Development Beat: Planning Commission Report

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A rendering of the new Lidl Store

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Planning Commissioners had on their agenda this week two text changes, a site plan approval and a rezoning. So let’s get to it.

The first of those text changes dealt with the operation of short-term rental services, like Airbnb, within the city of Raleigh.

Ira Bodvinick from the City Attorney’s stated a few weeks back that the status quo of the practice is “totally illegal,” yet I’m able to pull up hundreds of listings when searching “Raleigh” on Airbnb.

Airbnb is illegal in Raleigh, yet a search of the site turns up more than 300 listings in the city

Pretty obvious that I made this in Paint, right?

I covered this issue in an overlong article earlier this week, so I’m not going to rehash it here except to say, Commissioners recommended the text change for approval.

The next change was tangentially related, as it dealt with parking requirements for overnight lodging within the downtown district.

Commission Chairman Steven Schuster introduced the proposed change.

“It’s not nearly as exciting as the last one, there’s no one here to talk about it, but I’d like to make one comment,” said Schuster, who is also the founding principal of local architectural firm Clearscapes.

“My firm is working on a downtown hotel, and this text change has a profound, positive impact on the development community’s ability to introduce new hotels into the downtown.”

The text change would reduce by half the number of spaces required for hotels located within the downtown overlay district. Should the City at any point reduce general overnight lodging parking requirements, downtown hotels will still only be required to provide half of that new number.

Commissioners voted unanimously to recommend the text change for approval.

Site Planning

Next up was a site plan review, something that, thanks to the City’s new Unified Development Ordinance, they haven’t done in a while.

The site plan in question was for a new 36,170 square foot Lidl grocery store on Wake Forest Road, set to be located on an empty lot between the McDonald’s and the Red Lobster and sort of in front of the Wal-Mart back on New Hope Church Road.

This lot could soon be home to a German discount grocery chain

James Borden / Raleigh Public Record

This lot could soon be home to a German discount grocery chain

Once again, this is something I’ve already covered this week, but I’ll give a quick rundown.

Lidl is a German grocery chain seeking to expand into the United States. In addition to the location planned for Wake Forest Road, the company is also looking to open a store in Cary and several in Virginia.

It’ll be located across the street from a Food Lion and just a few blocks from an Aldi, but the owners said this was by design: it would entice shoppers at those stores to try something new.

A rendering of the new Lidl Store

A rendering of the new Lidl Store

What that something will be hasn’t exactly been decided yet, as an attorney for Lidl US said the company hadn’t yet reached a final decision on product offerings.

Thankfully, friend of the Record and international globe-trotter Chen Grace Chen has been to a Lidl location in Lyon, France, and was able to offer some groundbreaking insight into the store’s offerings.

“I remember everything is cheaper there, and that they had things you wouldn’t see in other stores,” said Chen, who added that the layout of the store is similar to Aldi in the sense that there’s big boxes everywhere.

Despite the store’s similarities on the inside, renderings show Lidl will be providing a much more enticing exterior. For a grocery store, this is seriously a pretty sleek looking building.

A rendering of the new Lidl Store

A rendering of the new Lidl Store

Before meeting with the Planning Commissioners, the developers have previously appeared before the appearance commission and the Atlantic CAC.

The appearance commission made a number of minor suggestions relating to things like roof color and overhang that the developers will incorporate into their design. The CAC simply received the presentation as information; no vote was held.

Commissioner Adam Terando made a failed motion to defer the case in order to give the developer more time to look into improved pedestrian crossings on the site.

The Commission then voted to recommend approval; Terando was the only dissenting vote.

Rezoning Redux

Rezoning case Z-6-16 deals with a 7.72 acre parcel of land in North Raleigh located approximately at 9501 Leesville Road.

The developer, Halpern Enterprises, is seeking to rezone the parcel from Residential-4 & 6 to Neighborhood Mixed Use. This would allow Halpern to build a 63,000 square foot shopping center anchored by a 50,000 square-foot grocery store.

If the case sounds familiar, it’s because it was also discussed at the April 12 meeting of the Planning Commission.

While the name of the anchor grocer is a “secret” that Halpern won’t release at this point, the neighbors appear almost 100 percent confident that the store will be a Publix. Halpern is known for developing both Kroger and Publix stores.

A site plan drawing for the site

Halpern Enterprises

A site plan drawing for the site

Halpern had tried to rezone the same property last year, although the case was withdrawn in January due to a change in state law.

This new case was deferred from the April 14 meeting in order for Halpern to add more conditions.

One of those conditions dealt with building a gated entrance for the 10-foot wall that would surround the property in order to provide neighbors pedestrian access to the shopping center.

Unfortunately, there was no mention of how big or beautiful this entrance would be, and at no point did the developers threaten to make the wall ten feet taller if they didn’t get their way. In fact, 10 feet is about the maximum height they said they can make the wall. Sad!

Commissioners voted to recommend approval of the case.