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Raleigh Planners Devise Options in 'McMansion' Debate

Posted December 3, 2007

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— City planners on Monday unveiled two alternatives to proposed zoning regulations that would squeeze the size of new homes in Raleigh.

Mayor Charles Meeker last month floated the idea of adopting new rules that would reduce the maximum height of homes from 40 feet to 32 feet and increase the required setbacks from 5 feet to 10 feet on either side of the house and from 20 feet to 30 feet in the back yard for many neighborhoods citywide.

The proposal escalated the debate over "McMansions" that has simmered in older neighborhoods inside the Interstate 440 Beltline for years. Almost 600 homes have been knocked down in Raleigh in the last five years to make way for larger residences, and many homeowners in older neighborhoods complain that the larger homes detract from the character of their neighborhoods.

The Raleigh Planning Commission last week voted against the proposed limits, which sparked outcry from numerous residents. The City Council hasn't acted on the proposal yet.

In a 12-page memo sent to City Council members, Planning Director Mitchell Silver outlined two alternatives to control infill development without resorting to citywide zoning regulations.

The first would limit the size of replacement homes – or additions to existing homes – to 125 percent of the existing square footage and no more than a 10 percent increase in height.

The second option would expand the use of Neighborhood Conservation Overlay Districts to set building standards in specified older neighborhoods.

Both alternatives have questions that need further research and discussion, Silver said in the memo.

The City Council might discuss the proposals at its Tuesday meeting.


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  • 5Rs Dec 4, 2007

    Every day there are new restrictions on our ability to control our own lives, this is one more attempt. If our ITB Mayor wants to create firestorms, he has the knack.

    What we need is to split Raleigh in two: ITBRaleigh, and OTBRaleigh. Then at least some tax revenue could be spent rationally, not wasted on socialistic ideas.

  • pleshy Dec 4, 2007

    Rel estate has one rule - location. If I find the location I want, and I don't like the house, I will tear it down. I don't care wht was there, unless there is a state or federal law prohibiting it. If the neighborhood was so perfect, there would be no need to tear down the houses and build new ones. The only thing that can be "perfect" about real estate is location. Everything else is negotiable and every piece of land has a price. What is yours, Hong? 500k? 1m? I imagine if I paid you 750k for you saltbox, you would take money and you would be the first one to swing the hammer if I asked. And what makes you, or anyone else, the authority on taste in design? I really think Dorton arena is a fantastic structure. A lot of people want to tear it down. Who gets to decide? I bet you think you do. Well, no you don't. I might want to build a pink house shaped like a horse. As long as the RC's don't restrict it, why not? I assume it will be ok with you as long as it is the right size right?

  • HongKongPhooey Dec 4, 2007

    Roadgeek: What you don't seem to understand is that these old established neighborhoods don't need you.
    They are doing just fine on their own.
    If you want to go to South Raleigh and try out your [?] ideas, go ahead.
    Why do people like you think you need to take a pefectly good neighborhood, and change it??
    White Oak Drive and Anderson have some really nice homes. Why destroy them so you could put up a McM that is an eyesore?

  • OpinionOnEverything Dec 4, 2007

    As for my moniker, Roadgeek, my interests mainly have to do with transportation in the Triangle. This area has been growing faster than the ability of government to address a lot of infrastructure needs including basic roadbuilding. I am a clear supporter of ANY-density infill that doesn't require wasted tax dollars to build roads to service a few further and further out into the countryside. I don't care if the infill is a mcmansion or a six-story condo in Hayes Barton, it's still infill. I believe in the free market economy. Inside the beltline, the market has changed, and people need to adapt rather than asking for more regulation to subsidize their unwillingness to change at the expense of economic growth. Every dollar lost in valuation inside the beltline is another dollar that has to be taken from everyone else.

  • OpinionOnEverything Dec 4, 2007

    I meant to say 125% of the existing size...still very small for an upgrade to a 1940 2br 1ba saltbox home to meet the needs of the average family.

  • OpinionOnEverything Dec 4, 2007

    No one has stopped to consider the wishes of existing property owners in these neighborhoods who really want to sell, particularly those in or nearing retirement. All this free market supply and demand has really upped the property values of older smaller homes--to say the least! Do any of the "Inside the Beltline Liberals" who claim the issue is about blocking light, or scale, or ostentation, or whatever, think about how you are holding these people hostage to your narrow viewpoint? Most likely, those poorer or older folks don't come to city council meetings, so they are probably never heard from by the Meeker-ites who have decided how everyone should think and behave and live in their socialist paradise.

  • OpinionOnEverything Dec 4, 2007

    "The old lady who has lived in the area for over 50 years deserves to live "at home" for as long as she wants to."

    So would you favor giving the old lady a break on her property taxes? Subsidize everyone who can't accept change even if the opportunity exists to sell their home for a huge profit?

    "Like I said before, a huge house on a tiny lot is tacky."

    So are apartment complexes or condos, but at least their's less water wasted on a huge lot keeping the grass green.

  • OpinionOnEverything Dec 4, 2007

    Oh, I think you are hypocritical and anti-developement. Just because you want to stay in your small house and not drive anywhere is your choice, but being "smart growth" doesn't mean forcing your lifestyle on everyone else's. Just because you don't want to spend money doesn't mean you get to keep others from doing so with their's. It's always nice to be somewhere first even if it was for a short time, because all the newcomer's have to adapt to suit you. You may decide to move into a small house in an old area and sit around waiting for the land to appreciate. Other's see an opportunity to put up their dream home and live close to downtown because they too do not want to drive everywhere. You're just mad because the neighborhood has become too popular and you feel left out.

    You're certainly welcome to influence development, but not to the extent that sets every property 10% above the lowest value or smallest size of existing homes, which is the debate facing council.

  • doodad Dec 4, 2007

    raydiasne, I was born in NC know more about flood and drought patterns because I have an agriculture background.

    I know that there are a lot of self absorbed and self serving people in the world and many of them live in Raleigh. The ones who waste the most natural resources seem to scream the loudest when those resources are compromised.

    I am not jelous of anyone. I find that contentment is a blessed gift and owning "things" has never made me happy for very long. I am much happier knowing that I don't need "things" to make me happy.

    The old lady who has lived in the area for over 50 years deserves to live "at home" for as long as she wants to.

    Like I said before, a huge house on a tiny lot is tacky.

    How much land do you own by the way, one acre? I am not at all impressed.

  • Raydianse Dec 4, 2007

    Flow Easy- it is not from the other side of the coin. one is the owner the others are people complaining.