Kannapolis’ ‘Mayor’s Advisory Work Group’ fails to reconcile rezoning request

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 24, 2018

KANNAPOLIS — “Democracy is messy. Sometimes it takes a little while to get to the solution, but let’s work toward that.”

That was the advice of Kannapolis Planning Director Zac Gordon Thursday night during a meeting at City Hall of the six-member “mayor’s advisory work group,” according to member Jack McKinley.

The panel was formed to help two polarized groups reach a compromise: on one side, residents of Trinity Church and Stirewalt roads; on the other, property owners from the same area.

The dividing line was that property and a rezoning request that would bring more than 120 homes to the 50.6 acres.

Residents say they are appalled by the concept, appearing en masse at the a City Council meeting Jan. 22.

But the proposed development and it’s 2.39 homes per acre fit within current development standards, which allow for one to three homes per acre.

Many would argue that with roads and unbuildable sections of the property, a more accurate calculation is closer to four homes per acre.

“It’s not just about money,” said resident Marcus Marty during Thursday’s meeting. “It’s my life. I want to raise my kids in this area.”

Homeowners disagreed, citing a recently developed, long-term plan for the city that includes a vision of one to eight homes per acre. In turn, City Council members would delay approving the so-called “Move Kannapolis Forward 2030 Comprehensive Plan” until a compromise could be reached between the two groups.

The advisory group failed to agree on any standards at the close of Thursday’s hour-and-a-half meeting, though city officials took the time to address misconceptions on both sides.

• Myth 1: The city needs the development to recoup infrastructure costs.

Speaking in defense of the proposed development, landowner McKinley said the city has invested $2.5 million in infrastructure in the area, with only 122 current connections to water and/or sewer of an available 7,000.

City Manager Mike Legg said the city is doing just fine despite not meeting its original goal for the 2005 investment.

In total, he said, $245,000 was spent to run a water line to Stirewalt Road. The infrastructure was intended to bring $27 million of investment to the area in five to seven years.

The investment hasn’t happened, Legg said, but the city is $50,000 ahead of a goal to recoup development costs.

“We didn’t meet that five- to seven-year goal to have $27 million in investment, but all things considered we had the worst recession in history for seven years, so nothing happened,” Legg said.

Legg’s figures were for water use only, with sewer revenue and balances yet to be calculated.

• Myth 2: The high density development will increase crime.

Marty said he fears the high-density development would increase the crime rate in the Coddle Creek watershed, the area of the proposed development.

“That doesn’t exist with anything we’re talking about here,” said Legg.

According to the Urban Land Institute, the crime rates at higher-density developments are not significantly different from those in lower-density developments. One study found lower density did not equal lower crime, and another found no relation between housing density and crime.

• Myth 3: The city will lose substantial tax revenue without the development.

McKinley said the decision to adopt the comprehensive plan was a “fiduciary responsibility of the city.” Specifically, he cited the potential loss of tax revenue and high tax rates compared to neighboring municipalities.

Property tax revenues for lower density, specifically a proposed compromise of 15,000 square feet, would financially affect the city, he said.

“You’re not going to realize any tax revenue with that size lot,” he said.

Legg again responded. McKinley has a valid point, he said, but only if the entire city were under consideration for low-density development.

“If we were talking about 20 to 30 percent of the city, we wouldn’t be having this conversation because we couldn’t afford to have this conversation,” Legg said.

• Myth 4: The development will overcrowd schools.

Stirewalt Road resident Mike Price said the Kannapolis City Schools system is at 93 percent capacity, voicing a fear of residents that the development will flood the school system.

Legg said this argument is heard at nearly all rezoning requests and that school issues are “complex.”

“That’s a fluid kind of thing, and it’s not always a one-to-one relationship,” he said.

The school system is in the process of planning for development, and McKinley said he has received confirmation that the proposal will not cause a problem for schools.

Reaching an impasse 

At the Feb. 12 City Council meeting, the proposed developer, M/I Homes, withdrew its application for the rezoning.

McKinley said M/I just wouldn’t be interested in going forward without the original proposed number of homes, with lot sizes ranging from 7,500 to 9,375 square feet.

Coddle Creek residents were willing to come down from their original desire, but at a number still too high for M/I.

“We originally wanted acre lots or more like we have. Then we saw M/I’s proposal,” said Price. “We thought OK, 7,000-square-foot lots. We’re at 40,000; let’s try to find a compromise.”

Residents would offer 15,000 square feet, but the developer wasn’t interested.

Both Legg and Gordon would offer solutions for future proposals in the area, for developments with wide buffers and with large lot sizes on the parameter.

“You couldn’t find a more classic transitional area of a community then what we’re looking at right here,” said Legg. “The only solution, the only solution is to meet in the middle. There is no other solution, politically, fiscally, anything else.”