Change on development upsets residents

Attendees hold plates to show their opposition to UDO-283 at a City Council meeting held Monday night.

Change on development upsets residents
October 18
03:30 2018

The City Council heard from residents who were upset with a zoning amendment that allows for residential development in Highway Business (HB) and General Office (GO) districts.

This change to HB districts passed Monday night in a 5-3 vote, with Council Members D.D. Adams, James Taylor and Derwin Montgomery voting against it, while the GO change passed 5-2 with only Adams and Taylor in opposition. The measure, which had been discussed in city and planning board meetings for about a year, was debated and voted on in the Oct. 1 council meeting, but needed a second vote because it didn’t reach a six-vote threshold needed for zoning changes.

This change allows multifamily and town home construction in HB and GO districts, and would eliminate the need for such projects to go through the zoning process, which includes a public hearing and approval by the City Council. This is already allowed in major cities in the state like Greensboro, Raleigh, Charlotte, Durham and Chapel Hill. Local HB districts already had 73 land uses that include hotels, hospitals and colleges.

About 20 residents attended the meeting holding red plates that read “Stop UDO 283,” which is the name of the zoning amendment. Eight of them argued during the public comment session that the amendment took away the people’s voice in those zoning cases and could lead to gentrification in the surrounding areas.

The comments were often heated and condemned the council. Yusef Suggs accused developers of originating UDO-283. According to Planning Director Aaron King, multifamily development in commercial zoning districts is part of the Legacy 2030 development plan. King said allowing multifamily in HB and GO was a recommendation from a report in the Development Department’s annual Work Program last year and did not originate with the development community.

Carolyn Highsmith with the New South Community Coalition said she’d requested that two areas in the South Ward be omitted because she said it contradicted the area’s development plan.

“You have messed up the South Suburban Area Plan and its update,” said Highsmith, who asked for a comprehensive plan for multi-use development and affordable housing.

Jon Lowder, executive director of the Piedmont Triad Apartment Association, was the one person who spoke in favor of the zoning change, saying that it wouldn’t cause gentrification, but would help prevent it by increasing the amount of housing in Winston-Salem. He said housing prices go up when there isn’t enough of it in a city.

“The greatest threat that will cause gentrification is a lack of housing,” said Lowder.

Montgomery, who represents the East Ward and is also The Chronicle’s co-owner, said he voted against the amendment for HB districts because he was concerned about its effects on one area. He disagreed with critics of the measure, but urged those unhappy with the vote to channel that anger into action for affordable housing. Among the consent agenda items passed that night was the creation of the Winston-Salem Affordable Housing Coalition. The 11-resident coalition will advise the City Council on the use of city funds to support affordable housing. 

“There are opportunities to actually get at the real concern and UDO-283, in my opinion, is not the real concern,” he said. “The real concern is how we protect neighborhoods and communities and protect affordability in the city, and the tools for that are still able to be created.”

East Ward special election request

Also during the meeting, the City Council approved adding to its legislative agenda the city’s draft of a local act to amend the city charter to allow for special elections with primaries for City Council vacancies. Montgomery is stepping down to replace former State Rep. Ed Hanes in the General Assembly. Annette Scippio was chosen by her fellow East Ward Democrats to be the ward’s next council member. The City Council intends for her to serve until it can hold a special election, which could include the seats of Adams or Dan Besse if either of them win their respective races this November. The special election would have a 14-day filing period with a primary held within 60 days after that and a general election held within 60 days after that. This measure passed the council unanimously.

Another measure with proposed legislation that lets one percent of voters in a ward call for a special election for an appointed City Council member originally passed 6-2 with Besse and John Larson in opposition, who cited election costs, the possibility of opposing political parities abusing the provision and that it might make the first local act they just approved less likely to get through the General Assembly. Both council members then changed their vote once it passed, so it would have unified support when going to the General Assembly, which will need to approve those measures for them to become law.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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