Featured photo: Stock photo
Winston-Salem’s city planning staff is proposing an amendment to the city’s code, allowing residential buildings to reach new heights — and pack in more units.
The city-county planning board unanimously recommended the change in December 2023, and city councilmembers will weigh in on the change during the community development, housing and general government committee meeting on Tuesday evening.
The city currently allows buildings in the low-density multifamily district, RM-8, to reach heights of 40 feet. That could be raised to 48 feet, or approximately four stories. The height limit for medium-density buildings in the RM-12 district could be raised from 45 to 60 feet, or approximately five stories. High-density buildings in the RM-18 district could go from 60 to 72 feet, or approximately six stories. Structures in these districts that are more than 40 feet high will require a minimum 50-foot setback from adjacent properties zoned for single-family residential development.
Additionally, in RM-5 districts, which are primarily intended to accommodate duplexes, twin homes and townhouses, the allowed number of units per building could increase from four to six.
Why is the city changing its rules?
When it comes to affordable housing, the city is thousands of units short.
Additionally, the supply of “undeveloped, serviceable land available for residential development has been steadily decreasing in many areas of Forsyth County,” according to the city.
The city set a goal to build 750 units of affordable housing a year for 10 years. Last year they created 450. This year, city leaders stepped up their game and have signed off on multiple affordable housing projects, including agreements to finance 216 units in the Northeast Ward and 180 units in the North Ward.
City documents state that changing the city’s code will allow for “more-compact development to accommodate site constraints such as steep slopes, floodplains and stormwater protection measures by reducing the number of buildings on a site.”
Perhaps the change can be attributed to a bit of peer-city pressure. Last year, city staff took a look at Wilmington, Raleigh and Durham — cities with comparable populations to Winston-Salem — and found that these cities allow “significantly taller building heights” than what’s permitted in the Camel City. Durham permits up to 75 feet, while Raleigh’s residential buildings can range anywhere between three stories for low-density buildings and a maximum of 40 stories for high-density buildings. Wilmington allows up to 96 feet or around eight stories.
A public hearing date has been set for Feb. 5. Today’s committee meeting takes place at 4 p.m. in the council chambers at 101 N Main St. Watch the livestream here.
Join the First Amendment Society, a membership that goes directly to funding TCB‘s newsroom.
We believe that reporting can save the world.
The TCB First Amendment Society recognizes the vital role of a free, unfettered press with a bundling of local experiences designed to build community, and unique engagements with our newsroom that will help you understand, and shape, local journalism’s critical role in uplifting the people in our cities.
All revenue goes directly into the newsroom as reporters’ salaries and freelance commissions.