The Raleigh City Council rejected a text change Tuesday that would have restricted density throughout the city by forcing new development and subdivisions to conform with the existing standards of the neighborhood.

A vestige of the previous council’s anti-development ambitions, the proposed ordinance would have essentially acted as a citywide neighborhood conservation overlay district, making it impossible to create greater density in neighborhoods.

The point, according to its supporters, was to prevent McMansions from being squeezed into small subdivided lots. 

The former council concocted the policy in October 2017 as a way to curtail an increase in NCOD applications, but the proposal spent over a year stewing in the Growth and Natural Resources Committee. It was rejected unanimously by the planning commission last month after the new council had been sworn in. 

A staff review concluded the policy would affect about 63,000 properties in the city and reduce what can be built there under existing zoning rules. 

While NCODs were the darling of the former council majority, which passed them with little controversy, many on the new council campaigned on platforms promoting density and development in the city. 

Everyone voted against the policy except council member David Cox, who did not explain his vote. 

Council member Nicole Stewart, who chairs the GNR committee set to reexamine how NCODs are used as a zoning tool, told the three residents who spoke in favor of the policy that “we want the same thing.”

“We all want thoughtful growth that includes affordability,” Stewart said. “The difference here is if we focus on keeping things the way they are then we only keep them affordable for the people who already have them. We have to move forward in a way that creates an abundance of diverse housing options.”

Jonathan Melton agreed.

“I want to make it easier to build and to increase our housing supply and believe this proposed text change is going to make it harder,” Melton said.

The council plans to reexamine its predecessor’s policies restricting short-term rentals and accessory dwelling units in the coming weeks. 

The council also passed new rules of decorum that will allow residents to address criticisms directly to council members and staff during public comment. It also lets residents sign up to speak an hour before the meeting, eliminating the previous two-week waiting period. 

Contact Raleigh news editor Leigh Tauss at 

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