You may have caught the news a few weeks ago that the NC General Assembly recently approved some changes to the enabling legislation of the Research Triangle Park. The amendments are for statutes governing ‘Research and Production Service Districts.’ The legal language may not exactly be attention-grabbing, but what this represents is a key building block for the new RTP Master Plan. Several additional actions and announcements are expected in the months ahead, as implementation of the Plan gets into full swing.
So what exactly was approved? The new language in the legislation has two main effects. First, RTP as a whole is now able to house a broader range of uses- when those uses complement our core focus on research and production. Before, those additional uses included commercial and institutional services (on-site daycares, the post office, etc). Now, categories such as education and residential are on the table. This change involved removing a stipulation that the RTP service district have no more than 25 permanent residents (and in practice we currently have none).
The second effect comes through the creation of Urban Research Service Districts (URSDs), which would be designated areas within the larger Research and Production Service District (still following?) With this tool in place, certain portions of the Park have the potential to be developed in a more compact, walkable style, in addition to having the broader use range mentioned above. To support the higher level of services that would be needed – police, parks, garbage collection, and the like – a higher tax rate is permitted within the URSD. The larger service district is currently limited to a rate of 10¢ per $100 valuation, while the URSD may levy property taxes at the same rate as a neighboring city. Taxes would be approved each year by an advisory committee. Members of that committee, as well as the creation of any URSD, would be determined by County Commissioners and the RTP Owners & Tenants Association.
OK so lots of new terms and even some math thrown in… what does this mean for the Research Triangle Park? The legislation raises plenty of questions around where Urban Research Service Districts will be located, how many will be created, and how much residential is planned for the Park. Well in short, the details are still being worked out. Changes were needed at the state level to lay some groundwork for future decisions. Further steps will take place more locally – zoning ordinances, restrictive covenants, and when that’s taken care of, approval of the location for the first Urban Research Service District.
With several hoops to jump through, RTP is not going to dramatically change overnight. But that’s a good thing. It’s crucial that these processes are in place so that input can be gathered from our companies, employees, public officials and other partners. It’s also important that future development in RTP remains appropriate to its context and respective of real estate markets. While we can point to lots of great local examples of vibrant downtowns, mixed-use districts, research parks, and residential communities, we still want to be unique. Whatever an ‘Urban Research Service District’ ends up looking like, it will be the first of its kind.
As I mentioned, other work on implementing the Master Plan is underway, with more announcements expected. This will culminate with a full presentation and unveiling of the Master Plan sometime around early October. Details are still being worked out, so be sure to check our website for updates. We’re very excited to share this new vision for RTP’s future, along with the progress that is already being made!
Read more about projects that are funded by the Research and Production Service District.