CORNELIUS ─ Round 2 of the town of Cornelius Planning Board vs. developer Jake Palillo lacked the fireworks of the opening slugfest back in December.
But the fiery developer was as steamed as ever after Monday’s meeting of the planning board, where Palillo’s fourth plan to develop his 62 forested acres on Bailey Road was tabled for two months while the appointed board members consider whether to recommend the single-family residential proposal to the elected town Board of Commissioners for approval.
Outside Cornelius Town Hall, Palillo described the meeting in colorful terms that cannot printed here.
He characterized one item under discussion as “stupid.”
And then suggested that the planning board members “ought to go ahead and deny me; the town board doesn’t listen to what they say anyway.”
This time around, Palillo ─ owner of Bluestream Partners, the entity that owns the 62-acre tract ─ is seeking the rezoning of his land from rural preservation, which limits development to 5-acre single-family lots, to general residential, which would allow him to create 26 single-family lots measuring at least 2 acres each.
The subdivision, once called Bailey Forest, is now called Barnhardt under Palillo’s latest plan.
That’s a changeup from Palillo’s December plan, which called for 22 lots ranging from 2.2 to 3.3 acres, on which owners could develop and build up to four multifamily rental units of any configuration.
That plan ─ and Palillo’s insistence that town officials promised him a zoning change if he bought the land and paid to develop and build an extension of Bailey Road through it ─ was the subject of a recrimination-filled planning board meeting in December during which accusations of betrayal and mendacity flew around the meeting chamber.
Palillo agreed to extend Bailey Road, which used to dead end, when he won the town’s approval to develop and build the nearby Bailey’s Glen, a housing subdivision geared toward senior citizens. With the extension, Bailey Road now connects with Barnhardt Road.
The best the planning board members could manage at Monday’s second go-round was repeated but polite questioning of the unusual shape of one of the lots, designated by the site plan as lot 20.
Neighboring property owner Joan Boon, one of two members of the public to stand up and voice opposition to Palillo’s proposal, provided the meeting’s most heated three minutes.
“Fundamentally, (Palillo) has been harassing the town and (its) residents,” said Boon, whose driveway easement connecting her home to Bailey Road would have to be altered under the Barnhardt plan to connect with a cul-de-sac of a new street in the proposed subdivision.
“I’m afraid I would be required by (a home owners association) to maintain that cul-de-sac,” Boon said.
Palillo’s repeated arguments for allowing the denser development starts with his insistence that in today’s market, and near two “industrial-looking” schools, he cannot sell 5-acre “estate” lots for enough money to cover the $5.5 million he says he paid for the Bailey Road extension.
The rural preservation zoning, he says, is not appropriate for a tract that spans both sides of an increasingly busy road that connects to a nearby major thoroughfare, Old Statesville Road, alongside which a proposed future commuter train would eventually run on the existing Norfolk Southern railroad tracks.
Finally, there is Palillo’s insistence that he has a quid-pro-quo agreement with the town because he paid for the extension of Bailey Road. The extension, he says, was encouraged by the town because it allowed the N.C. Department of Transportation to give Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools the OK to build the two new schools the town wanted to help alleviate school overcrowding in the Cornelius area.
On the other side, nearby residents and the town’s elected and appointed officials say that the wooded acreage is some of the last rural space in the fast-growing town and should be preserved. They point out that Old Statesville Road is farther away than Palillo characterizes it to be, and that the nearest commuter train station would be even farther. Finally, the town officials deny any deal, written or verbal. Palillo has never produced evidence of his assertion.
Palillo’s latest plan for his land calls for the clear-cutting of no more than one-half of each lot ─ or about 1 acre ─ for homebuilding.
But town Planning Director Wayne Herron told the planning board that his staff recommended that proviso be changed to allow only one-quarter of each lot to be cleared, giving the owners about a half-acre each for development.
Although Palillo praised Herron during the meeting as “the best thing to happen to the planning department,” after the meeting ended he blasted the quarter-acre stipulation with the “stupid” comment.
The meeting ended with planning board Chairman Brian Simmons saying, “I think we have a lot to consider,” “this decision could be far-reaching” and “I don’t think it is the best interest of the board” to take immediate action.
Simmons asked his board to vote to exercise its right by ordinance to delay a decision by 60 days, which means Palillo will not get a planning board recommendation or disapproval until a meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 4. The board voted unanimously for the delay.
Simmons said he expected Palillo to work further with the planning staff to make changes to the proposal. Among other things, Simmons said, “I don’t want to see that lot 20 come before us” again.
The delay means that the Barnhardt subdivision proposal will not go before the Town Board of Commissioners for a final up-or-down vote until 7 p.m. Sept. 16. Both the planning board and town board meetings are set for Cornelius Town Hall, 21445 Catawba Ave.
“I can’t wait to get out of here,” Palillo said outside Town Hall after Monday’s planning board meeting.
Asked where he might go, Palillo said, “Anywhere but Cornelius.”