Taking Away Your Right to be Heard

At our last City Council meeting I voted against a decision to explore allowing developers to build, by right, cottage courts in R-2 and R-4 zoning districts (two and four homes per acre respectively). Currently, R-2 and R-4 zoning districts are limited to single family homes. If you bought a single family home in one of these neighborhoods, I bet you didn’t expect that someday someone could buy a few lots, tear down the existing homes and replace them with up to 30 or more “cottage homes” – at type of high density development where the housing units are arranged around a common courtyard with an optional “community center” for facilities like laundry, TV, or recreation.

There is nothing wrong with cottage courts. During our last term I voted in favor of adding cottage courts to R-6 and R-10 zoning districts. Those zoning districts are already high density and cottage courts are another housing option that would be appropriate in them.

Today if a developer wants to build cottage courts in R-2 and R-4 zoning districts, he can’t do so by right. But, he could petition the city to rezone the land to either R-6 or R-10. Doing so would involve a public process of presenting the proposal to citizens at meetings of a Citizens Advisory Council, presenting the proposal to the Planning Commission, and finally holding a public hearing before City Council. At each step in the process, YOU, get to have a say. You can support the proposal, fight against the proposal, or find common ground for a compromise including appropriate buffers, heights, parking, etc.

But, if this proposal to allow cottage courts “by right” is eventually enacted, then your right to be heard will go away. There will be no notification, no discussion at Citizens Advisory Council meetings, no discussion at the Planning Commission, and no hearing before Council. You will likely not know anything until the bulldozers show up one day to clear the neighborhood.

Think it can’t happen? The big business that is development wants the ability to pursue this type of development due to the increasing lack of land. Cottage courts are the beginning to be followed by duplexes, triplexes, quadraplexes and larger, more dense housing in R-2 and R-4 zoning districts. And they want the ability to do it without meddlesome citizens getting in the way.

And at our last City Council meeting the vote was 7 to 1 to find ways to make it happen – to take away your right to be heard.

David Cox Raleigh City Council – An App for your Smartphone

Being informed and involved is the best way for our democracy to survive and to be a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

To help you stay informed and involved is why I created a smartphone app that I call “David Cox Raleigh City Council”. It is a technology that will help connect you and allow you to stay up to date with my blog posts and to send me a message when you need help or want to express an opinion. Rather than remembering the URL for my website or my email address, you can simply touch a button on your phone.

Versions of the smartphone app are available for Android and Apple and will run on your phone or tablet.

Click here for the Android version:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=guffy.net.dcoxraleigh

Click here for the Apple version:

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/david-cox-raleigh-city-council/id1492842155

Raleigh Mayor and City Council Move Towards Ending Single Family Zoning

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

This evening Mayor Baldwin and the majority of Raleigh City Council voted to explore allowing so-called “cottage courts” in R-2 and R-4 zoning districts. Historically, these districts have been reserved for single family homes and neighborhoods with low population densities. R-2 districts allow at most two homes per acre while R-4 districts allow up to four homes per acre.

Cottage courts are high density housing where as many as 30 housing units are arranged around a common courtyard and optionally have a community building that houses facilities such as laundry and other amenities.

Currently, cottage courts are a proposal and we have a ways to go before City ordinances are formally changed to allow them. However, given that 7 City Council members voted to move in this direction, it seems clear that they will be adopted by the end of the year.

When I moved to Raleigh 20 years ago I was attracted to city’s beautiful treed neighborhoods. Today, we see the first steps towards transforming Raleigh by allowing high density everywhere.

Being the only member of Council that actually lives in Raleigh’s northern suburbs, I stand in clear contrast to the position and philosophy of the Mayor and the majority of Council. For the record I was the lone vote against this proposal.

I think it is also important to note that cottage courts were approved by the previous council for R-6 and R-10 districts. Those districts have historically allowed higher densities. I voted in favor of cottage courts for R-6 and R-10 as did former council members Stef Mendell, Russ Stephenson, and Kay Crowder.

