Height Standards

This week the Growth and Natural Resources committee will continue to consider proposed changes to height standards for new development in mixed use districts. Here are the current standards. Under the UDO each mixed use property is assigned a height. For example, CX-3 is a commercial mixed use district limited to 3 stories.

However, the current standard is more nuanced. Under the current standard a three story structure can be up to 50 feet tall. A four story structure can be up to 62 feet tall. And a five story structure can be up to 75 feet tall. Here is the full list of heights under the current standard:

    • 3 stories, 50 feet
    • 4 stories, 62 feet
    • 5 stories, 75 feet
    • 7 stories, 90 feet
    • 12 stories, 150 feet
    • 20 stories, 250 feet
    • 40 stories, 500 feet

If your property is zoned for 7 stories, you can build as many as 7 stories up to a height of 90 feet. If your property is zoned for 12 stories, you can build as many as 12 stories up to a height of 150 feet. And so on.

The current standard also has a provision if the mixed use property is adjacent to a residential property by providing for a height transition. Under this provision no building can be within 50 feet of the property line. Then, beginning at 50 feet from the property line, the building can only be 40 feet tall. For every foot further away from the property line, the building can be another foot taller.

For example, consider CX-3 again. At 50 feet from the property line the building can be 40 feet tall. Or, at 55 feet from the property line the building can be 45 feet tall. At 60 feet from the property line the building can be the max of 50 feet tall.

Within the 50 foot transition area certain structures such as parking lots can be built. So, just because there is a 50 transition area, don’t expect that it will all be nicely landscaped and filled with trees.

The Proposed Changes

The Growth and Natural Resources committee will consider the following changes:

    • Increase the 4 story height maximum from 62 feet to 68 feet
    • Increase the 5 story height maximum from 75 feet to 80 feet
    • For 7 stories and taller, remove the height maximum altogether and allow the cost of construction and the market determine the height in feet. The reasoning is that a developer will not build higher than is cost effective or that the market will bear. Thus, we are unlikely to see a 7 story building 300 feet tall, etc.

I generally agree with the reasoning for 7 stories and taller. These buildings will generally be located in growth centers such as downtown away from residential. However, I am still considering if removing the maximum height requirement altogether is really a good idea.

However, I don’t agree with the proposal for 4 and 5 stories. Three, four, and five stories are more likely to be built next to residential and potentially next to your house. Going taller does not match my philosophy or what I believe are the values of most in Raleigh. Structures adjacent to residential should be more in scale with residential rather than the other way around.

Examining the current standard further we can see the following. Under the current standard a 5 story building can be at most 75 feet tall. That is an average of 15 feet per story. Also under the current standard, a 4 story building can be at most 62 feet or an average of 15.5 feet per story. And, under the current standard, a 3 story building can be at most 50 feet or an average 16.67 feet per story.

That is quite a variation in the average height per story of nearly 2 feet. My proposal is for 3, 4, and 5 story buildings to standardize on and average of 15 feet per story adjacent to residential – the current standard for 5 stories. Using this standard, a 3 story building adjacent to residential will be at most 45 feet and a 4 story building will be at most 60 feet. A 5 story building will remain at most 75 feet.

After all, if an average of 15 feet per story is fine for a 5 story building, then that standard should be fine and should apply to 3 and 4 story buildings.  The result will be 3 and 4 story building that are a few feet shorter than under the current standard but more consistent with the adjacent residential properties.

I welcome your thoughts on this topic by emailing me at

We will see how this goes as we move forward with these proposals.