The Police Accountability Community Task force (PACT) just held a speak out outside city hall. Rolanda Byrd, Akiel Denkins’ mother, spoke about the city’s regulations regarding implementing officer worn body cameras and the need for the council to put policies in place to ensure the cameras can’t be turned on and off.
7:09: Mayor Nancy has called the meeting to order, and Byrd is the first speaker at tonight’s meeting. They have a presentation. She says body cameras should be a tool to protect community members and officers. She says disciplinary consequences for misusing the the cameras need to be in place. Because of what happened to her son, this is important. Also the legislature is trying to restrict use of body cameras. Fayetteville’s chief of police came out in support of public access to body camera footage. She urges Raleigh chief Cassandra Deck-Brown not to restrict access. This is to hold police accountable and build trust between communities and police, she says. People are more likely to obey the law and cooperate when they feel like the people enforcing it are legitimate and fair. She says building trust and accountability will honor her son.
7:13: Wanda Hunter is speaking on behalf of PACT as well, because policing in her community is not like policing in other communities. She speaks of victimization and humiliation, black males who are stopped more frequently by police and less likely to have contraband. African Americans are ten percent of the population but far more likely to catch a marijuana charge. She urges the council to look into policing in Raleigh. She asks council to provide a forum for dialogue. I understand we have zoning issues and all of you are funded by developers except Mr. David Cox…” She wants a forum for people to be able to come and tell the council about Raleigh policing practices. “Please consider having engagement as an agenda item.”
7:17: Tara Romano is here from PACT to. She’s an advocate for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. She says she is troubled by what she has learned about victims of violence. Like women asked to take lie detector tests when bringing rape charges, discouraged from reporting rape when they were drinking and an officer actually abusing citizens. City policies can enable abusers without extensive training, she says. She says victims tell her they on’t believe the police will do anything for them until they are dead. Some officers rvide compassionate and critical care, she says, but there is bias within the police force too. There needs to be a way to hold officers accountable, like a robust citizen review board. She calls for a public hearing on the issue.
7:19: PACT leader Akiba Byrd said PACT will be back. Mayor Nancy says Chief Deck-Brown is looking at ways to respond to PACT’s requests by the end of the month and that the council is looking at ways to engage the community.
7:20: No other speakers are here.
7:21: First up, an annexation on Gresham Lake Road passes. Next is the Jones Franklin Road rezoning. Ed Bell is here to speak; he lives directly behind the property to be rezoned. “We are aware this property would be rezoned. We are pleased this group wants to use that house and it will be a relatively low traffic operation,” he says. As in, it’s better than a 3-story building. He says neighbors toured their facility and support what they do. He mentions protests on Saturday mornings. It is clear to me this organization has no interest in contributing in that or participating in that in any way, he says. So he and his neighbors support the rezoning.
7:24: People here in green shirts are holding signs that say “Just Say No to the Rezoning.” Kay Crowder says the request is inconsistent with several policies in the city’s comprehensive plan. The rezoning of a parcel designated for office use will have detrimental impacts on the remaining properties, for technical reasons like nearby properties are supposed to be for office and research development use. She’s looking for coordinated office development, a more efficient use of the land, small offices on small lots. She says the the proposed rezoning is not in the public interest because it will cause less efficient use of the property and won’t produce high tax value compared to a large office development. Her argument is that the rezoning is not in the public interest strictly as according to what’s laid out in the comprehensive plan, nothing ideological. She proposes to deny the request, MAB seconds, and the council unanimously votes against it!! Hopefully no lawsuits to follow but property owners will surely appeal.
7:28: Next up is a rezoning on Sandy Forks Road at the intersection of Shawood Drive. It’s a proposal to rezone around half an acre from residential to office mixed use. Though it’s not found to conform to the land use map, it fits with other development in the area, and the Planning Commission approved it unanimously. North CAC voted 58-1 in favor. No one is here to speak for or against. Thompson calls it a logical progression of the office use in the area and moves for approval. It pass unanimously.
7:39: Next is a comprehensive plan amendment which implements the 2015 Progress Report— like some items on what needs to be done, who is responsible for doing said things and when. Three of four items have been addressed in downtown plan, for example, so needs amending. There are 18 action items that will be amended in different categories under the plan. Corey Branch clarifies: the goal is to remove things from the plan that have already been accomplished? That’s right. It passes.
7:45: A text change is up re. construction surety, acceptance and warranty. It’s about installing sidewalks, etc. There may be conflicts, so Mayor Nancy wants to hold it at the table. Moving on, a text change to the North Ridge South NCOD to add neighborhood built environmental characteristic regulations. 85 percent of property owners petitioned to have this considered; if text change is approved they will have to rezone. Neighborhood overwhelming supports though.
