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Officials Concerned as 'McMansions' Flourish

Some residents of historic Raleigh neighborhoods worry about infill, a development practice in which smaller homes are torn down to make way for larger ones. But a city report shows the trend isn't as widespread as previously thought.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Almost 600 homes have been knocked down in Raleigh in the last five years to make way for larger residences, according to a city report released Friday.

The majority of the activity was concentrated inside the Interstate 440 Beltline north of Wade Avenue and west of Wake Forest Road, the report said. Nearly half of the replacement homes were at least 4,000 square feet.

"People want to be closer to downtown. They see older, one-story buildings, (built in the) 1950s, 1960s, and they're ripe for redevelopment. You do see the market shifting to those sites," Raleigh Planning Director Mitchell Silver said.

The development practice, called infill, begins to happen in cities once the price of land gets high enough to justify the demolition costs.

But the report, which was compiled by interns hired by the city's planning department and Preservation North Carolina, shows the tear-down trend isn't as widespread in Raleigh as city officials previously thought, Silver said.

"What surprised us is that 40 percent of all the infill projects are under 3,000 square feet," he said.

Still, he said, city zoning codes might need to be adjusted because the new homes, often referred to as "McMansions," are next to older, much smaller homes.

Silver said the biggest complaint he hears from residents is that new homes are built too big. Existing codes allow single-family homes up to 40 feet in height, and he said that limit might be dropped to 32 or 35 feet.

"The next step is to look site by site (at) the size of the home relative to the neighborhood character, do some research and recommend a series of alternatives," he said.

Public hearings on the issue are planned for the coming months before recommendations are presented to the Planning Commission and the City Council next spring.

Fallon Park resident Rachel Wooten said she looks forward to tighter rules on McMansions. She said her neighborhood is losing its character as people replace older homes.

"I really get sad sometimes. It kind of breaks my heart," Wooten said. "If I had to move to this neighborhood now, I could not afford it."


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