If a developer really wants to build higher density on land that is zoned R-2 or R-4, then let them ask for a rezoning! Granting cottage courts in R-2 and R-4 by right takes away YOUR RIGHT to be heard about proposed developments that affect you and your family!

It’s Sunday Morning: Thinking about Homelessness

Photo by Gary Knight

This morning I am reading an article entitled “Finland ends homelessness and provides shelter for all in need”.

How did they do this?

According to the article (published scoop.me), Finland reversed the usual approach. Under the usual approach the expectation was to address psychological or drug addiction problems first, get a job, and then find a long-term place to live.

Under the new approach, Homeless people get a flat – without any preconditions. Social workers help them with applications for social benefits and are available for counselling in general. In such a new, secure situation, it is easier for those affected to find a job and take care of their physical and mental health.

The result is impressive: 4 out of 5 homeless people will be able to keep their flat for a long time and lead a more stable life.

An important aspect of Finland’s program is that the “homeless people turn into tenants with a tenancy agreement. They have to pay rent and operating costs. Social workers, who have offices in the residential buildings, help with financial issues such as applications for social benefits.”

The social workers are paid for by the government and are available for counselling in general. “In such a new, secure situation, it is easier for those affected to find a job and take care of their physical and mental health. The result is impressive: 4 out of 5 homeless people will be able to keep their flat for a long time with “Housing First” and lead a more stable life.”

Financially Finland now spends 15,000 euros less per year per homeless person than it did without this approach.

To read the entire article visit this webpage:

https://scoop.me/housing-first-finland-homelessness/

Dumbfounded

Earlier this year City Council considered a proposal to clarify how we specify heights for tall buildings. The UDO was crafted to specify maximum heights using two measures: the number of stories and the height in feet. The argument was that we should remove the cap in feet and simply cap buildings by the number of stories.

Council considered this proposed change by sending it first to the Growth and Natural Resources committee of which I was and continue to be a member. Our concern was that variability in floor height could result in vastly different building heights. For example, a three story structure could vary dramatically in height ranging from 10 feet per story to 15 feet per story (or more). The result could be a structure 30 feet in heigh or one that is 45 feet in height or greater. The heights would be even greater for four and five story buildings. Given that 3, 4, and 5 story buildings are the ones most likely to be constructed adjacent to or in residential areas, Council choose to keep the current caps in feet for those categories of buildings.

For 7 stories and greater, Council did decide to look further at removing the caps in feet. The argument was that those buildings are not likely to be located next to residential areas and the expense of building such tall buildings would provide a natural cap – nobody is going to build an unnecessarily tall 7 story or taller building due to the costs involved.

Thus, Council asked the Planning Commission to consider a text change to remove the cap in feet for buildings that are 7 stories and taller.

In November, the Planning Department reported back that the Planning Commission voted 8-0 to recommend adoption of the proposed text change. As a result Council set a date for the public hearing to be January 7, 2020 – next Tuesday.

Yesterday I reviewed the agenda for the January 7, 2020 City Council meeting. Yes, the public hearing for the text change is on the agenda. But, so too is this note:

On October 9, 2018, in addition to the changes outlined in the draft ordinance, the Planning Commission recommended that the maximum building height for 4 stories be increased from 62 feet to 68 feet and the maximum building height for 5 stories be increased from 75 feet to 80 feet.

This is the first time it has ever been reported to Council that the Planning Commission considered changing the heights of 3, 4, and 5 story buildings. And it is very concerning.

The Planning Commission was not charged with considering such a change. The proposed text change that they were to consider was removing the cap in feet for 7 stories and greater. How did it come to happen that the Planning Commission considered, much less voted on, changing the heights of 3, 4, and 5 story buildings? And, why was this not reported to Council in November? Indeed, the proposed text change does not, in fact, include changing the heights of 3, 4, and 5 story buildings.

So, why was this comment inserted into the agenda for this item? Who put this comment into the agenda? The public hearing on Tuesday was never advertised to the public that Council would be considering changing the heights of 3, 4, and 5 story buildings. Yet, there it is in black-and-white with no notice to the public. Is this a subtle attempt to influence the new Council to increase the heights for 3, 4, and 5 story buildings at the last minute? And, why did the Planning Commission even consider increasing the heights of 3, 4 and 5 story buildings in the first place? It wasn’t their charge.

