council Chambers, Avery Upchurch Municipal Complex


1. TC-3-08 – Heliports
2. TC-4-08 – Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District

1. Z-15-08 – Lake Boone Trail, north side, west and east of Landmark Drive intersection, Conditional Use **(Crabtree) VSPP – Request for 30-day Time Extension

    1. *Z-6-08 – Capital Boulevard, east, north of Jacqueline Drive, Conditional Use **(Neuse) VSPP
    2. Z-7-08 – Louisburg Road, west side, south of Perry Creek Road intersection, Conditional Use **(Neuse) – Request for 60-day Time Extension
    3. Z-21-08 – Louisburg Road, north side, between Ligon Mill and Forestville Roads, Conditional Use **(Neuse and Tom’s Creek)

    1. SP-117-01 – Grace Christian School/Hope Community Church (Revision to approved plan)
    2. SP-116-07 – Aldert Root Elementary School
    3. S-15-08 – JC Murray Subdivision (Infill)
    4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES –May 13, 2008 Planning Commission Meeting

A. Report from the Chair
B. Report from the Members
C. Report from the City Attorney
D. Report from the Planning Director
E. Committee Agenda Items


Friday, May 23, 2008

Property Valuations

Remember when the new valuations came out -- who doesn't -- and the dismay of those who saw their valuations double, based on the redevelopment activity in their neighborhood, were told that Wake County and Raleigh would probably drop the tax rate to ease the pain?

Tax bite may get more painful
Across the Triangle, counties and cities are considering property tax increases to make up revenue shortfalls


In Raleigh, City Manager Russell Allen has asked the city council for a 15 percent property tax increase, the largest in more than a decade. The boost would come on the heels of a 15 percent increase in water and sewer rates.

Durham City Manager Patrick Baker wants a nearly 11 percent increase on his municipal tax rate. The city council has already approved a tiered water rate schedule that will boost the average bill by about one-third.

Town Manager Roger Stancil of Chapel Hill also wants an 11 percent hike.

Wake and Durham counties -- both of which are contemplating tax increases -- just completed property revaluations, meaning many homeowners will get walloped with both higher property values and tax increases.

While the news story was saying that the combined Wake and Raleigh increases would cost homeowners $150 per $200,000, the underlying truth is that an ITB modest home probably just went from $300,000 to $600,000. So, according to Fallonia's cracker-jack math education, take your last tax bill, double it, and then add the new rate on top. The rate increase is the least of our worries.

More about this at the links in the Reader Feeder. News & Observer story here.

  • Raleigh City Council: 890-3050 or
  • Wake County Board of Commissioners: (919) 856-6160 or
  • Durham City Council: 560-4396 or 4333 or
  • Orange County Board of Commissioners: 968-4501, 732-8181 or
  • Chapel Hill Town Council: 968-2743 or
  • Carrboro Town Council: 942-8541 or

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Fable for Our Time

The Zax by Dr. Seuss.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Most Important Meeting You Can Attend This Year

Is Your Neighborhood on this Map?

RALEIGH, NC | Infill
If your neighborhood is not on this map, then development activities in your neighborhood are bound only by city-wide zoning ordinances, which treat property the same for established neighborhoods and raw land. This means, for example, a home can be built to a maximum height of 40 feet to the midline of the roof. Couple this with a home built to maximum setbacks and the house next door may take on renewed significance in your neighborhood.

Raleigh Planning Department to the Rescue

The Planning Department will host the second public meeting regarding residential infill construction on Thursday, May 29. The meeting will be held in the City Council chambers in the Avery Upchurch Municipal Complex (room 201). The meeting will begin at 7 p.m., and will focus on the results of the visual preference survey and nationwide best management practices. Please come to the meeting and make your opinions known!

They are not kidding. If you do not come to the meeting, they cannot hear you. If you are a resident of an established neighborhood and wish to have input on the future of your investment, this is the best opportunity for you to be a part of this discussion.

Did I mention this is the only formal invitation to shape this debate that you will be getting?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Announcing "Community Conversations"

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

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 
7:00-9:00 PM

Adrian Scott Fine, National Trust for Historic Preservation

Teardowns: Finding the Right Balance

Cities and towns across the country are wrestling with finding the appropriate response to infill issues. Hear about how the market is affecting the debate, the responses from communities, new tools to address the issue, and its role in the larger sustainability challenge.

St. Augustine’s College Chapel
1315 Oakwood Ave, Raleigh

Stay after the lecture to continue the conversation with your friends and neighbors.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Making the rounds

This picture from Chicago is making the rounds on the blogosphere.

We regularly pass by this corner in our neighborhood, which is one that has seen a large amount of teardowns and extensive rebuilding to create large, luxurious single family homes. Someone has taken a single panel of the sidewalk and turned it into a life size Monopoly board square, making a bit of public art and a comment on the always changing economics of neighborhoods at the same time. The panel is directly in front of a recent teardown, now a construction site - and instead of $75.00, the artist has added many "extra" zeros to the end of the figure.

Friday, May 16, 2008

OTT Award for May

Fallonia reported the demise of a classic Lake Boone Trail house in summer of 2007. Well sir, the successor is on the market and can be had for a cool $2.49 million.

Take a look around the hood and you will find the price point of the surrounding homes range from $500K and up. Can't find a million dollar home on that stretch, nor a 1.5M house. So what is this?

Here is where FP gets a little hot under the collar. Is this really about revitalizing Raleigh, or is it about replacing Raleigh?

