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INDY aces urban planning

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I really enjoyed the article ("The Rabble Are Roused," July 15). It "nailed" the essential issues and was quite funny in an understated way. You apparently have knowledge of the way cities work (or don't work).

I have always regarded Raleigh as a group of fine residential suburbs in search of a city. Its citizens say they want the trappings of a city but demur when it comes to the side effects of higher density: Noise, entertainment, crowded sidewalks, neon signs and all the activities, legal or illegal, that make streets a living theater.

Having sat on the Planning Commission, I resigned when I felt that the planning department was rubber stamping the developer's plans. The UDO is well intentioned, and should in my opinion lead to a better and more vital city, but I do not feel that it is necessary to grant carte blanche to developers by rezoning whole districts ahead of need. I know that this helps infrastructure planning, and it is required by administrative precedent for comprehensive planning, but it seems to me that the process should allow for temporary zoning status. In this way the developer must apply for permanent re-zoning according to the UDO rather than move into a ready-made higher density designation. Call me foolish, but I think we have created a development bonanza in Raleigh.

The drawings exhibited to the Planning Commission were "tarted up" to create an impression of variety. Since the public cannot read these types of drawings (and the developer would rather not show them), the project goes up before the real impact of the building on the street is manifest. I have seen this happen in North Hills, Cameron Village and Centennial Campus when I sat on the commission.

Peter Batchelor, Raleigh

The writer is a fellow at the American Institute of Certified Planners, the American Institute of Architects and Emeritus Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at N.C. State.

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