Stay tuned to how this plays out on Tuesday.

Exciting Developments in Northeast Raleigh – A Great Place to Live

Spring Forest Road park is centrally located in Raleigh’s Northeast District. This beautiful park now has a new playground. With tennis courts, ball field, walking paths, and huge field it is a gem in District B and in Raleigh.

Bordering Spring Forest Road park is Fox Road which is getting a facelift with new sidewalks.

And nearby the new Piedmont Raleigh apartments will soon be opening bringing 400 new housing units to Raleigh. Here are some shots from the Piedmont’s website.

Northeast Raleigh is a great place to live! For more information about the Piedmont Raleigh visit https://thepiedmontraleigh.com

New Development Happening near Triangle Town Center

Site of Cadence at Town Center

If you have driven past Triangle Town Center, you might have noticed some activity to the north of Old Wake Forest Road. This development is known as the Cadence at Town Center and occupies a little more than 25 acres. A company called Allegiance Contracting Group has posted some pictures of the ongoing development. at https://acgnc.net/cadence-at-town-center/

Public records indicate that the land was rezoned in 1995. It is currently owned by Lennar Carolinas LLC. The conditions of that rezoning are listed as follows and provide some indication of what will be built there:

The following land use criteria will be employed in order to assure that a mixed use development results on the subject property.

1. Non-residential uses will occupy no more than seventy-five (75) percent of the acreage net of right-of-ways.

2. Residential uses will occupy no more that seventy-five (75) percent of the acreage net of right-of-ways. Non-Residential uses are those uses described under the “Land Use” headings of “Agriculture”, “Recreation”, “Institution/Civic/Services”, “Commercial” and “Industrial” as set forth in Code Section 10-2071 Schedule of Permitted Land Uses in Zoning Districts. Residential uses are those uses found under the “Residential” Land Use heading of the same schedule. Nothing within this condition would prohibit the development of mixed use buildings on any portion of the subject property. In such instances the dominant use (based on the gross square footage of space allocated to that use within the building) will determine the land use of the building and the land use category (residential or non-residential) to which its lot area will be applied.

C. The portion of the subject property that is within a minimum of three hundred fifty feet (350′) measured perpendicularly to the segments of the northern and eastern boundaries that abut developed or recorded parcels in the Smoketree development, shall be developed only for residential purposes not to exceed ten (10) units per acre. The segments of the boundary lines are more specifically described as being the lines beginning at the Southwest corner of parcel 1727.12 76 6024 and extending in a continuous generally Southeastward direction to the South corner of parcel 1727.16 94 7497.

Within this area in order to promote an improved variety of housing choices and opportunities at least:

1. Twenty percent (20%) of the R-10 restricted area will be devoted to detached homes;

2. Twenty percent (20%) of the R-10 restricted area will be devoted to duplexes, triplexes and quadraplexes that may or may not employ a zero lot line manner of development; and

3. Twenty percent (20%) of the R-10 restricted area will be devoted to townhouses or multi-family units including if desired, condominiums.

D. The owners will cooperate (including but not limited to donations, easements, sale at reduced value, etc.) with public agencies to effect publicly planned and programmed infrastructure improvements to further enhance the stature of this location as the City’s Northeast Regional Center. Such improvements could include but not be limited to:

1. Additional connections (pedestrian, bike, road, transit, etc.) to promote circulation between the quadrants created on this property by the Expressway and the NorthSouth Road;

2. A permanent water body (or bodies) that can function as stormwater management, water quality and recreation facilities; and,

3. Open spaces to accommodate active or passive leisure opportunities, including greenways. To this end, at least 15% of the land area (approximately 6 acres) of the Northwest quadrant (quadrant A) of the property as illustrated on Exhibit A and at least 19% of the land area (approximately 15 acres) of the Northeast quadrant (quadrant B) as illustrated on Exhibit A will be maintained as open space which may also accommodate these types of infrastructure improvements.

