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Salisbury City Council approves rezoning for 80-unit apartment on Statesville Boulevard

SALISBURY — Statesville Boulevard could soon be the home of a new apartment complex dedicated to “workforce housing.”

The Salisbury City Council approved a request to rezone five parcels in the 2300 block of Statesville Boulevard so that an 80-unit apartment complex can be built.

According to the petition submitted by the city Planning Department, a “workforce housing” project allows the developer to receive a tax credit for constructing market-rate units and amenities as long as he reserves those units for people in a certain income bracket.

The petition says that for this area, that income level would be between $19,000 and $40,000 a year.

The developer, Stephen Brock, said at the council’s April 3 meeting that he had commissioned a market study that showed a demand for 1,200 units of this type in Salisbury.

“So there is an existing demand across the city, across the area, for this product,” Brock said at the April 3 meeting.

In order for Brock to construct the 80-unit complex, the council had to approve a request to rezone five lots from general residential to residential mixed-use with a conditional district overlay.

That request came before council at its April 3 meeting. But in the absence of a specific plan for the Western Corridor — which includes Statesville Boulevard — the council voted 4-1 to table the measure until such a plan is in place.

Preston Mitchell, the city’s development and code services manager, came back before council Tuesday to say that waiting that long is not a viable option.

“Staff has spoken to the (UNC) School of Government, to Mr. David Owens … and he has advised that council do act on this particular request as the petition has been submitted,” Mitchell said.

Owens, a professor of public law and government at UNC, said in an email to Mitchell that statutes require decisions on quasijudicial matters — such as conditional-use permits — be made “within a reasonable time” after a hearing is held.

Councilman Brian Miller tried to clarify what Mitchell meant.

“So I understand that our options are to send to a council committee, which basically does exactly what we did when we tabled it, so that should seem to violate the spirit of what David (Owens) gave you back,” Miller said. “And then there’s approval or denial.”

Miller said that given the fact there is no updated Western Corridor plan to act upon, the apartment complex does fit into the city’s current plan.

“I am in favor of this,” Miller said. “Absent of that (updated plan), this is clearly a place where this use is proper.”

“In looking at the additional information and hearing what the attorney from the School of Government is saying, I don’t see any reason not to make a decision today,” said Councilwoman Karen Alexander. “Because unless we can legally study it — and it would take a lot of time — I don’t think it would be fair to this developer to not make a decision today.”

“And not only would it be unfair to our developer, it also would be unfair to our many citizens who are needing affordable housing. We need more units of housing in our community,” Mayor Al Heggins said. “So to delay that is to also deny it.”

The four council members present voted unanimously to approve the rezoning request. Councilwoman Tamara Sheffield was absent.

Brock said in an interview Wednesday that he would submit an application for the tax credit — called the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit — within the next week.

He said the rezoning of the five parcels was a “threshold” he needed to pass to be able to submit his application.

Brock said there is generally competition for the tax credit and that he would not be able to start construction unless he was awarded it.

He expects to hear back about his application in August.

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.

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