Protect Falls the Movie

Here is our first test movie.

Protect Falls…

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Second Grocery Store Proposed for Falls of Neuse

A second 49,500 square foot grocery store has been proposed for the corner of Raven Ridge and Falls of Neuse Roads. Tonight we attended a meeting at Millbrook Exchange Park where Richard Rowe of Wakefield Associates unveiled plans for a Lowes Grocery Store plus additional space for offices and small retail.

A large crowd of nearby neighbors attended the meeting as did representatives of NORCHOA. We noted vigorous opposition to yet more retail promising to strip out our section of Falls of Neuse and transform our neighborhoods into a retail district.

Unfortunately, the developer did not provide copies of the planned development. However, we can convey that it is very similar to the proposed Publix at Dunn and Falls of Neuse.

Stay tuned. Much more to follow on these quickly occurring developments (pardon the pun).

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Fixing the UDO: A New Zoning District and Correctly Mapping Buffered Commercial

The following is an open letter to the Raleigh Planning Commission to set the record straight regarding ongoing discussions about a new zoning district and the mapping of the current zoning district, Buffered Commercial.

Dear Commissioners,

Yesterday’s Planning Commission meeting was quite interesting to us. There are a broad number of topics that interest and concern us. In the interest of time and space I will restrict this email to the topic of a new zoning district and the mapping of Buffered Commercial.

The suggestion for a new zoning district arose from many discussions about NX and CX districts and how they do not adequately implement Neighborhood Mixed Use and Community Mixed Use in the Comprehensive Plan. Neighborhood Mixed Use clearly describes small, walkable, neighborhood oriented retail that services homes within one mile. Community Mixed Use clearly describes destination shopping centers that people drive to such as the typical Harris Teeter, Kohls, and even Best Buy (think Capital Blvd near Spring Forest).

Despite these clear differences, the UDO provides no tools for implementing these visions and their associated policies. Both NX and CX allow structures of unlimited square footage. The Planning Department has arbitrarily drawn a line to allow anchor stores up to 50,000 square feet and centers up to 150,000 square feet in size in NX districts. But is this really implementing the vision of Neighborhood Mixed Use in the Comp Plan? We don’t think so.

The motivation for setting the 50K/150K line has more to do with expediency than implementing the vision of the Comp Plan. It turns out that a number of areas in the Future Land Use Map designated as Neighborhood Mixed Use have to be mapped to CX rather than NX. One reason is that those centers contain uses that are not permitted under NX but are permitted under CX. Bars, for example, are one such use.

NX could be changed to permit bars. But to place these existing centers into NX sets a precedent for allowing very large centers with very large anchors in NX. Thus, we defeat the purpose of NX – to implement Neighborhood Mixed Use – in multiple ways. First, we allow very large anchors and centers and, second, we permit uses that were not originally intended for neighborhoods.

The ideal solution that provides predictable growth and avoids these conflicting goals of size and uses is to establish a new zoning district and a new land use category. Grow Raleigh Great advocates a zoning district with a limit of 30K for anchors and 65K for centers. These limits, rather than being arbitrary, are well established in the literature as appropriate for neighborhood centers. We think that such centers are a good match for Neighborhood Mixed Use.

If we adopt a new zoning district with a 30/65 limit, then it will map nicely to Neighborhood Mixed Use. The existing NX district could then be modified to allow anchors greater than 30K and centers up to the 150K limit that the Planning Department has suggested. This change along with some additional uses (such as bars) will accommodate the larger Harris Teeter/Kohls/Best Buy centers that already exist. We suggest adding a land use category to the Comp Plan that will map to this revised NX district.

The CX district and Community Mixed Use land category will remain as is.

These three zoning districts and corresponding land use categories will provide the diversity necessary to accommodate a range of development projects. They will also give citizens – homeowners and business owners alike – much needed predictability in the zoning process. Without it we degrade into situations like yesterday where large groups of citizens must repeatedly come to the City with their attorneys. We need predictability and not repeated confrontation as Raleigh continues to grow beyond the available land.

Finally, this idea of a new zoning district with a limit of 30K/60K brings me to Mr. Crane’s comments that the Planning Department thinks that a new zoning district capped at 3K (not 30K as we advocate) to replace Buffered Commercial is not wise. We completely agree that a new zoning district to replace BC is not wise and have never advocated such a position. Let me be clear, we advocate for a new zoning district that limits anchors to 30K and not 3K.

On the other hand, the Planning Department has recommended mapping Buffered Commercial to NX. We argue that this is the wrong mapping. Buffered Commercial limits commercial development to 3000 square feet per floor per building and does not allow fuel sales or drive thrus. NX currently provides unlimited square footage and allows fuel sales and drive thrus. NX enormously expands the current entitlements for Buffered Commercial. WE ARGUE THAT MAPPING BC TO NX IS HIGHLY INAPPROPRIATE AS IT GREATLY INCREASES THE ENTITLEMENTS WITH NO RELIEF TO SURROUNDING PROPERTY OWNERS.