Private development may proceed in these quadrants so long as it can be demonstrated that the respective land area to satisfy this requirement in each quadrant remains available or that on a pro-rata basis a portion of the land area being developed will provide an improvement towards the satisfaction of the overall requirement for the respective quadrant in which it is located.

E. Building heights within the portions of quadrant “B” identified on Exhibit A will be limited to:

1. Seventy-five (75) feet in Capital Boulevard height limit area; and
2. Forty (40) feet in the Expressway height limit area.

F. For all public streets not designated as thoroughfares and requiring thoroughfare district street yards, their required street yards will be planted with native species shade trees at a rate of one tree for every forty linear feet of street frontage.

G. For a distance of two hundred (200) linear feet from the point that thoroughfares designated within this property enter, or exit, the zoned property, the thoroughfare street yard required on each side of the thoroughfare shall be enhanced with ornamental shrubs at a rate of sixty (60) shrubs per fifty (50) linear feet of qualifying street frontage.

These shrubs shall meet or exceed the minimum shrub standards for protective yards at the time of planting. At least 70% of the shrubs per side of the street shall be evergreen. Nothing within this condition would prohibit the massing of these shrubs in an area, or areas. This condition does not apply to the Northern Wake Expressway.

H. The portion of the subject property that is within three hundred and fifty (350) feet measured perpendicularly to the portions of the Wake County PIN Numbers 1727.12 95 7114 (JVC) and 1737.17 02 3461 (Hendrickson Trustee) shall be developed for either residential purposes not to exceed eighteen (18) units per acre or uses allowed in O&I-1, or combinations thereof. This area shall extend from the southern boundary of the R-10 restricted area set out in Condition C above at parcel 1727.16 94 7497 and extend to the right-of-way of the Northern Wake Expressway.

I. Reimbursement values for qualifying right-of-ways (per Code Section 10-3022) shall be at the prevailing rate based upon the present zonings (RR, R-4, R-6) when said streets are required by the City’s development regulations.

Protecting the Environment – Increase the Fees for Greenfield Development

Raleigh has many, previously developed properties. Some, like the corner of North New Hope Church and Atlantic Ave, have no structures but the land is contaminated from previous industrial activity. Others such as the Tower Shopping Center sit empty and rundown.

Whether the land is contaminated or not, it is generally more costly to develop such sites than greenfield sites. In many cases older buildings have to be demolished and disposed of. In the case of contamination, significant testing and remediation must be performed. These costs are not associated with greenfield sites – by definition, greenfield sites have been undisturbed and now contain fields of grasses, mature trees, or other vegetation. It is simply cheaper to clear cut greenfield sites.

Because of this disparity in costs, our greenfield sites are quickly disappearing. The loss of greenfield sites degrades our environment. Focusing on developing greenfield sites also means that older, previously developed sites such as the Tower Shopping Center or the corner of Atlantic and New Hope Church sit empty and fester.

We talk about increasing density as a way to save and protect our environment. But we actually harm our environment by making it so easy to level our greenfield sites and do nothing to encourage redevelopment of existing sites.

To level the playing field, perhaps we should levy higher fees for developing greenfield sites and use those fees to offset the costs of redevelopment of brownfield and other properties that have been previously developed. If doing so is not permitted by state law, then we should discuss with our local delegation about getting a local ordinance. It makes sense today to encourage redevelopment rather than clear cutting more greenfield sites for our unprecedented growth. We have the opportunity to make a difference.

The News & Observer and the 2019 City Council Election

Setting the record straight…

During the campaign for City Council I wrote to Ned Barnett, Opinion Editor for the News & Observer, asking if the newspaper will interview candidates as done during past elections.

Mr. Barnett wrote back indicating that they would not conduct interviews. As far as I know, no non-mayoral candidates were interviewed. A few weeks later Mr. Barnett called for the removal of half of City Council including myself.

Here is my email exchange with Mr. Barnett regarding my inquiry about conducting interviews. To my knowledge, Mr. Barnett attended one forum. I don’t recall him asking questions.

Aside – during my first campaign in 2015 Mr. Barnett endorsed my opponent. In 2019, he called for my removal from Council. I won my first election in 2015 and this year won every precinct in my District.

