Save Shelley Lake

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(1)  We, residents of Raleigh, including the greater Raleigh area, and visitors to Shelley Lake Park, oppose both commercial and higher density residential zoning bordering park lands.  We seek substantive updates to planning that respect our unique park lands, recreational spaces, trails, verdure, and delicate wildlife habitats. 

(2)  PARK LAND PRESERVATION is essential to a growing Raleigh population, to present and future generations alike.  The quality of life granted to all people equally through enjoyment of recreational park space, should not be encroached upon by grossly out of character developments which tarnish the peaceful setting to the benefit of few. 

(3)  COMMERCIAL ESTABLISHMENTS with dense condos belong at the major “spokes” of North Raleigh: Capital, Six Forks, Creedmoor and Glenwood.  Commercial businesses, shopping areas, tall dense row condos, asphalt street parking, and three to four story high rooflines do not belong on parcels adjacent to parklands, in the midst of tranquil residential communities along tree-lined roads.  The 2030 plan for mixed use “RX” zoning needs revision, to instead place apartments and condos at a distance buffering parkland and natural areas.  “Low-density residential” zoning, combined with significant tree preservation, is consistent with the setting surrounding Shelley Lake. 

(4)  “NOTIFICATION” RULES require substantial updating.  A cryptic sign at the side of the road coded "Z-41-19" is far from transparent, and might be perceived as concealment rather than open public notification.  Where parklands are concerned, notification needs to be provided to greater Raleigh area residents, park visitors, wildlife and bird experts, hiking and outdoor groups, park proponents and others concerned for this city’s future, with enough clarity to allow true public opinion to be voiced.  Rules for notifying residents living within 500 feet of the site is far from adequate when park lands or any unique natural setting is at stake.

(5)  “PURPOSE AND INTENT” of the Uniform Development Ordinance (UDO) does not evidently translate into the current zoning plan, as it is stated:

“…to preserve, protect and promote the public health, safety and general welfare of residents … [ by ] the following objectives:  …

C. Conserve and protect the City’s natural beauty and setting, including trees, scenic vistas, and cultural and historic resources; …

F.   Encourage environmentally responsible development practices; and …

J.   Reinforce the character and quality of neighborhoods.” 

The 2030 plan requires revision in order to carry out the UDO’s expressed “purpose and intent.”  The goal to put more housing near parks, and denser housing near parks, for instance, directly conflicts with primary purposes of concern to Raleigh’s residents and visitors.  It is fitting that denser housing should be provided access to parks and nature by way of greenway trails. 

(6)  PRECEDENCE must be based on successful projects following conservation principles, as opposed to setting precedence as an excuse to encourage repetitive destruction.  The Lake Lynn area stands as a poor example of park area preservation we do not want to see repeated around Shelley Lake.  The public can already walk among tall buildings downtown, and does not need a view of buildings on their leisure visits to lakes and parks. 

(7)  EAGLES are the national bird, with an encouragingly revived population after once having neared extinction. An Eagle pair successfully fledged offspring at Shelley Lake Park in two consecutive years and is rebuilding for the third year, a spectacular attraction for visitors.  Destruction of mature trees surrounding the park destroy their park environment, hunting grounds essential to the survival of fledglings.  While eagles are commonly sighted at Lake Johnson, it is thought they do not nest at that location due to the close presence of apartment buildings. 

(8)  AN ESTABLISHED ECOSYSTEM is a rare treasure, particularly within the boundaries of a city.  Shelley Lake Park is a complex ecosystem of interdependence extending into surrounding neighborhoods, a habitat chosen not only by Eagles but a multitude of wildlife species.  Urbanization is one of the leading causes of biodiversity loss around the world, and obligates attention to sustaining not only species but also their crucial ecological functions and interdependencies.

