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Matthews cell phone tower on hold

The Board of Commissioners on Monday night met before a standing-room-only crowd of residents, activists and Boy Scouts in attendance for a joint meeting with the town’s Planning Board.

Many in the meeting chamber were present for the public hearing section of the meeting, during which two controversial projects were scheduled to be heard.

The first, a plan to erect a 120-foot cell phone tower on the property of Elizabeth Lane Elementary School, never got its chance for community discourse. Prior to the meeting, the petitioner had asked the board to allow a withdrawal of the cell tower proposal. According to Matthews’ procedure, the board votes on whether to allow the withdrawal. If the withdrawal is granted, the petitioner can submit a new petition as early as the next business day. If the withdrawal is denied, the public hearing will go on as scheduled.

The board unanimously granted the withdrawal, meaning the petition to bring the cell phone tower to Elizabeth Lane is dead. The petitioner, Berkley Group, does plan to reapply, however. In a letter to Planning Director Kathi Ingrish, the company said it plans to file another zoning petition in the second quarter of 2014.

“It is our desire to take more time to ensure that the spirit of your town and ordinance along with our desire to keep up with technology is represented in our final presentation and proposal,” the company wrote in a letter to Ingrish. “The demand for wireless services and signal in that area continues to increase dramatically as the use of data is at an all-time high and I am convinced that a solution is near that ties together the essential infrastructure need and the spirit and beauty of your area.”

The second public hearing, for a 250-unit apartment project, went ahead as planned. Proffitt Dixon Partners is asking to change the zoning to a mixed-use district for the multifamily units and a small amount of nonresidential space, likely to be some type of retail or small office use. The project is called Fountains Matthews and is planned for the intersection of N.C. Highway 51 and Northeast Parkway.

Board members commented on how impressed they were with the changes made by Proffitt Dixon since October – when the project was first brought in front of the board – after a presentation that included a 3-D flyover of the project was made by Wyatt Dixon, a partner in Proffitt Dixon Partners, along with his design team from Land Design and the Housing Studio.

But commissioners still had a few outstanding issues.

Commissioner Kress Query voiced his concerns over the building materials. Plans call for at least 50 percent brick on the exterior of the building facing the intersection of N.C. 51 and Northeast Parkway; at least 35 percent brick on all other façades that face the outside of the property; and no required amount of brick on all other exterior portions of the building. Query and Mayor Jim Taylor said they would like to see a guarantee that all exterior façades would be at least 50 percent brick.

Taylor also said he wanted some sort of guarantee that Proffitt Dixon would maintain the privacy fence that is required between the Fountains property and the adjacent Bella Sera community, which had previously expressed concern about the project.

Larry Foster, a resident of Bella Sera, said that after four meetings with the development team, the Bella Sera homeowner’s association unanimously voted to support the project.

The rezoning request for Fountains Matthews will go before the Matthews Planning Board on Jan. 28 for its review and recommendation. The earliest the Board of Commissioners could vote on the rezoning would be at the Feb. 10 meeting.

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