———————————————————————————————

David,

My plan is to attend the candidate forums and maybe ask questions afterward.

Ned Barnett

———————————————————————————————

On Tue, Sep 10, 2019 at 7:20 AM David Cox <dcox1776@gmail.com> wrote:

Hi Ned,

Will the N&O be conducting candidate interviews this year as in the past? I haven’t heard anything and want to be sure I didn’t miss an opportunity.

Thanks,

David Cox, PhD
Raleigh City Council

RDU Quarry at Umstead State Park – Call for Action

The following is a post to take action on RDU Airport Authority’s plans for a quarry and now a chain linked fence with barbed wire on top. This was originally posted on Facebook by John Hite of Durham. Thank you John for compiling this background information and call for action.

Please share the link to this page. If you don’t live in Raleigh, please share and ask people to take notice of what is happening in Raleigh and how local officials are allowing (largely through inaction) an environmental disaster adjacent to one of North Carolina’s most important state parks.

ARE YOU WRITING YOUR LETTERS? Don’t expect others to fight your fight and have it be enough. We all need to be vocal not just in this forum but other social media and through direct contact with local media and government officials.

Here is the one that I just sent:

RDUAA Perpetuating Lies

I guess they think if they say it out loud it will be perceived as true? NO! THEY ARE LYING and OMITTING FACTS. RDUAA is now engaged in what is clearly a smear campaign against local residents who just want what’s best for the area (RDU included).

In yesterday’s meeting, they said:

1 – The fence is going to be 6′ tall. WRONG. They have put out for bid an 8′ fence with 3 rows of barbed wire ON TOP OF the 8′.

2 – They are declaring a few hiking/biking trails an environmental disaster BUT destroying the Odd Fellows Tract with a 400′ deep quarry isn’t?

3 – The 286 trails are a liability? Then why is part of the agreement for trails to be built at that location?

4 – RDUAA refers to the land as “airport property.” It is not. It is deeded to Raleigh, Durham, Wake County and Durham County.

5 – RDUAA keeps going on about how they need money but they are spending $2.4 million (last quote I heard) on the fence AND they now say they are going to have patrols on 4 wheelers providing security — how much is that going to cost?

6 – “Sandifer said state officials have told the airport that the trails violate environmental rules designed to protect streams in the Neuse River basin.” That’s an incredible statement considering a few months ago the RDUAA tried to get excepted from those same buffers. Which is it? Are the buffers important or not? Are they only important when the RDUAA says they are?

7 – They go on about being sued by trespassing bikers/hikers. Has that happened? Nope. Does it happen in the real world? Nope. From a legal site:

“It is incredibly rare for a trespasser to successfully sue a property owner for an injury, but it is not unheard of. Generally speaking, if someone trespasses on your property and they get hurt, you will not be liable. You are free from blame unless:

You have acted violently or aggressively toward the intruder, which causes injury. You have been grossly negligent and/or expect that trespassers may enter your property. For instance, if you know about a serious property hazard and you take no steps to post a warning, you could be liable.”

8 – If the RDUAA is so worried about the environmental impact of the hiking/biking trails, then why is their long term plan to either allow Wake Stone to expand onto more of this property and/or clear it and turn it into a parking lot?

John Hite
Resident of Durham

=================

This was sent to the online contact form at the Governor’s office and these people:

ltauss@indyweek.com,
Assignmentdesk@wral.com,
athomas@wral.com,
john.clark@abc11.com,
barbara.gibbs@abc11.com,
jelizabeth@newsobserver.com,
rtomlin@newsobserver.com
dwayne.patterson@ncparks.gov,
mary-ann.baldwin@raleighnc.gov,
citycouncilmembers@raleighnc.gov,
commissioners@dconc.gov,
Steve.Schewel@durhamnc.gov,
council@durhamnc.gov,
commissioners@wakegov.com,
harold.weinbrecht@townofcary.org,
sean.stegall@townofcary.org,
jacques.gilbert@apexnc.org,
drew.havens@apexnc.org,
tjcawley@townofmorrisville.org