(9)  TREE PRESERVATION needs to consider wildlife corridors and the park ecosystem.  Sparing trees only where land is unbuildable, as proposed, does not constitute a valid tree preservation effort.  Replanting is not the same as preserving the mature trees which providing prolific sources of food, shelter, and nesting materials essential to varied wildlife.  Oak trees begin producing acorns after 20 years with peak production after 50 years.  The value of older trees is incalculable, as they perform numerous functions: preventing ground erosion, managing flooding by circulating ground water into the air, purifying air by emitting oxygen and breaking down toxins in the soil, providing superior cooling through photosynthesis which lowers fuel costs, as a few examples.  Maintaining groves of trees is critical to preserving the integrity of the park.  Cosmetic screens or narrow strands addressing the “viewshed” lack resilience to certain threats like storms and do not provide assurance of permanence.

(10)  GREEN BUILDING PRINCIPLES that integrate dwelling structures into a natural environment with the least degree of disturbance to plant and animal life, are well known and practiced in North Carolina.  These principles belong near parkland areas, bodies of water that support wildlife, and other unique natural settings.  Endemic landscaping may be encouraged where damage has been done in the past.  Efforts to replenish native plant species may contribute to the health of ecosystems in the longer term, yet pale in comparison to preservation.

(11)  CLIMATE CHANGE is a worldwide imperative, and Raleigh is in this world.  Climate concerns seem to have been overlooked by the 2030 plan for Raleigh.  Urban heat island effect, deforestation of mature groves, ecosystem destruction, light pollution, and loss of wildlife corridors and biodiversity, have far reaching consequences.  Besides protecting this “City of Oaks” from reduction to buildings and sod, planners must update viewpoints and rise to consider the broader global impacts of local decision making to meet the reality of what a “future plan” must entail. 

(12)  WINDFALL PROFITS from overdeveloping offer a source of funds that translate into unfair negotiation power.  Income potential of rezoning is boosted by the attraction of an adjacent lake park, compared against properties appropriately offset. These profits come directly at the expense of the greater community which does not access funding by protecting our enduring resources.  The long-term public position should not be weakened by short-term commercial gains.

(13)  CURRENT ZONING allows for 7 - 30 homes, compared to 112 condo proposed.  Current zoning reflects what presently exists along the Shelley Lake Park boundaries: “low-density residential” single family homes zoned R-4 and townhomes zoned R-4 and R-6 (where R-4 indicates four residential homes per acre).  Gradual transition towards higher densities and taller buildings, to the wooded R-6 Shellbrook and Millbrook Apartments set off the park, to commercial property at Six Forks and Creedmoor Roads, presently provides what appears a resilient park buffer.  Upscale single family homes are the current new building trend in this neighborhood.  The five individual plots pieced together into the proposed 7.5 acre parcel ("Z-41-19") are now individually assigned “low-density residential” zoning (one R-4 and four R-6), but have been built at sparse limits, collectively equivalent to R-1, for decades.  Pooling plot limits to compress all new construction onto a single plot of 4.1 acres falls grossly out of character with the existing surroundings, even at “low-density residential” zoning limits.  Rezoning to “residential mixed use” RX-4-PL-CU would ruin the pristine environment in expanding limits to 57 unit (14 x 4.1 acres).  The proposal for 112 units (15 x 7.5 acres) is preposterous, exceeding the already inflated “RX” proposal maximum and combining all the plot limits into a single four-story building.  Given that “low-density residential” townhouse zoning became obsolete in 2013, the most befitting development today could entail either (i) one to four single family residential detached houses per acre, or (ii) no more than six residential attached houses per acre, with compact footprints and maximum forest preservation.  Existing buildings and current zoning of the individual plots should be considered in establishing the development plan, and new construction placed on a compatible scale at one- or two-stories tall.  Current zoning allows for “low-density residential” development of 7 - 30 total detached houses, new and existing, on the 7.5 acre parcel, or 24 new attached houses on the 4.1 acre plot. Considering the longstanding forested landscape of the parcel and adjacency to the Shelley Lake Park, the area might be acquired, in full or in part, as an extension of parklands and raptor center, to accommodate health, leisure and recreational needs of the growing population of Raleigh and visitors alike. 

(14)  WE NEED A PLAN for our parks that allows neighbors and parkgoers rest and contentment, free from worry their precious resources could face destruction at a moment’s notice.