A simple solution, however, is to map BC to OX. OX, like BC, does not permit fuel sales or drive thrus. OX also limits commercial to 4000 square feet per floor per structure. OX is a much better fit for BC than NX without a loss of entitlement. Indeed 4000 square feet for retail is a modest increase in entitlement. Therefore, we advocate mapping BC to OX and not NX.

We definitely look forward to future discussions about the mapping of BC to OX and a new zoning district. In the mean time I would like to ask a favor. When the agenda for the Planning Commission is published, could you indicate in the agenda if public comment will be allowed for the issues that are on the agenda? As you know, public comment on these issues was not taken yesterday. It would have been more convenient for many of us to have had a heads up so we could have watched the video of the meeting rather than attending in person.

Thank you very much.

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Some thoughts about traffic

During our meeting with Morgan Property Group and Publix, the claim was made that the traffic report reflects a worst case scenario.  The claim was made that the traffic will probably be less than the 6000 trips a day predicted by the traffic report.  However, let’s think this through with some simple math.

Let’s assume that the parking lot proposed for Dunn and Falls with 350 spaces will, on average, be 50% full throughout the 16 hours that the store is open. Let’s also assume that the average time in the store is 30 minutes. Then we get the following:

350 x 0.5 x 16 x 2 = 5,600 cars per day

Now, every customer makes a trip into and a trip out of the store. Thus, we get 11,200 trips a day.

However, their traffic study claims that there will be 6000 trips a day. So, clearly, to get 6000 trips a day, the parking lot must be less than half full on average.

To get 6000 trips a day we would have to change our assumption from being 50% full on average to 26% full throughout the day

In other words, the parking lot will be 75% empty on average!

Is this a realistic assumption? What is your experience with the parking lots at Trader Joes or Whole Foods?  Could the traffic situation be far worse?  Here is the Publix in Cary:

IMG_1521.JPG

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Homeowners Renew Call to Not Rezone Dunn and Falls of Neuse

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: protectfalls@gmail.com

Two days ago Mayor McFarlane invited several of us who live near Dunn and Falls of Neuse to view a new plan that Morgan Property Group has developed for that site. In addition to Morgan, a Publix representative was also present.

We wish we could share the drawing that they showed. But, unfortunately, they would not give us a copy or allow us to photograph it.

What we saw were plans to place 115 parking spaces in a parking garage under the Publix grocery store. The grocery store will remain the same size at 49,000 square feet. The additional 13,000 sq foot retail strip was divided into two buildings each 6500 square feet in size. And, the bank remains at 4100 sq feet. The total number of parking spaces actually increases and in a moment you will see why. In other words, they did not reduce the size of the shopping center at all.

With the space that they freed up by placing the parking spaces under the grocery store, they added 17 townhouses. Thus, the number of parking spaces goes up rather than down.

Yes, you read that correctly. They added townhouses and made the development BIGGER. Morgan and Publix argued that this results in a “sense of place”.

This site plan, like the previous site plan, also does not provide for 40% trees as required by UDO 9.1.9 for property in the watershed. They refused to address this concern.

The plan calls for a full access entrance on Whittington Road, a right in and a right out on Falls of Neuse, a right in and right out on Dunn, and the current full access entrance at the daycare center. Thus, three of the four entrances are on residential streets and the only full access on Dunn services a daycare center. Moreover, public officials have repeatedly stated that they do not desire an entrance on Falls of Neuse because it will impact traffic and safety on that road. Effectively the plan turns our residential streets and daycare center into a massive strip mall entrance and destroys the gateway to our neighborhood.

Honestly, we are in disbelief. They did not address any of the concerns about traffic, noise, light pollution, hours of operation, delivery trucks, garbage, vagrancy, etc. and have made matters worse by enlarging the proposal.

We did learn that delivery trucks will be coming from a distribution center in Atlanta. To leave the site they will turn right onto Falls of Neuse and travel to the Neuse river and make a u-turn at the turn around at the bridge The trucks will then proceed back down Falls of Neuse effectively DOUBLING the amount of truck traffic through our area.

Those in attendance expressed to Mayor McFarlane that this new plan is completely unacceptable.

We expressed that we fully support development according to the current zoning and that rezoning for this proposal will seriously harm our neighborhoods and this area near Falls Lake that the City has pledged in the Comprehensive Plan to protect.

Meanwhile we have learned from neighbors not far from us that there is a plan to develop another grocery store on the northeast corner of Six Forks and Strickland directly in the Falls watershed. Those plans call for a development virtually identical to what has been proposed at Dunn and Falls of Neuse complete with another 49,000 sq foot grocery store.

