Local News

Panel: Don't Limit Raleigh Home Sizes

Posted January 16, 2008

— A City Council committee on Wednesday rejected suggestions aimed at limiting the size of homes built in older Raleigh neighborhoods.

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 so-called "McMansions" detract from the character of their areas.

The debate led Mayor Charles Meeker to propose revising city zoning rules to reduce the maximum height of homes and increase required setbacks from adjacent properties for many neighborhoods citywide. The regulations, which would have squeezed some of the excess out of McMansions, prompted vocal opposition from local homeowners.

"The fact that you are thinking about this is a bad thought," resident John McConnell told the Comprehensive Planning Committee on Wednesday.

McConnell said he and his wife plan to expand their Raleigh home to make room for their grandchildren. Building restrictions could keep him from doing that, he said.

"All these arbitrary restrictions we are talking about do nothing but penalize families," resident Allison Garcia said.

Planning committee members removed the proposal to limit building heights. Instead, they recommended creating more Neighborhood Conservation Overlay Districts, where individual neighborhoods could establish their own building standards.

"I think we heard you loud and clear," Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin said.

About a dozen overlay districts already exist across the city.

The committee also called for forming an infill study group to look at the effect of regulations on local property owners and to seek out ideas from other cities.

"(We want) to get those best practices from other cities that have been through these kinds of growing pains," Councilman Russ Stephenson said.

The City Council is expected to consider the committee's suggestions next week.


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  • bahville Jan 17, 2008

    While I think your views are a little extreme (violence, the Soviet Union comparison), I do agree with some of them, including the congestion problem and strip mall phenomenon. I disagree that the free-market is the solution to the problem, and that building wealth should be the primary objective of planning. I'd be curious as to your views on performance based zoning.

  • jenmaris Jan 17, 2008

    Finally, some reasonable people out there opposing restrictions. For so long this issue was slanted toward groups that want to limit what people can do on their own property. So many would be penalized heavily for investing in our community if restrictions were placed after the fact. Many purchased the land for a premium, only to be told they can't put a replacement home on their property. I hope all those that represent themselves as neighborhood advocates and continue to say we ALL want restrictions will either be quiet or move to a location that has a HOA. Imposing their ideas on my property has been a slap my the face all along. These agenda's are just plain un-American and have no place in our community.

  • Darren Jan 17, 2008

    bahville, you're exactly right--zoning is a form of planning--coercive government planning, like the Soviet Union but on a smaller scale. It is neither necessary nor beneficial. Houston (and basic economics) shows that it's not necessary--a free-market system of private property deed restrictions achieves the goal of a prosperous and harmonious community and does so through the voluntary actions of individuals, not through the violence-based coercion of government zoning. And it's also not beneficial, because when you artificially reduce the options available to people in any given system, you reduce the amount of wealth that is able to be created and thus make the entire community poorer than it would have been under free market conditions. In this case, zoning results in higher housing costs, increased congestion, and a preponderance of unsightly strip malls, among many other things. Zoning is a lose-lose proposition.

  • Darren Jan 17, 2008

    flashlight, I realize zoning is legal according to the artificial laws of government. That's why I specified that it's illegal according to "natural law." It violates the natural right to not have force initiated against you.

  • bahville Jan 17, 2008

    "Anyone who supports ANY kind of government zoning should be quite ashamed of themselves. They're using violence to accomplish what should be voluntary arrangements."

    Personally, I'm very glad that Exxon/McDonald's/whatever can't purchase my neighbors house and open a location next door to me, or that the land next to my neighborhood isn't going to become a site for industrial manufacturing, and so on. Zoning is a form of planning, and is both necessary and beneficial.

  • flashlight Jan 17, 2008

    I agree that the article shouldn't use the subjective term "excessive".

    Actually, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (back in the 20's) that zoning is legal. There are simply too many dishonest people out there willing to take advantage of unregulated land use. Yes, zoning in some cases puts property owners in a box, but too often we overlook it keeping certain unpleasant activities out of our back yards.

  • Darren Jan 17, 2008

    "The regulations, which would have squeezed some of the excess out of McMansions..."

    Huh? Excess? Who's to say there's any excess in these new homes? Obviously the property owner doesn't consider it excess or they wouldn't have built it that big. No one has the right to determine if someone else's house is excessive. It seems the reporter is injecting a personal authoritarian bias into his reporting.

    To the larger issue, all this talk about zoning is fundamentally absurd. It's like debating about whether to beat an innocent person with a crow bar or a baseball bat. Zoning is nothing more than an illegal (by the natural laws of individual rights) use of force by an angry mob to compel their neighbors to build according to the mob's wishes. It's a violation of the human right to not have force initiated against you. Anyone who supports ANY kind of government zoning should be quite ashamed of themselves. They're using violence to accomplish what should be voluntary arrangements.

  • Lesley Jan 16, 2008

    I am all for everyone to be able to build upon their existing house. DO NOT re-zone to have more houses per acre than are currently there... if anything - restrict the number of trees that can come down - too much clear - cutting without replanting for me ------- 8 acres of land with 6.5 wooded....