One would think a compatible updated home ranging to the 3/4 mil mark might be a boon(e) to the street, but an outlier like this, with so much investment involved, is not sitting pretty, it is sitting loud.

What happens next?
  • Will it look out of place? or
  • Will it determine the look of this area?
  • Will it attract another similar venture to validate its price in that location?
  • Will it sit unsold, like the one on Glenwood, waiting for that special buyer who wants to take a risk on the most expensive house in a less expensive area?
One thing is certain:
  • It will change the land / house price equation for the residents of this stretch.
Neighbors will welcome or reject this development. There is no way it will just slip in to the existing fabric unnoticed.

See Losing Lake Boone Trail for more hyper-ventilation.

$2.5 M? Even FP is shocked.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

On Design

Much of the drama of Wright’s life unfolded here. During his childhood, he absorbed the lessons of nature from the surrounding fields and hills. He learned that people are most content and happy when they live in harmony with nature rather than imposing their will upon it. Throughout his life, Wright tapped the inexhaustible flow of ideas that the land around him offered. Taliesin is special because it is the root from which both Wright and his ideas emerged.
—Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Spring Green WI

Monday, May 12, 2008

Speaking of Value

From the NYT, a reminder of where we are in this process:

What Could I Get for my House? Please, Don’t Ask

Published: May 11, 2008

It can be so much fun to play the “What’s my home worth?” game, either with your friends and family or inside your own head.

It was especially fun a few years ago. If you were at a party in 2005, say, you might have been able to brag, “And I could get three times what I paid for my house if I sold it now!” (Never mind that you weren’t planning to sell it, or that your next house would also cost three times as much.)

Now, of course, fewer people can play this game with glee. Many people who bought houses last year have actually seen the value of their investment decline. According to Zillow, the real estate Web site, median home values in the first quarter of 2008 declined 7.7 percent from the same quarter a year earlier.

But the numbers also show that the value of homes bought in the first quarter of 2000 rose almost 68 percent by the first quarter of 2008 — a possible argument for staying put, and a sign that people who bought homes last year may eventually have bragging rights at parties. PHYLLIS KORKKI

Fallonia's prediction is that the market is jumping to the high high end for profitable ventures. $2.5M and Up.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Looking at Teardowns from AFAR

These comments from a blog in Atlanta discussing current housing trends in older neighborhoods.

I’m a little bit shocked to be honest…in the UK any building of age (and 1920s buildings are pretty ‘new’ to us really) simply cannot be torn down unless it’s structurally unsound and can’t be saved at all. I suppose in the US it may be cheaper to rebuild than repair, I don’t know. But what a shame they decided to tear down that charming little building and replace it with a non-descript carbon copy of most other houses in any city.

Here in the UK a lot of new build homes/developments in the cities are becoming a little bit ’samey’ for my liking. The same style, design, interior fittings - no imagination! And a lot of refits are becoming that way too…it seems most developers just repeat the same interior and design the same way for speed and profit, and everyone’s house ends up looking the same. So I’ve taken the plunge and bought a slightly older property that needs a complete refit, and I’ll design it myself, with imagination. How long it’s going to take I haven’t a clue! Wish me luck…

In NYC it is the same tear down mentality. All the old walk-up building are being converted into these modern loft style chicken coop- condominium buildings, $1,000 000.00 and up. The neighborhoods become all the same, full of these cheaply made glass towers without any design. The rents for the commercial space have gone up so much that all those small restaurants and shops that use to make NYC so special are disappearing. Only the banks can afford the rents. Can you imagine how Paris would look like if it was allowed to be developed by [profit-only] developers.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Over The Top Award for April

The Over the Top Award for April goes to Foolishness on Fairview.

Fallonia is grieving over this one. Having known the place as the home of friends before, and watching its impeccable renovation in the past 10 years, it came as quite a shock to see it being dismantled this week.

Donning the Sherlock Holmes magnifier, FP has turned up the scoop. With great hope for a crafty renovation, this is revealed:

Are you kidding? This was bought in the fall for over $700K.

Hmm. Obsolete, nope.
Too Small, nope.
Not charming enough, nope.
A Million Dollar address, check.
Investors, mayhaps.

Realtors, could you possibly go back to matching home-buyers with homes that fit them? I know families who would have loved to live in this house, even at this price. Heck, $700K is a steal in these parts, these days. When the deed is done, we will have handed over the charm of our lovely old small town to the highest bidder. It will not be Raleigh anymore.

View Larger Map

Fallonia est très triste ce soir.

Way to Go, Wisconsin

Madison Wisconsin retains many older neighborhoods as it struggles with its growth. In the downtown area near the University, housing needs grow along with the University. In this case, a church sold some property to be developed that had a Victorian home on it.

The Collins house, shown here, and its neighbor on Johnson St. were the site of the Wayland Christian Community on the UW-Madison campus for more than 50 years. The Wayland property has been sold to a developer to construct a 14 story apartment building. The proceeds of the sale will form the basis of an endowment to fund the campus ministry far into the future. The city has required that, of the two houses located there, the Collins house on Mills street be moved and preserved, since it has historical and architectural interest. The city refers to the house as the Conklin house since the son of an early Madison mayor lived there. The Wayland board gave the house the name, Collins House, in honor of the Rev. "Shorty" Collins, who served as the Baptist campus minister from 1928 to 1957.

Here is the story of moving that house.