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Drummond Village site plan deviates from original expectations

By Mark Wineka

Salisbury Post

Salisbury City Councilman Mark Lewis took a road trip to Cabarrus County recently and came back with photographs of a residential subdivision densely built with houses on narrow lots.

Lewis used the pictures Tuesday as examples of how Drummond Village in Salisbury will appear if Pilot Developers’ revised site plan is approved.

“If that’s what we want to allow in Salisbury, that’s what we get,” Lewis said.

Eric Wood of Pilot Developers won site plan approval four years ago for Drummond Village, and city officials were excited about the mix-used concept.

It called for a combination of single-family homes, apartments, townhouses and commercial development along what would be an extension of Jake Alexander Boulevard from Stokes Ferry to Earnhardt roads.

But it has become clear the Jake Alexander Boulevard extension could be decades in the future, and Wood returned to the city this fall with revised plans.

He has eliminated most of commercial development and all of the multi-family units. Instead, Pilot Developers proposes a single-family subdivision of roughly 400 homes on lots as narrow as 45 feet wide.

Council members agreed Tuesday that Pilot Developers should not be held hostage to a road extension that may never happen or is many years in the future.

Accordingly, they approved a rezoning of approximately 15 acres in the interior of Drummond Village from business-retail trade to residential development.

With that rezoning, Drummond Village would still have about 4 acres zoned for business-retail trade near Earnhardt Road’s intersection with a future Jake Alexander Boulevard extension. It could some day provide for 40,000 square feet of commercial development.

But in deleting proposed apartments and most of the commercial property, Pilot Developers tried to fit in more single-family housing by going with narrow lots, eliminating alleys and lengthening streets. In the first revisions, some home lots were as narrow as 40 feet.

After Planning Board discussions, Wood said all interior lots in Drummond Village would be at least 45 feet wide, to eliminate any confusion between single and double garages.

The Planning Board had recommended that all 40-foot-wide lots be limited to a single-car garage and that all double garages be on lots of at least 45 feet.

A Planning Board committee visited the Brandon Ridge subdivision in Cabarrus County to examines houses on 40-foot-wide lots, and Lewis’ pictures also came from Brandon Ridge.

Lewis described the two-story, on-slab residences in Brandon Ridge as “front-loaded houses,” in which half of the building facades are taken up by garages and much of the front yards are driveway.

The garages are pulled to the front and hide the front doors of the houses, he said. Lewis said the houses and their position on the narrow lots gave “no respect for the pedestrian realm.”

He later showed photographs of another subdivision where the home and street designs were friendlier to pedestrians.

Lewis said he would rather have houses with front porches that are brought forward on a lot and garages in the back. Service alleys would provide access to the garages.

Lewis said the revised Drummond Village would offer a chance for new affordable housing, but the subdivision now comes up short in meeting many of the city’s Vision 2020 goals.

“This new urbanism stuff ain’t cheap,” he added.

Lewis said he would like to see more discussion on lots sizes and requirements for pedestrian-scaled lighting, street trees and, because of the density, more recreational or shared open space areas.

Councilman Bill Burgin, an architect, thanked Lewis for “thinking through” a lot of the issues. He said Drummond Village has changed significantly from what council originally approved in 2002.

He said neighborhoods with front porches are closer knit, and if a community is walkable it’s healthier. In those ways, the Vision 2020 has real meaning for people in Salisbury, Burgin said.

As housing lots get smaller, more expectations must be built in, he added.

Burgin said he would like to see how the builder plans to fit the houses onto the narrow lots. Otherwise, he expressed concerns similar to Lewis’ of having the fronts of homes dominated by garages and pavement.

“I don’t think that’s what we want,” Burgin said.

Mayor Susan Kluttz cautioned that the project needs to remain economically feasible for the developers. She also noted a need for affordable housing.

“I’d hate to see us totally turn it down,” she said.

Kluttz said home ownership is important in a community and that subdivisions such as the one proposed for Drummond Village must be popular because they fill up quickly elsewhere.

Councilman William “Pete” Kennedy suggested the appointment of a two-person council committee to work with the developer on some of the city’s concerns.

Kluttz appointed Lewis and Mayor Pro Tem Paul Woodson.

“I’d like to see something positive come out of this,” Lewis said. “… We want to make sure we get it right, that’s all.”

At one point Tuesday, Wood said that only 60 of the proposed 400 lots would be as narrow as 45 feet.

Andy Widenhouse, an engineer with Schneider Corp. of Charlotte, also noted that the lots are deep, having an average depth of 110 feet.

Wood said the revised plan actually cuts out about 200 residential units by eliminating the apartments and townhouses. He said the plan also provides ample open space and/or pocket parks.

Wood described the revised plan as having “a nice amount of density, but not too much.”

Wood added that he already had made a number of concessions on the Planning Board level and was providing wider lots than it requested.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mwineka@salisburypost.com.

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