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Land use trumps demographics

Despite concerns about losing affordable housing, committee backs upscale Quail Hollow apartments

The proposed rezoning probably would oust some tenants who couldn’t afford the higher-priced replacement apartments, so Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission member Greg Phipps was ready to stand his ground.

But eventually, he accepted the argument that the Commission’s Zoning Committee, of which he is a member, advises the Charlotte City Council not on demographics, but on land use. Thus, at the July 25 meeting, Zoning Committee members voted 7-0 to recommend the rezoning of 34 acres on Carmel Road between Quail Hollow Road and Bridgewood Lane.

The Quail Valley on Carmel apartments might be replaced by more upscale apartments if the City Council approves a rezoning request in September. Photo by Scott Baughman

The property, which is zoned for mixed use, will become residential multifamily if the City Council follows the committee’s recommendation. That change would allow the developer, Faison-Hollow, to tear down the midpriced apartment complex on the land and build 390 upscale units.

For months, there have been discussions about increasing affordable-housing options in Charlotte, including a contentious City Council vote in June to allow accessory dwelling units – smaller homes or garage apartments – to be rented out by homeowners. So when the Carmel Road rezoning came before the Zoning Committee, Phipps brought up recent efforts by the Charlotte Planning Department to increase the amount of affordable housing in the city.

“Demolishing this existing complex (on the 34 acres) would really remove one of those housing options that the city is pushing for,” Phipps said.

He continued: “At the public hearing on (the Faison-Hollow proposal), one of the council members was concerned that the demographics of this area would change significantly because of this.”

But Rezoning Planning Manager Tammie Keplinger said the committee’s role is to decide what is the best use of land. At that, Phipps nodded, and the rezoning request was unanimously recommended for approval.

The Faison-Hollow plan is for a combination of “manor home” apartments (buildings that include garages) and “podium” buildings that are the same height as the manor homes but do not include garages.

The existing apartments do not have garages, so Phipps concluded the new ones would have a higher average rent.

At the July 25 meeting, the Zoning Committee recommended approval of six other rezoning requests. The Charlotte City Council will review these recommendations at their Sept. 24 meeting:

3.2 acres at Barclay Downs Drive and Morrison Boulevard

(See related story, Page 1.)

Developer Woodfield Acquisitions wants to build about 200 apartments on this land next to the Barclay Downs Swim and Racquet Club. Despite a protest petition and a vocal demonstration at July’s City Council zoning public hearing, members of the Zoning Committee unanimously recommended the City Council rezone the land from office to mixed use development district.

16.2 acres on Lancaster Highway between Springwell Street and Johnston Road

At the June meeting, the Zoning Committee voted 3-3 on this request, so it resurfaced on July 25.

In June, members of the committee were concerned about this request to change the zoning from mixed use to residential multifamily, which would allow up to 17 apartments per acre. Commissioners pointed to other tracts of land in the area that already were zoned for multifamily use, including a parcel to the southwest that was vacant, but approved for up to 752 units.

GCI Acquisitions, developer of both pieces of land, agreed to reduce to 652 the number of apartments on the tract to the southwest if the rezoning for the 16.2 acres on Lancaster Highway were approved.

Also, to alleviate concerns about increased traffic in the area, GCI agreed to add turn lanes on Lancaster Highway and will pay half of the cost of a new traffic signal at the entrance to the proposed apartment complex. The North Carolina Department of Transportation will pay the other half of the cost of the traffic signal.

“I voted against this last month, but with the transportation changes suggested I am satisfied it will be a good project,” Commissioner Emma Allen said, and she joined the rest of the members in recommending approval.

5.46 acres at Dixie River Road and Steele Creek Road

This request for a rezoning from residential to neighborhood services was recommended for approval 3-2 vote at the committee’s June meeting, but because there were not four votes in favor, it came back to a reconstituted Zoning Committee.

The recently adopted Steele Creek Area plan recommends residential use for this section of Steele Creek Road. If the land were rezoned, developer SBG Properties planned about 19,000 square feet of office and retail uses.

Shad Spencer, a planning coordinator with the city, told the committee the developer has provided two open-space areas along the north side of the property to help with open-space requirements, and the committee unanimously recommended approval.

1.72 acres at Ballantyne Commons Parkway and Rea Road

To build an 8,000-square-foot retail building at the Colony at Piper Glenn, developer Sterling Fox Group wants the land rezoned from a business designation to neighborhood services.

The Zoning Committee had no questions and quickly voted unanimously to recommend approval.

7.08 acres at Rockefeller Lane and Kensington Station Parkway

Developer J&B Development and Management is asking for this rezoning to update a 2004 rezoning request at the site of the former Celanese Chemical plant.

The current zoning allows 140 condominiums spread across seven buildings. But J&B is asking the city to rezone it to amend the site plan to allow 55 single-family town homes there instead.

Commissioner Lucia Griffith said it was rare for a developer to ask for lower density in a rezoning request, but that is what J&B was requesting. Commissioners voted to unanimously recommend approval.

Innovative provisions for J&B Development

The Zoning Committee was asked to approve several innovative requests for the proposed town homes at the former Celanese site. They include: private streets; rear yards that are 20 feet in width instead of the usual 30 feet; and single-family lots that are 3,500 square feet in total space instead of 4,500 square feet. Commissioners unanimously recommended approval.

 

SCOTT BAUGHMAN can be reached at scott.baughman@mecktimes.com.

 

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