Raleigh leaders approve rezoning for potential 7-story apartments near Boylan Heights

City of Raleigh presentation

Raleigh leaders approved a rezoning Tuesday to allow a seven-story development at the entrance of the Boylan Heights neighborhood.

About two acres at the southwest section of West South and South Saunders streets was rezoned to allow about 190 apartments, after plans for condos didn’t pan out.

That meant the the buildings had to be taller, said Mack Paul, an attorney representing the developers.

The property sits across the street from the original Boulted Bread location and is one of the entrances for the historic Boylan Heights neighborhood, located between Dix Park, Central Prison and downtown’s Warehouse District. The property was zoned for development of three and four stories.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Paul said. “Lambert (Development) bought this property about seven years ago, and once the company acquired it found out at one point it had been a dump by the city, there was a broken stormwater pipe running through the middle of the property, which led to a several-year delay.”

The property also included a greenway easement because of a “long standing plan” to connect to Dix Park that split the property in two, making it a challenge to develop, Paul said.

Neighborhood concern

One neighbor, Jay Spain, spoke against the project with a petition of nearly 150 neighbors all concerned about the buildings’ height and the potential for more cars parking on the street in the historic neighborhood. Many of the homes don’t have driveways or garages and rely on street parking.

“Why are we the citizens of Raleigh, responsible for any developer making a bigger profit at our expense?” he said. “Mr. Lambert has us back at the table as he wants to go from four to seven stories to be more profitable. ... Why should he have a hall pass to forever disrupt our neighborhood?”

A 2004-city plan calls for the area to be three and four stories, he said. And other builders nearby that followed that plan should be upset if the city goes back on it word, he said.

“We do not want to block density or block a housing crisis,” Spain said. “But isn’t the housing crisis for affordable housing? I see plenty of signs and listings for apartments over $2,000 a month that all scream that they’re available. Is there really a housing crisis for the affluent?”

Parking minimums

Neighbors want a designated parking space for each bedroom unit, Spain said. But that caused concern for some council members who recently changed the city’s zoning rules to no longer require parking.

“So asking for a specific rezoning application to include parking minimums would go against our own citywide policies,” said Mayor Pro Tem Nicole Stewart. “So I would be very hesitant to then add back in something that goes against our own policies.”

There are plans for parking to be part of the development, but likely one parking space per unit, said Jared Martinson, representing the developers. This development will be within a quarter-mile of a new bus rapid transit (BRT) line along Western Boulevard.

“I cannot support a parking requirement,” said Council member Jonathan Melton. “It goes against all the work we’ve been doing. This is right along what’s going to be BRT and it is going to set a precedent, and conditioning parking into projects is the not the right precedent to be setting.”

The vote was 7-1 with Council member David Cox voting against.

“I really think this is a disaster in terms of involving the community,” Cox said. “We have a community member here that has come before us with a petition from 140 some of his neighbors and I just don’t think that we’re really being responsive to the neighbors. I don’t think we’re providing certainty for the neighbors. And so, therefore, I will not vote in favor of this rezoning.”

The Raleigh City Council also voted to refer the Boylan Heights parking concerns to the council’s transit and transportation sub committee.