After two years, a failed rezoning attempt and two raucous citywide remapping public hearings, North Raleigh residents are still unsure of whether two Dunn Road properties will be rezoned to neighborhood mixed use to allow massive retail development.

But after a meeting with Raleigh planning director Ken Bowers Tuesday, residents have one more option on the table for the properties than they had had before; as always, the power lies with Raleigh’s City Council to make a decision.

The properties in question, 1500 and 1540 Dunn Road, are currently zoned Buffer Commercial, which limits retail up to 3,000 standalone square-feet and prohibits drive-ins and drive-thrus, fuel sales and car dealerships and repair shops.

Under remapping—there is no equivalent to Buffer Commercial in the new UDO— city staff proposed rezoning the properties to NX, which allows all of the above plus unlimited square footage for retail. To complicate things, the property owner has proposed conditions for the property under NX that allows standalone retail up to 29,000 square feet, plus a few other proposals; it’s pretty clear to residents that the developer wants to build a destination grocery store on the property.

“If the properties go to NX under remapping, we’ll be giving away for free what was denied to the developer in the rezoning,” a resident said at the meeting.

In May, while the citywide remapping was still being worked out, the City Council unanimously voted against rezoning the Dunn Road properties to NX. City planning staff and the Planning Commission had both decided not to discuss public comments and the recommendations from the Comprehensive Planning Committee (chaired by Councilman Russ Stephenson, who attended the Tuesday meeting) regarding the properties to inform the remap, because the rezoning case was still active.

However, the Council’s vote against NX rezoning didn’t change the NX remapping recommendation; in Bowers’ view, this means no action was taken. To residents, this looks like the Planning Department made a recommendation to the Council that the properties should be rezoned to NX under remapping.

“(The Planning staff and the Planning Commission) are treating a decision not to discuss the residents’ input as though it was an affirmative decision to accept the map for those two properties as is,” said resident Tim Niles. “This is a giant Catch-22. You cannot decide not to have a discussion about whether the properties should be changed or not and therefore have no opportunity to change them and make the claim that since no change was made, it was an affirmative decision to keep the properties as mapped.”

The City Council will discuss these properties at their September 1st meeting. There, Bowers says, planning staff will present several options for the properties to the Council, including:

– keep them buffer commercial (undesirable because there is no corresponding zoning category in the new UDO)

– rezone to office mixed use, or OX (the residents’ preference, and the generally preferred category for formerly BC areas, according to Raleigh’s Remapping Guidance document)

– rezone to NX (the recommendation under remapping) or

– rezone to NX with conditions (the developer’s preference).

Bowers also floated the idea of not remapping the properties until a small area plan, with input from all stakeholders concerned with the 13 acres of property, has been created. Though after two years of fighting rezoning on the Dunn Road properties residents are increasingly frustrated and suspicious, the small plan option seemed a satisfactory conclusion to the meeting.

“Hopefully some commonsense and reasonableness will prevail and we can work on an area plan that will satisfy all parties,” said David Cox, a resident and candidate for City Council’s District B.

He added in an email that he though the meeting “was productive and in time will produce a positive outcome.”