Effective September 1, 2013, the City of Raleigh adopted comprehensive new zoning and land development regulations referred to as the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). Although the UDO retains the City’s preexisting R-4, R-6 and R-10 lower density residential zoning districts, it creates entirely new zoning districts for parcels zoned for commercial, industrial and higher density residential uses. There are approximately 34,000 such parcels within the City’s jurisdiction. Under the UDO, the existing zoning of these parcels has remained in place pending a massive City-initiated rezoning to apply the new zoning districts.
After months of work by the City staff, that massive city-wide rezoning has been initiated. Within the next four or five weeks, the owners of the 34,000 parcels to be rezoned will receive postcards from the City. Each postcard, which will be mailed to the owner’s address as listed for property tax purposes, will identify the parcel to which it relates and inform the owner of the new zoning district proposed for that parcel. The postcard will also direct the owner to City websites providing information concerning the new zoning districts, the UDO regulations and a comparative analysis for each parcel to be rezoned. A website will also provide access to the proposed new zoning map for the City. The postcards will include the telephone number for a phone bank staffed by City employees who will answer questions and direct callers to other sources of information. Because the rezoning must be conducted in accordance with State law and UDO procedures applicable to all rezoning cases, postcards will also be mailed to the owners of all parcels within 100 feet of each property for which a zoning change is proposed.
The new zoning districts have been assigned with a stated goal of maximizing similarity between the new district and the existing zoning of each parcel. However, many of the new districts are characterized as “mixed use,” and special districts have been created for heavy industrial and campus uses. Also, the UDO zoning will include a maximum height limit for each parcel of land and in some cases designate a “Frontage,” a new concept similar to an overlay district. The UDO districts are also subject to a new regulatory concept involving “Building Type,” with the result that, in addition to uses, the types of buildings allowed in each zoning district are specified in the UDO.
Many parcels in the City are now zoned “conditional use.” These properties have an assigned zoning district as well as conditions or restrictions specific to the parcel which were approved by the City Council with the zoning of the property. The UDO rezoning will maintain these conditions, but will assign a new UDO base district. In some cases, the staff will propose cancellation of the conditions because all or some of their provisions conflict with the new UDO regulations.
Through September 30, 2014, owners can review, comment on and administratively challenge the new UDO zoning districts proposed for their property. Questions and comments may be directed to City staff using the City’s website. Changes to the proposed zoning for specific parcels will be made by staff where appropriate. After September 30, the comprehensive rezoning case will be referred to the City’s Planning Commission. The Commissioners will hold public meetings at which property owners and their representatives may speak. The Commission may change the UDO zoning district proposed for a particular parcel if it believes the change is justified. Ultimately, the Commission will vote on the rezoning and report its recommendations to the City Council. A time limit has not been established for the Planning Commission’s review.
Upon receipt of the Planning Commission’s report, the City Council will conduct its own review. It is possible that the UDO rezoning of some parcels will be separately reviewed by a Council Committee. The Council will then hold a public hearing and vote on the comprehensive rezoning case. The rezoning will take effect upon approval.
Without question, this rezoning process merits the close attention of every owner of property in the City’s jurisdiction now zoned for multifamily, commercial or industrial uses. In the case of each parcel of land, care should be taken to determine that the UDO zoning district proposed for the parcel maintains existing rights and that the regulations applicable to that district do not unduly restrict the use and development of the property.