Board gives nod to rezoning for Gold Hill Drive apartments

  • Posted: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 12:40 a.m.

SALISBURY — A Charlotte developer has cleared a hurdle in pursuit of building an 80-unit, rent-controlled apartment complex and clubhouse on Gold Hill Drive.

After turning down the proposal earlier this month, Salisbury Planning Board on Tuesday changed course and voted to recommend to City Council rezoning and a conditional district overlay for Summerfield Apartments. Member Josh Canup cast the lone dissenting vote.

To help the project earn a nod from the planning board, a committee met with developer Jud Little recently to find a compromise. As a result, Little agreed to pay for a lengthy greenway and include open space for the community in the $9 million development.

The two new requirements negotiated by the committee did not change the density of the development, which concerned both residents and planning board members.

“These don’t address the reason the motion died last time,” member David Post said.

But many members, including Post, agreed the new requirements will improve the property if Little wins tax credit financing from the N.C. Housing Finance Agency and moves forward with the project.

The compromise does not address density concerns. Summerfield would have more than six apartment units per acre on the 12-acre site, up from the recommended two-to-four units per acre in the Eastern Gateway Plan, a guiding document that neighborhood volunteers and city staff worked for years to create.

If approved by City Council, the rezoning and conditional district overlay would allow a campus-style development, where apartment buildings face each other rather than the road.

Although he voted against the rezoning at the first meeting, board member Bill Wagoner led the committee and encouraged support for the new requirements.

Because of the site’s unique topography — a 30-foot difference in elevation from east to west — and a sewer easement that runs across the property diagonally preventing development directly on Gold Hill Road, Wagoner said the chance of anyone building single-family homes there is remote.

Summerfield still does not adhere to the Eastern Gateway Plan, but the land is unlike any other residential property in the area, Wagoner said. An apartment complex will benefit the neighborhood more than vacant, scrubby land, he said.

While the committee suggested Little build a greenway around the perimeter of the complex to redirect foot traffic, several issues raised at Tuesday’s board meeting prevented such a paved footpath. Instead, Little agreed to pay the city whatever he would have spent on the greenway, which the planning board recommended the city use to improve pedestrian transportation in the neighborhood.

The board considered two different layouts for a greenway, but both dead-ended at a fence between the neighborhood and Innes Street Market behind Tinseltown Theater. If the city or developer constructed the greenway, they would have had to negotiate with the shopping center owner to put a hole in the fence.

Several board members said they do not believe motor vehicle traffic generated by the new development will be a problem on Gold Hill Drive, another concern of neighbors. The development would stand near PowerCurbers, a long-term storage facility and another apartment complex, but also next to a single-family home neighborhood.

Little wanted to build a similar apartment complex last year behind the new Aldi but failed to win tax credit financing. Another developer is now pursuing that project.

The Summerfield project will go before City Council May 7, including a public hearing. City Council will have the final say on rezoning and the conditional district overlay.

Two residents have contacted the Post with concerns about the suitability of the land for development, saying a spring runs through the property and sometimes creates a pond. Little said he wasn’t aware of any drainage issues on the site, which he has walked repeatedly, but that’s a detail that will be studied if he wins tax credit financing. The N.C. Housing Finance Agency is expected to announce winners — likely just one in Rowan County — late this summer.

Any winning project still would have to go through Rowan County’s building approval process.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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