Local News

Panel: Don't Rush Solution to 'McMansion' Debate

Posted December 11, 2007 4:38 p.m. EST
Updated December 11, 2007 7:04 p.m. EST

— The Raleigh Planning Commission on Tuesday called on the City Council to slow down in its efforts to regulate infill development in older 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.

Mayor Charles Meeker last month suggested new zoning rules to reduce the maximum height of homes and increase required setbacks from adjacent properties for many neighborhoods citywide. The regulations would have squeezed some of the excess out of McMansions, but vocal opposition from homeowners prompted the Planning Commission to reject the idea.

City Planning Director Mitchell Silver then offered two other options to restrict the size and scope of McMansions:

  • Limit the size of replacement homes – or additions to existing homes – to a total of 125 percent of the existing square footage and no more than a 10 percent increase in height.
  • Expand the use of Neighborhood Conservation Overlay Districts to set building standards in specified older neighborhoods.

The Planning Commission was most intrigued by the last option, but Commission Chairman Brad Mullins said Tuesday that more time is needed to study the issue before any "far-reaching policy change" is enacted.

"It's a complex problem," Mullins said. "As of right now, there's so much uncertainty. Our recommendation is to make no changes."

The City Council is considering all three options, and one member said the council would likely debate the infill issue at its first meeting in January.

That concerns some Raleigh homeowners and encourages others.

"I'm concerned that this issue is even out there, that City Council would tell me what I can do with my property," Philip Miller said.

"I can't even count the number of homes that have been torn down in my neighborhood," Rachael Wooten said. "People who don't have huge incomes typically have been able to live in our neighborhoods. This is going away now."