China Grove Planning Board green lights two major subdivisions, setting up decision for Town Council

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 9, 2021

CHINA GROVE — The Planning Board on Thursday night approved conditional zoning requests that would allow for the development of two major subdivisions.

As an advisory committee to the China Grove Town Council, the Planning Board can only recommend the approval of the zoning requests. The ultimate decision on whether they are approved is up to the Town Council, which will meet next on August 10.

The first subdivision approved by the planning board is being referred to as Liberty Grove. It is composed of 76.2 acres on the east side of town between U.S. 29, Lentz Road and I-85. The proposal, which was submitted by BRD Land & Investment, calls for 148 single-family homes, 92 townhouse and 3 acres of commercial space.

“Our site plan and neighborhood is based on providing homes to a variety of people,” said Sara Shirley, a senior planner for the engineering firm working on the project.

The townhomes in the subdivision will likely sell in between $200,000-$250,000 and single-family homes for $350,000-$400,000.

Additional plans for the subdivision include walkways from the homes to the commercial space and a “low-key, open space” that provides “somewhere for people to come together.”

The Planning Board approved the Liberty Grove proposal with a “wishlist” of items that it would like to see developers collaborate with the town to achieve. At the top of wishlist is that developers either adjust lot widths, setbacks or building materials to improve fire-safety. The lots for single-family homes in the subdivision are currently proposed to be a minimum of 50-feet wide, which has raised concerns on the Town Council previously. Last October, the council voted 4-1 to deny a request for a conditional use rezoning that would have allowed for a 373-home subdivision primarily because of the high number of 50-foot wide lots included in the project.

Another wishlist item was that no fast food chains, gas stations or drive-thrus go onto the 3 acres of commercial space. Shirley said developers will seek to fill the space with “low-intensity developments” that are compatible with people using them from the adjacent neighborhood. That might include retail, restaurants, office spaces or daycares.

The third item on the wishlist is the incorporation of more open, park-like space that would encourage community connection. Members of the Planning Board spoke several times about curating a subdivision of people who interact on a daily basis, which they say is in line with the spirit of China Grove.

“We want to keep the great little town feel as we know we’re going to grow up beyond that,” said Dave Morton, chairman of the Planning Board.

Whether the items on the wishlist are included as the plans for the subdivision move forward, Morton said, will ultimately be decided between the Town Council and developers.

The only land between Liberty Grove and I-85 is property that is planned for development as an apartment complex. However, the company planning the apartments has not moved forward with the project since it was approved almost two years ago. Morton said the apartments “may or may not be a project.”

During a public courtesy hearing for Liberty Grove, a few nearby residents raised questions about increased traffic and reduced privacy caused by the proposed neighborhood. A study about traffic will be conducted when school is back in session.

The second subdivision approved is called Kensington. It is planned for a 64-acre plot of land on the north side of town near Red Fox Lane and North Main Street. The subdivision is planned to have 174 single-family homes, greenway space and walkways. Of the 174 homes, 80 of them are planned to be on 60-foot wide lots and 94 of them will be on 50-foot wide lots.

A proposal for the subdivision was recommended for approval by the China Grove Planning Board in 2019, but the proposal was withdrawn by Dependable Development and did not move forward.

Developers have resubmitted the subdivision proposal because the demand for housing has increased and because of a change in the approval process, which allows the town and developers to collaborate on conditions for the proposed subdivision.

After a brief discussion, the China Grove Planning Board recommended approval of the Kensington subdivision with several conditions that were proposed by the developers, including not using vinyl siding, examining the idea of designing porches or stoops on the front of homes, using multiple materials to build the homes and adorning garages to avoid having the homes look “cookie cutter.”