Local News

Raleigh City Council Votes To Force Mediation For Oberlin Project

Posted July 4, 2001 6:23 a.m. EDT

— Raleigh City Council members have delayed their vote on whether to rezone 15 acres off Wade Avenue and Oberlin Road to develop new offices, homes and shops.

Instead, council members voted to bring in a facilitator to help mediate the differences between developer Neal Coker and residents who oppose the project.

The vote to bring in a mediator passed 5 to 3. Mayor Paul Coble, James West, John Odom, Mort Congleton and Marc Scruggs voted for the facilitator. Benson Kirkman, Julie Shea Graw and Kieran Shanahan voted against it.

Coker needed six of the eight council members to vote in favor of his request in order to rezone the land. After nearly a year of contentious debate, he knew those votes would not come easy.

Neighborhood residents say the project will generate too much traffic. Some also say it does not comply with the draft of the urban design guidelines.

In response to those objections, Coker cut the size of his planned development nearly in half.

But that is not enough to satisfy some opponents.

"We made the offer to Neal Coker that if the council turns this down, we would be willing to go into mediation with him with an independent smart growth facilitator and try to work out a good project on this site starting from scratch," says Bob Geary.

Coker told WRAL on Tuesday afternoon that would not happen. He said he felt opponents have not genuinely tried to work out a compromise and describe what they would like to see on that property.

"We will maintain an open mind and we will go forth in good faith. That's all we can do," he says.

Now, both sides will have to try to find a middle ground.

"We want streets. He wants an open parking lot. We want open space. He does not want open space," Geary says. "We want a reasonable amount of density. He wants, what we think is, an unreasonable amount of density."

The council is now hoping to vote on the rezoning request and revised plan in early August.