Local News

Raleigh Group: We Have Right to Improve Our Property

Posted January 21, 2008 5:21 p.m. EST
Updated January 22, 2008 5:27 a.m. EST

— A group of homeowners and business people on Monday began lobbying against proposals to limit 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 several 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 to increase required setbacks from adjacent properties for many neighborhoods citywide. His plan was to squeeze some of the size out of the McMansions.

Vocal opposition at recent meetings has led the city Planning Commission and a City Council committee to pan the idea. Now, a group called Renew Raleigh, which held its first meeting Monday, has pledged a coordinated effort to defeat such restrictions.

"We all have property rights, and I shouldn't have somebody in some other neighborhood telling me what I can do with my property," said Philip Miller, a Raleigh lawyer and member of Renew Raleigh.

The group argues that the new, larger homes are good for the local economy and help boost property values.

But Robert and Clarice Kennedy, who have lived in an older neighborhood for 40 years, said rebuilt homes near them are so high they block the sun, obstruct their view and change the look of their street.

"The uniqueness of the neighborhood is almost gone now," Robert Kennedy said. "(I wish) they would just limit the height of the house in keeping with what's already here."

Tuesday, the City Council is expected to discuss establishing a committee to study the effect of regulations on local property owners and to seek ideas from what other cities have done. Council members also could debate revising the process for establishing Neighborhood Conservation Overlay Districts.

More than a dozen of the districts, which allow building standards for individual neighborhoods, exist in Raleigh, but they take more than a year to establish. City planning officials have discussed shortening the process to a few months.

A majority of property owners in each neighborhood would have to support creating an overlay district.

"We have 170 neighborhoods, (and) instead of having one standard, we could have individual plans for the neighborhoods who want them," Meeker said. "That might be the right solution."