CHARLOTTE — After protest petitions were rescinded, the Charlotte City Council on Monday night voted 9-1 to approve a rezoning request for a proposed large apartment complex at Marvin and Johnston roads, allowing the project to move forward.
The vote comes after Charlotte-based developer Childress Klein Properties revised its plans four times for the 281-unit complex — tentatively called Marvin Road Apartments — in the face of loud protests from area residents, largely over traffic concerns.
It also puts to an end a four-year quest by landowner John Hayes to sell the nearly triangular, 18.8-acre vacant tract, which is just south of Ballantyne in the southeast quadrant of the X-shaped intersection of Marvin and Johnston, also known as U.S. 521.
Council members voted to change the zoning from R-3 single-family residential to conditional UR-2, which allows for multifamily development.
Republican Councilman Warren Cooksey, who represents the south Charlotte District 7, which includes the apartments site, said Tuesday that he voted for the revised plan in response to market conditions and, specifically, the increasing demand for apartments.
“There’s a pretty low rental vacancy rate, and with Bissell (Cos.) expanding its office park in Ballantyne itself, just to the north of this project, the developer is responding to increased market demand for apartments and the creation of new jobs in the area,” Cooksey said.
At-large Democratic Councilwoman Beth Pickering, who lives in Ballantyne, was the only council member to vote against the rezoning, saying that despite the withdrawal of the protests she was still concerned about too many vehicles on area roads.
“My concern is still that there is so much traffic down there,” Pickering said Tuesday. “Remember, council just approved 250 other apartments for Lancaster Highway and Johnston Road. I’m surprised that the people on Marvin Road were not more upset” by the Childress Klein proposal.
Pickering said the street improvements added by the developer helped, but not enough. “Those improvements were already needed without the apartments,” she said.
The conditions placed on Childress Klein for the Marvin Road apartments, either by ordinance or council directive, include a maximum density of 14.81 units per acre, buildings not to exceed four stories or 75 feet in height and the reservation of 34 percent of the acreage as open space, part of which will be turned over to Mecklenburg County’s parks and recreation department to be used as a public greenway.
Childress Klein also agreed to other concessions in the face of blistering criticism from neighbors, who were primarily concerned about traffic but also privacy.
The developer agreed to construct a new road and to widen and otherwise improve surrounding roads, adding turn lanes and a stoplight.
Traffic at Marvin and Johnston roads is complicated by the presence of two shopping centers, one of which is large and to the north of the apartment complex. That shopping center is anchored by a Harris Teeter and other “neighborhood services” shops, as Cooksey called them. The other, smaller shopping center is home to a Goodwill store, a liquor store and an International House of Pancakes. Single-family homes can also be found in the area around the intersection.
Traffic issues in the area are not limited to Marvin and Johnston, Cooksey said, but extend to two nearby T-intersections, where Marvin dead-ends into Providence Road and Lancaster Highway dead-ends into U.S. 521. Drivers — especially those headed to and from nearby Indian Land in South Carolina — use those roads to dodge other, traffic-jam-prone thoroughfares in Ballantyne, Pickering said.
With 281 units, and from 1 1/2 to 2 vehicles per apartment, that is a theoretical 421 to 562 extra vehicles on the road, multiplied by a certain number of trips in and out of the complex per day.
One Marvin Road resident who was steaming about the apartments at a City Council rezoning committee hearing, put his estimates even higher.
“You’re talking about 15 to 17 acres back up there,” David Eaker said in October. “So now you’re talking about probably 1,000 cars.”
Privacy concerns were voiced by Ken Hammond, whose residential property backs up to the apartment complex site. Childress Klein responded with a wider, 30-foot buffer between the properties, as well as a 6-foot-tall concrete barrier. Elsewhere, the developer will install a wood fence and tree and shrubbery plantings.
Monday night’s vote relieved landowner Hayes, who has seen six other opportunities to sell the property, which the county has given a tax value of $1.19 million, come and go.
Hayes withstood withering complaints from neighbors at a public meeting in September. He pointed out that without the rezoning he was free to build 60 single-family homes or even open a “pony farm” on his land without making a single road or other improvement.
“We need these improvements” from the apartment developer, Hayes told the public at the meeting. “With or without this project from Childress Klein, the traffic will keep coming, and we will have to deal with it.”
Nearby resident Donna Brache fired back: “I have no problem with you selling the land, John, but don’t blow a bunch of smoke and try to make me think you’re doing it for the good of the neighborhood.”
Two Childress Klein representatives familiar with the project did not respond to calls seeking details, such as the selling price for the land, build-out value of the project and projected deal-closing and construction start and completion dates.
Here’s a look at what happened with other requests at Monday’s City Council rezoning meeting:
45.64 acres on the north side of Wilkinson Boulevard at Marshall Drive near Interstates 85 and 485 and Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
The council approved a request from Jerry Orr, the city’s aviation director, to rezone lots belonging to the city and William Ridout to conform with the city’s master plan for the airport.
The land was rezoned, on the recommendation of city staff and without public hearings, from single-family residential and general business to general industrial. The property is in the Lower Lake Wylie Protected Area and the Airport Noise Overlay District. The request not only fulfills the master plan’s directives but also satisfies the guidelines of the Westside Strategic Plan and the Southwest District Plan, the council decided.
Except for three houses and an abandoned warehouse, the land is divided into undeveloped single-family lots and vacant commercial acreage.
20 acres on the north side of Garron Point Drive between Mount Holly-Huntersville Road and Pointer Ridge Drive
Council members also approved a change in zoning, from mixed-use to conditional multifamily, for this property, a portion of which is inside the Lake Wylie Protected Area and the Lake Wylie Critical Area.
The rezoning allows landowner C River LLC to build 240 multifamily units at a density of 12 units per acre. The plan is consistent with the city’s Northwest District Plan, according to the council.
7.02 acres on the east side of North Sharon Amity Road across from Delane Avenue
A rezoning was granted from one type of conditional office classification, O-15, to another, O-1, to allow Time Warner Entertainment and Advance/Newhouse Partners to move forward with a 3,500-square-foot expansion to a existing cable-TV utility building.
Council members said the project will conform to the city’s South District Plan.
Tony Brown can be reached at [email protected], (704) 247-2912 or on Twitter at @tonymecktimes