“We need a plan”: Council asks city planners for clearer direction for West Corridor

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 6, 2018

SALISBURY — When Development and Code Services Manager Preston Mitchell presented a plan for a new 80-unit apartment building on Statesville Boulevard, he said the design and function of the building would fit well in the area.

Mitchell told the City Council that 45 percent of all multifamily housing in the city — 977 units — is within blocks of the five parcels that developer Stephen Brock wants to build on in the 2300 block of Statesville Boulevard.

Brock said there is a demand for 1,200 multifamily units in the city and that the apartment building he wants to construct would help meet that demand.

But during his presentation to the City Council at Tuesday’s meeting, Mitchell also mentioned that the rezoning of the five lots for Brock’s Aaronfield apartment development would leave a “gap” of residential zoning before the next residential mixed-use lot.

The idea of that gap didn’t sit well with many, including Randy Reamer, a Planning Board member who spoke during the public hearing.

“By my calculation, if this zoning district is changed and the condition’s adopted, it will leave these folks with as many as five zoning classifications in an area of a little more than 1,000 feet,” Reamer said.

Reamer said the city had “put the cart before the horse” by not planning the trajectory of the area past each individual rezoning case.

“We’ve seen this repeatedly, time after time,” Reamer said. “What’s going to happen, if you allow this, you’re going to leave another gap in there of about 1,000 feet of residential housing. That is a gap-tooth.”

That idea of a “gap tooth” stuck with council members as they discussed whether to rezone the property.

Councilman Brian Miller cited the Maranatha Bible Church rezoning that the council approved at its Feb. 6 meeting.

“I had no idea this was coming behind it. We need a plan that covers this entire area, or we’re going to have a bunch of gap-tooth development-type situations, which will cause us to not look like a city who plans,” Miller said.

Councilwoman Karen Alexander agreed, saying it would be “judicious for us to take a moment and step back.”

“Technically, this meets a lot of the criteria. However, I’m really concerned about the fact that if we go ahead and do this then we have this gap in between that we don’t know how it’s going to go and when it’s going to go,” Alexander said. “We need a plan.”

Mitchell said it is “absolutely critical” to have a master plan for the West Corridor and that he would encourage council members to continue pushing for one.

“But I would also encourage you to recognize the validity of your current comprehensive plan,” Mitchell said. “Your current comprehensive already does encourage a mixture of housing types, prices and sizes. It also encourages higher-density housing within close proximity to transit sources, shopping and working places.”

Mitchell also said that even with the absence of an overarching plan, “sound planning” would still say that having an RMX zoning between two commercial parcels is good.

The council voted 4-1 to table the motion for further study and asked Mitchell to make a master plan for the West Corridor a “high priority.”

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.