The Central Citizens Advisory Council voted against two separate rezoning cases Monday – one for a restaurant, the other a city-owned parking lot.
The parking lot is a piece of city-owned property on the corner of Hillsborough and Morgan Streets downtown.
Raleigh’s Interim Planning Director Ken Bowers told the CAC that the space at 301 Hillsborough was once home to a city office building where staff orientations, including his own, had been held. It was demolished in 2007.
Bowers said two previous site plans had been approved for the property after the demolition – a 34-story mixed-use and a 24-story mixed-use. Due to economic conditions at the time, the developers pulled out.
At the end of 2013, Bowers said, the city was approached by two entities interested in purchasing the property, which is valued at $3,080,000. State statutes limit the ability of municipalities to dispose of the land it owns, and in this case the city decided to go with an upset bid process.
For most public bids, like the recent one for the demolition of the Milner Inn, the city announces a due date, sealed proposals are turned in and all opened at once, publicly. The lowest responsible bidder is later awarded by the city council.
With upset bids, the city proposes to accept an offer for city-owned property, a notice of the offer is published, and any interested parties may submit a higher bid within 10 days of the notice. The city then re-advertises the offer at the increased price, and bidders once again have 10 days to submit a higher price. This process continues until no further qualifying bids are received.
Prior to putting out the bid, Bowers said, the city wanted to rezone the property, which would remove many uncertainties and put all potential bidders on an even playing field in terms of allowed uses for the property. The requested rezoning would allow for a maximum of 20 stories and require ground-floor retail. Any development plans, then, would be reviewed administratively.
At 20 stories, the new development would be significantly larger than any existing structures in the neighborhood.
Jon Kolkin, a member of the Homeowners Association for the nearby Dawson on Morgan condominium community, noted the development, if built to its maximum height, would be “10 times larger and 10 times higher” than the average building in the neighborhood.
“To put a 20-story building here would be mammothly out of scale with our neighborhood,” Kolkin said.
The goal of the HOA in this case, Kolkin said, was to take approval of the rezoning off the “fast-track,” and cap the maximum height at seven stories. Additionally, the HOA requested that the city disallow on West Morgan Street a parking entrance/exit for the property as well as outdoor seating for a bar/restaurant, as both would be disruptive to the neighborhood.
A vote was called for on Kolkin’s proposal, and it was approved unanimously by the CAC. City staff will take this feedback into account, although it is unlikely their application will be amended to include the requests outlined in the proposal.
The restaurant case heard by the CAC was for the redevelopment of the former Gethsemane Seventh Day Adventist Church at 501 South Person Street.
Central CAC Chair Lonnette Williams said there had been some inconsistencies in what neighbors had been hearing from the owner of the property and what they had been hearing from the potential tenant for the space. Neither the owner nor the tenant elected to appear at the CAC meeting.
Williams said while most didn’t object to the idea of a restaurant operating in the space, many in the area had a problem with said restaurant obtaining an ABC permit.
The main problems, she said, were the two childcare centers in close proximity to the property and the fact that it was located in a historic district.
“Selling alcohol in a Seventh Day Adventist Church doesn’t seem consistent with preserving the African-American heritage in that building,” Williams said
Adherents to the Seventh Day Adventist faith do not drink or smoke.
The CAC voted against approving the restaurant’s rezoning request, and while this will not prevent the project from moving forward, the applicant will still need to appear before the Planning Commission and receive approval from city council.