Commercial Zoning

Signed, Sealed, Delivered, Rezoned: City of Raleigh to Begin City-Wide Rezoning and "Remapping" Process

We’ve posted here before about the wholesale change to the City of Raleigh’s land use laws upon the September 1, 2013 effective date of a new unified development ordinance (UDO).  Changes to the land use laws includes the creation of new and different zoning districts, which requires the rezoning of properties in the City.  But what properties, exactly?  And when does that occur?  And how does that occur?

Here is what we said previously about the rezonings in the wake of Raleigh’s new UDO:

A moment about these “legacy districts.”    Development of these districts continues to be regulated in part by the old zoning code, save for where the new UDO applies to all zoning districts as outlined in the above paragraph.  This “uneven” regulation will continue until the City is able to “remap” these old zoning districts to new UDO zoning districts, which the City expects to occur over the next 18-24 months: the transition period.   A somewhat helpful slideshow on navigating the transition period is viewable  here. Of course, a landowner in a “legacy district” may petition for a rezoning to the new UDO to expedite that remapping, if desirable.

Over the past year, the City has been working tirelessly on what is termed the “Zoning District Remapping Project” to address these zoning and “legacy district” issues.  Most of the residential zoning districts have already moved over to the new UDO meaning there is no need for a subsequent rezoning as to those properties.  The new UDO retains the City’s former zoning districts R-4, R-6 and R-10, which are lower density in nature, such that the effective date of the new UDO did not affect the zoning designations of properties already within those zoning districts.  Notably, however, many income-producing commercial and industrial properties and higher-density residential properties — like shopping centers, office buildings and condominiums — do not translate directly to the new UDO and will thus require rezoning.  Upon this large-scale rezoning, which the City calls the “final phase of implementing the [UDO] that took effect last September”, development “in all areas of the City would then be governed solely by the UDO”.  

What properties are being rezoned, exactly?
It’s estimated that “[a]pproximately 30 percent of the City’s land area” — somewhere around 34,000 parcels — will require rezoning to fully embrace the new UDO.  Currently, these properties have retained their zoning designation as it existed before the September 1, 2013 effective date of the new UDO.

When does this massive rezoning occur?
Over the next several weeks, the record owners of these 34,000 parcels will receive a postcard from the City at the owner’s property tax address. To comply with State and local laws, the postcard will identify the parcel to be rezoned and the proposed zoning district to which it will be rezoned and a copy of that same postcard will be mailed to the record owners (again, by property tax address) of parcels within a 100 foot radius of the parcel to be rezoned.  In other words, the post office will be very, very busy.

All will want to pay close attention to any postcards received from the City, and any changes proposed as a result of the anticipated rezoning.  For example, concepts like building type, building height, frontage and other regulations emanating from the new UDO could have significant impact on valuable properties in a booming City.

While a retention of an existing zoning district is not an option — those properties subject to rezoning are without a zoning home under the new UDO, hence the rezoning — there is some degree of control that can be exercised over the rezoning.  For example, perhaps the proposed new zoning district is not in the owner’s best interest or perhaps the City should retain certain conditions resulting from a conditional zoning under the City’s prior law that the City is otherwise seeking to cancel with the proposed rezoning.

How does this massive rezoning occur?
The mailings will arrive in the next month or so, as stated.  Through September 30, 2014, owners and neighbors within 100 feet can review, comment on and challenge to the City staff the new zoning districts proposed for a property.  After September 30, the rezonings will be referred to the City’s Planning Commission, which will hold public hearings.  After those hearings, and after the Planning Commission reports its recommendations to the City Council — which will likely take some time, perhaps into 2015 — the City Council will conduct its own review, public hearings and vote.  According to the City, though there are thousands of individual parcels at issue, the rezoning is being treated as one comprehensive case, subject to one vote.  Upon the City Council’s vote, if adopted, the rezonings become effective.    

Watch the mail, Raleigh landowners and really watch mail, owners of property in Raleigh currently zoned for commercial, industrial or dense residential, like multifamily.  And once you watch the mail, watch the land use regulations applicable to the proposed rezoning under the new UDO.

“Greetings from Raleigh! Also, now you’re in an overlay district.”

Mike Thelen practices in Womble, Carlyle’s Real Estate Litigation and Land Use practice group. He regularly represents a wide variety of clients, from local governments to businesses, in land use and land development matters in both state and federal venues throughout North Carolina.

Follow the North Carolina Land Use Litigator on Twitter at @nclanduselaw and “like” us on Facebook here.

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