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NORCHOA CHALLENGES FALSE CLAIM REGARDING THE LAND AT DUNN AND FALLS OF NEUSE ROADS

November 13, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NORCHOA CHALLENGES FALSE CLAIM REGARDING THE LAND AT DUNN AND FALLS OF NEUSE ROADS

From:  the North Raleigh Coalition of Home Owners Association (NORCHOA), a group of concerned citizens living in North Raleigh, NC *

Contact: NORCHOA Spokesperson, David Cox, at norchoa@gmail.com
—————————————————————-

On November 3, 2014 a story by Andrew Kenney appeared on the News and Observer website entitled, “Attorney: Publix proposal will return to Raleigh city hall soon.”  The story quotes Mack Paul, attorney representing the developers who want to develop Dunn and Falls of Neuse into a large grocery store strip mall.

According to the story, “Paul said the project matches city plans, and the developer, Morgan Property Group plans to see it through.”

The story continues by quoting Mr. Paul:  “They are fully intent to proceed to the end of the process, and feel like, based on the long-standing designation in the comprehensive plan, that this is fully within the scope of the city’s vision for this property,”

NORCHOA responds to this claim by noting that the plans for this property have been long established.  A document dated May 2, 1994 (with revisions dated July 7, 1994) is on file with the City entitled, “Falls River, A Planned Unit Development for Raleigh NC.”  On page 4 of this master plan are a description and rendering for an Office Village as shown here:

falls river office village

The rendering for the Office Village clearly shows and labels its location at the northeast corner of Falls of Neuse and Whittington roads – the largest of the parcels now being considered for rezoning.  The Office Village is described as follows (note the emphasis on the site being the “gateway” to the Falls River master plan):

“An office village is proposed at the project gateway on Falls of Neuse Road.  Current land uses adjacent to the property consist of single family detached housing.  In keeping with the residential nature of the area, the office village will provide a non-commercial setting for residentially scaled and designed offices.  This clustered setting will provide residents with professional services and employment opportunities.”

The rendering shows about a dozen small office buildings each no more than two stories in height.  The site is surrounded by treed and landscaped buffers ranging from 75 to 100 feet wide.

Also on page 4 the Development Consultants are listed as East West Partners Management Co., Inc. from Chapel Hill.  Land Planning/Landscape Architecture was provided by Jerry Turner & Associates, Inc. from Raleigh. Engineering/Surveying were provided by The John R. McAdams Company, Inc. at Research Triangle Park.  Transportation Engineering were provided by Kimly Horn & Associates, Inc. of Cary.

Another file with the City is a document dated September 11, 2008 showing three preliminary plans for the remaining land at Dunn and Falls of Neuse again illustrating a concept of ten buildings each 3000 square feet in size arranged into three or four clusters.  Each schematic shows the ten buildings arranged differently to give three conceptual options for development.  Here is one of those schematics:

dunn offices

Over the years residents in the area have been provided the same documentation by their realtors to assure them of how the Falls River master plan was intended to be developed.

The 1994 plans and the 2008 plans illustrate the long standing expectation to develop the land at Dunn and Falls of Neuse as a small office village in scale with the surrounding residential areas.  There was an attempt in 2008 to rezone some of the land for larger commercial uses up to 20,000 square feet in size but that was rejected by City Council.  The current zoning for most of the land is actually residential with a Planned Development District overlay to permit offices.  For the entire site retail is limited to 3,000 square feet in size per floor per structure.

Clearly, based on all the plans and zoning decisions for the past twenty years, the area has been envisioned as a gateway to our neighborhoods and should be built in accordance to the size and scale of neighborhoods.  What Morgan Property Group proposes for the land is not consistent with the Comprehensive Plan’s description of Neighborhood Mixed Use or with the area plan for this part of Falls of Neuse.

The claim that their proposal “is fully within the scope of the city’s vision for this property” is not supported by the Comprehensive Plan, is not supported by documentation, is not supported by current zoning, and is not supported by the City’s rezoning decisions for this location.

Lastly, the claim is not supported by the for sale sign that is currently on the property and has been on the property for as long as homeowners in the area can remember:

for sale

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The Cary Publix

For today’s update we are providing photos taken today of the Cary Publix to illustrate what a 49,000 square foot store with a 240  spot (give or take) parking lot looks like (if you zoom in, you can count the spots in the pictures).  The parking that is pictured contrasts with 334 spots proposed for Dunn and Falls of Neuse.  We are also providing a graphic to illustrate how the property in Cary compares to the site at Dunn and Falls of Neuse to illustrate that what is proposed for our neighborhood will be significantly larger.

It astonishes us that anyone can support such a development for a section of Falls of Neuse that the Comprehensive Plan singles out for protection and where the City has invested and will continue to invest in outdoor recreation.  It astonishes us that anyone could support such development in the Richland Creek watershed literally just across the street from Falls Lake and the Falls Lake Recreation Area.

publix1 Publix2 publix3 publix4 publix5 publix6 publix7

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