Planning Board denies rezoning for new apartments but will look for compromise

  • Posted: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 12:54 a.m.

SALISBURY — The Salisbury Planning Board voted against rezoning a proposed apartment complex on Gold Hill Drive but sent the issue to a committee in hopes of finding a compromise.

Members voted 4-3 to kill a motion that would have recommended to City Council rezoning and a conditional district overlay for Summerfield Apartments.

Charlotte developer Jud Little wants to build the 80-unit, rent-controlled complex and clubhouse on 12 acres with an entrance and exit on Gold Hill Drive. The development would stand near PowerCurbers, a long-term storage facility and another apartment complex but also next to a single-family home neighborhood.

Some Planning Board members said they could not support the development as proposed because it doesn’t adhere to the Eastern Gateway Plan, a guiding document that volunteers and city staff worked for years to create.

Summerfield’s density would put more than six apartment units per acre on the site, up from the recommended two-to-four units per acre in the gateway plan.

Although the current zoning would allow even more units — 12 per acre — opponents said they felt they had to respect the density limits in the plan.

Planning Board member Bill Wagoner, who opposed the rezoning, offered to chair a committee that will try to find a compromise to present at the April 23 meeting. Committee members include Jo-ann Hoty, who voted for the rezoning, and Josh Lavis, who voted against it.

Little requested a conditional district overlay for Summerfield to allow campus-style apartments, meaning the four buildings would face each other, instead of facing a street. The change also would allow more than four units per building.

Little wanted to build a similar apartment complex last year behind the new Aldi but failed to win tax credit financing from the N.C. Housing Finance Agency (another developer is now pursuing the project behind Aldi). Little will once again compete for tax credit financing for Summerfield.

If the apartments are built, people who qualify to live in Summerfield would earn between $17,000 and $34,000 a year.

Two residents spoke in opposition. Harry Owen, who said he’s lived on Gold Hill Drive for 38 years, said 80 apartments would add to traffic that’s already backed up from Faith Road to Old Concord Road.

“If they put that in, it will be even worse,” Owen said.

Richard Carter, who lives at the corner of Dunham and Burke avenues next to the proposed development, said the two-story apartment building would be visible from his house. Neighborhood streets are already too narrow and can’t handle more traffic, Carter said.

Before Tuesday’s Planning Board meeting, city staff told developers there could be objections to the apartments.

Preston Mitchell, the city’s Planning and Development Services manager, said Little worked with city staff to tweak the design, addressing potential concerns by relocating the taller, three-story buildings to the back of the property and rotating the clubhouse to face Gold Hill Drive.

Little pointed out the apartments are close to commercial development, and the plan includes 63 shade trees and extensive landscaping to provide a buffer with neighbors. Parking would be screened from the street, and his company plans to invest $9 million in the development, Little said.

The changes make a softer transition from the single-family homes, Mitchell said.

City staff recommended the Planning Board support the project but acknowledged that Summerfield is not consistent with the Eastern Gateway Plan.

Planning Board Chairman Carl Repsher voted in favor, saying although the development doesn’t adhere to the plan, it would act as a transition between the single-family neighborhood next door and commercial developments beyond.

“That makes it acceptable,” Repsher said.

David Post and Hoty also voted yes.

But Wagoner, Lavis, Josh Canup and Thomasina Paige voted no. After a lengthy discussion, the board sent the matter to committee.

Wagoner said a compromise could include connecting Summerfield by sidewalks to the neighboring apartments to the west, rather than to the single-family neighborhood to the east.

The gateway plan calls for the area where Summerfield would be built to retain a “certain character of the existing neighborhood,” Wagoner said.

The apartments would be two to three times more dense than the community standard established in the plan, he said.

Despite the vote, Wagoner said he and others want to see Summerfield move forward with modifications.

“We all have sympathy for the project and its goals and uses, and how much work Jud has put in and the timeline he’s on,” he said.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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