Raleigh Hates Rooftops
By Brent Woodcox
At Tuesday night's city council meeting, a serious kerfuffle broke out over the proposed rezoning of 615 West Peace Street.
The major subject of debate? A rooftop deck.
Keep in mind that the planned hotel on the property would be located in Glenwood South, not exactly a sleepy area of town to begin with, and within the downtown district. Also, property owners had already agreed to quiet hours after 10:30PM on weekdays and 11:30PM on weekends. Noise was not a legitimate complaint against the rooftop amenity for the building.
Even so, city councilors began to raise concerns early in the day about whether they had been allowed to properly vet the plans for a fourth floor rooftop deck to be constructed at the boutique hotel being developed on the property.
By the time Tuesday night's council meeting began, it was clear there was going to be a confrontation.
Local small business owner, Sunny Miller of Adara Spa, has a business just a few doors down from the planned hotel and spoke in favor of the project before council.
"This city has 400,000 people in it, yet a handful of people are trying to say, 'Not in my backyard.' ... At some point, it can't be about a handful of people. At some point, it has to be about the city that will benefit from it," she said. See here full comments here.
As discussion continued and a lawyer from a neighboring building, The Paramount, spoke out against the project, it became clear that city councilors were going to kick the can down the road for two weeks and ask the developer of the hotel project to define in minute detail how the rooftop deck would be designed and used. Keep in mind that The Paramount advertises itself with mentions of its rooftop pool, "Amenities include a fifth-floor pool terrace with adjacent fitness and lounge areas."
At that point, the developer of the project, Anuj Mittal, stepped up to the microphone to express his frustration with the project.
Mittal said, "At this point in time, I think we've been at this for a year. ... We've given everything, every square inch possible. There is no limit... We've spent thousands of dollars... I think we have to think from a common sense perspective. I mean we're spending an enormous amount of money here. I'm not going to put two cows grazing there. There's only so much you can do in the hospitality business." Listen to his full comments here.
As the discussion continued, Councilor Nicole Stewart who had been trying to interject her voice into the debate was finally recognized to speak.
She expressed enthusiastic support for the proposal saying, "I'd just like to speak really enthusiastically for this project because I feel like that voice isn't at this table, in part for myself, in part for young folks who are really excited about rooftop bars... This is in Glenwood South. It's a very busy neighborhood already. We are not changing the character of the neighborhood by adding another building that is less than the same height next to it. ... We're adding value to the entire city... And I feel like we're not think about people aren't at the table." Her full comments here.
The council then voted to delay any decision for two weeks and allow the applicant to present a plan for how the rooftop would be designed and used.
But this is exactly the kind of cluster you get when you elect a city council with six of eight members who are over the age of 60 in a city with a median age in the mid 30s. This is the type of train wreck you have when you empower the NIMBY majority of that council to squeeze blood from a turnip on every single rezoning request because they are reflexively opposed to any new development anywhere at all.
Raleigh, with the leadership of this so-called "new majority" on city council, is quickly earning a reputation for being impossible to deal with when it comes to new development.
It showed this week as Durham, not Raleigh, was named the #1 city for Millennials in a study done by Growella. Charlotte ranked #6 in that same study. Raleigh came in way back in the back at #22. At least we beat out Greensboro, I guess.
Additionally, trends are now showing that Wake County that had previously been gaining population at a rate of 67 people per day has now slowed that growth to just 63 people per day according to the most recent Census numbers.
I would submit that part of the reason for that slow down has been policies from this council that are anti-growth and designed to stifle new development. Counties around us have actually siphoned off some of the growth that previously was going to Raleigh. Population growth in Chatham, Franklin and Johnston counties outpaced Wake in the most recent year.
Maybe that's exactly what some members of this council think they were elected to do. To build a wall around Raleigh through red tape and restrictive regulations that make it harder to move here, thereby slowing the rate of the city's change.
But, for those of us who want a Raleigh that is progressing, a Raleigh that is planning for growth not shunning it, a Raleigh that is moving into the future thoughtfully and with optimism, it's time for a wake up call. This council intends to stop us dead in our tracks.