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Neighborhoods to control 'McMansion' development

Posted July 1, 2008

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— The City Council turned the debate over replacing older homes with larger ones over to neighborhoods Tuesday, allowing residents to decide what limits to place on new construction.

Most of the infill development has occurred northwest of downtown in neighborhoods inside the Interstate 440 Beltline. Some residents have complained that gargantuan new homes – they are often called "McMansions" – have damaged the character of their neighborhoods, prompting city officials to begin studying the issue last year.

After looking at a range of possible solutions, including citywide restrictions on home sizes, the council agreed to speed the creation of Neighborhood Conservation Overlay Districts, where individual neighborhoods could establish their own building standards.

"It won't end tear-downs, but it will control what can be built," Raleigh Planning Director Mitchell Silver said.

Sixteen neighborhood districts already exist in Raleigh, and Silver said he expects applications for at least 10 more in the next few weeks. Property owners would need to petition the City Council to create a district, and a majority of neighbors would then decide what's best for the neighborhood.

"The goal of the Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District is to have new development that fits in with the old development. It can be renovations (or) additions (using) similar materials to really fit in," Mayor Charles Meeker said.

Renew Raleigh, a group that opposed restrictions on infill development, sees the new proposal as a reasonable solution with at least one potential problem.

"I suspect, like anything where you've got neighbors dealing with neighbors and people have different opinions, there could certainly be conflict over it," said Spears Mullen, of Renew Raleigh.


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  • MrX-- Jul 2, 2008

    It sounds like some busybodies want to impose "covenants" on non covenant neighborhoods. Busybodies should move to newer neighborhoods with covenants where they can get on the Homeowners Associations and be a jerk toward people who at least signed up for that kind of abuse.

  • Whatever Geez Jul 2, 2008

    personally, if I could afford a huge house in Raleigh, it would be in a super nice neighborhood and not beside some house that was built in 1930.

  • ncwebguy Jul 2, 2008

    That being said, there should be limits on the size of a "neighborhood". 2,000 homes is too much and that size is unwieldy and like Steve says, punishes one end from the whims of the other.

    I'd put a cap on 500 plats, with additional review for any potential overlay districts larger than 250 sites/plats.

  • ncwebguy Jul 2, 2008

    "No one bothers to propose them" is NOT the same as "get shot down". Only Avent Ferry (near the Gorman intersection), Gorman (from near 440 to Tryon) and Tryon itself (the four lane section from Dillard to Lake Wheeler) should be commercial, as those are somewhat major arteries.

    The other streets shouldn't have commercial since there isn't enough people nearby to support businesses, and the MAJORITY of residents want to maintain a business-free neighborhood.

    It is a shame that the city has to legislate being a good neighbor and building appropriately, but "Renew" Raleigh has proven we have to get everything in writing.

    If there are neighborhoods that want to go bigger, they can create a preservation district that calls for that, set *minimum* square foot thresholds for new construction.

    People hate community standards, even though the community created the neighborhood that attracted them there in the first place.

  • GoBlue Jul 2, 2008

    I know I don't want any big nice homes in my neighborhood. They would totally drive down the property value. I prefer small cr*ppy homes. I think everyone should have a small cr*ppy home. I hope that I have the cr*ppiest home on the block too. Thank goodness I have all these people willing to tell me what kind of house I have to build. It would be horrible if I had the freedom and liberty to pursue my happiness. I hope Raleigh bans those evil garbage disposals next.

  • likemenow Jul 2, 2008

    I detect a faint smattering of appplause from the attorneys. This will keep them busy for the next 10 years.

  • Steve Crisp Jul 2, 2008

    To helenleet:

    You are not priced out of a home because of constuction costs. They are rather reasonable. You ARE priced out because of land costs. They are completely unreasonable.

    And they have skyrocketed for the very reason as this story indicates. When you mandate the land use and its density -- particularly when you require substantial lot sizes and single family homes -- that land price goes way up. By maintaining low density, single family homes in an area, the residents price out all those undesirables from their neighborhoods.

    And "undesirable" can mean blacks, other minorities, students, young families with children, the elderly, or any other group that does not conform to the existing neighborhood makeup and the bigotry of those who live there.

  • Steve Crisp Jul 2, 2008

    Here we go with the neighborhood overlays again.

    Folks, you really need to take a long, hard look at these things and the damage they do in the long term.

    I live in the Avent West overlay (actually, I opted out and the counsel allowed it only because I was right on the edge.) This overlay covers well over two thousand homes and an area from NCSU to the other side of I-440. This means that folks who don't live anywhere near me could control what I could do with my property.

    This idiocy is why there is relatively no retail near NCSU. Any commercial zoning along Avent Ferry Road, Tryon, Gorman, Athens Drive, Kent, Kaplan and other major roads in the section either get shot down or no one even bothers to propose them.

  • helenleet Jul 2, 2008

    "I worked for Habitat tearing down a house off of Lake Boone Trail. Though I grew up in Raleigh, I had never realized that that area really looks slum-like by today's standards."

    Lake Boone Trail is "slum-like"? Haven't been in very many slums, have you?

    Like Marc3939, I too chose to live in smaller house almost 20 years ago; one closer to downtown than Lake Boone Trail. Now even my 850 sq.ft. house would be out of my price range in my neighborhood.

  • DrJ Jul 1, 2008

    I worked for Habitat tearing down a house off of Lake Boone Trail. Though I grew up in Raleigh, I had never realized that that area really looks slum-like by today's standards. There was a sprinkling of newer, larger houses in the neighborhood that really made things look improved.

    Here's my guess: the long time residents of these areas are not so much against the nicer homes as they are against the yankee, gold chain sporting, society wannabe, new owners of these (arguably) over-sized homes.