7:49: RS is asking about accessory structures in backyards; this one does not address that. That was not an item the neighborhood representatives considered. There are a lot of people to support the NCOD.
7:51: Carol Jones reps. North Ridge South. They want to preserve some large, half acre wooded lots with spacious green natural environments. They want city protection through the custom crafted zoning the city would provide. They don’t want to see the lots clear cut and subdivided, as has happened resulting in a groundswell of residents concerned. That’s why they started working on the NCOD. Adding density like four houses to a lot will change the character of the neighborhood, another speaker says.
7:58: No one is here to speak against the NCOD. Thompson says the name North Ridge South is confusing but this is a textbook case of neighbors coming together, educating themselves and organizing to do this. He moves for approval, and council approves unanimously.
7:59: Here is another text change for the Oberlin Village NCOD. There is a proposal to cap building height at “25 feet and two stories” rather than “25 feet or two stories.” The and is crucial because two stories could be like, two stories each twenty feet tall. Sue Adley-Warrick from Oberlin Village is here to speak in favor; she syas it is a constructive change that will help preserve the character of the neighborhood, which are a humane and intimate scale, promoting walk-ability and connections among neighbors. It preserves and upholds respect for Oberlin Village as having been established by free men after the Civil War.
8:03: Another speaker says developers have come in and tried to change the NCOD. The traditionally African American neighborhood has a distinct character. A neighbor built a house last year to the regulations of the NCOD; then a construction company came in next door and built a much larger house than hers. The NCOD fell through the cracks because of the imprecise wording in the NCOD. The height limit needs to be clear to future developers; this is not a have neighborhood. It has many older, not wealthy neighbors but they take pride in their historic character.
8:05: Jennifer Hollar is the neighbor, will save her comments for rebuttal. Carol Majors says this is of interest to many people because the point of NCODs is to protect neighborhoods, not be exploited. Obvious loopholes need to be refined.
8:07: Joe Sedina is here in opposition. He’s not overtly opposing neighbors, he says. He builds houses in neighborhood and says the 25-foot limit goes to the midpoint of the roof. There are many houses over 25 feet in Oberlin Village now. He says it is difficult to build a 35 foot high house because the neighborhood is on a downward slope. He calls those would be houses squatty, with low rooflines. He says go back to original ordinance the neighborhood was built on that builds 25 feet to roof midpoint, so you can actually build 2 story homes there. He says it would be wise to take a deeper look.
8:10: RS grandfathering the old NCOD was discussed in committee. “That’s where I’m heading,” he says. Becky Harper owns three pieces of property in Oberlin, though she doesn’t live there. She says there is nothing attractive about her properties, not contributing to the neighborhood but she does want to develop them. Houses around hers are built to higher than 25 feet. She says people would be disappointed by the looks of new homes if they are limited strictly to 25 feet. There are really nice houses being built there now. It would hamper her ability to make the best use of her properties, and neighbors would probably be happy if she tore her proerties down.
8:13: David Creech, the builder who built next to Jennifer Hollar is speaking. He says it wouldn’t be fair to limit what people can build there. John O’Neil is speaking. He also owns property in Oberlin and opposes the NCOD.
8:16: Beth Stewart is speaking in favor of the NCOD. She renovated her house recently to maintain the character of the neighborhood. Jennifer Hollar says she appreciates that it is difficult to build a two-story house to 25 feet. But no limitations on height was clearly an error, she said. She wants an interim period before this is finalized where nothing is built.
8:21: City attorney is addressing the measurement component. This issue tonight is getting a measurable height as opposed to something more morphus, like stories. MAB asks if they can go back to the old way of measuring height for the NCOD, for other neighborhoods too.
8:24: Mayor asks how clearly three stories tall houses got built in Oberlin? It seems to come down to interpretation building code, like an attic not being considered a story.
8:28: Thompson moves to send the text change back to committee. Stephenson says no other NCODs have peak heights, only midpoint heights. Stephenson I think is saying the measurement of height needs to be consistent across NCODs. Crowder says there is a real advancement in Oberlin to tear down and rebuild and neighbors are really concerned to get the limit to 25 feet. She says there was broader conversation about measuring height in NCODs.
8:31: MAB asks neighbors if they would object to going back to midpoint measurement form. They say not at all. That language would need to be added later, and re-advertised for public hearing. The process would be pass this proposal and add that language in a few months in committee.
8:33: Thompson’s motion to re-send to committee is still on the table, where it can’t be amended. Crowder moves to approve the original text change as written “2 stories and 25 feet.” And a motion to go back and look at this NCOD (or all NCODs??). So this language passes and city staff will have to re-look at the midpoint height measurement situation. That’s all from me, meeting adjourned.