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Epcon faces hurdles in Huntersville development

Huntesrville residents have filed protest petitions and the planning staff has raised concerns regarding Epcon Communities’ latest proposal for an active adult community in Huntersville.Exhibit 1 - Claritas

At a public hearing before the Town Board of Commissioners on Monday, nearby residents, commissioners and Senior Planner Whitney Hodges expressed concerns about the development plan, including limited street parking, inadequate descriptions of buffers, inadequate tree-save plans, garages that don’t meet the 10-foot recession requirement, and possibly undesirable street connections.

The planning staff has recommended that a requested rezoning for 29.6 acres not be approved.

The Huntersville Planning Board will decide Nov. 18 whether to recommend rezoning for the 94-unit Courtyards at Kinnamon, between McCoy Road and The Park-Huntersville office and industrial development just west of Interstate 77.

The rezoning request will need five of the Board of Commissioners’ six votes when the board makes a final decision, because a valid protest petition was submitted, which requires three-quarters of the board to approve it. The vote is now scheduled for Dec. 1, but could be postponed two weeks if Epcon requests it, Hodges said Tuesday.

Epcon, of Dublin, Ohio, is seeking a rezoning to conditional district neighborhood residential from neighborhood residential for two tracts on which it plans to build the one- to 1 ½-story homes. The modifications Epcon is seeking include allowing front-loaded garages to protrude from or be flush with the fronts of the homes, contrary to the town’s ordinance.

Courtyards at Kinnamon would be age restricted: 80 percent of the homes would be required to have at least one resident who is over 55 years old. Epcon is one of the most active age-restricted community developers in the Charlotte area. Earlier this year it began building Courtyards at Huntersville, and is also developing communities in Mooresville, Cornelius, Harrisburg, Rock Hill, Marvin and Stallings.

“We see this as a growing need for Huntersville,” said Rich Heareth, Epcon vice president for the Charlotte division. The town currently is home to 9,300 adults over the age of 55, a number that will  increase to more than 12,000 by 2018, he said.

The development would include homes ranging from 1,500 to 2,800 square feet ranging in price from the upper $200,000s to the upper $400,000s, Heareth said. The homes would include stone facades and wood exteriors, landscaping, granite countertops and hardwood floors. The community would include a clubhouse, lap pool, fitness center, community garden, “parkettes,” and bocce and pickleball courts.

Heareth said that if approved, construction would begin in about a year and would be phased in over three years.

The land now belongs to the heirs of Johnsie M. Kinnamon and Douglas and Jo Anne Adkins, who access their property from Kinnamon Road, a private gravel easement that connects to McCoy Road. The sale would include Kinnamon Road, and one of the reasons the staff did not support the rezoning was that the company did not provide information confirming that property owners who currently have rights to the easement were aware that those rights may change.

The company’s plans also include building offices on an additional 9.5 acres now owned by Poly-Tech Holdings LLC on Lindley Drive in the business park, which doesn’t need to be rezoned. The main entrance to Courtyards at Kinnamon would be from Lindley Drive.

The town staff said the development, which would feature 3.18 units per acre, was consistent with the 2030 Huntersville Community Plan for higher intensity development near Interstate 77, but that the garage configurations did not meet the spirit of the ordinance nor was it consistent with surrounding development.

The staff had several concerns regarding both the rezoning and the site plan.

One of the main concerns of the staff, board members and residents was parking; with streets only 20 feet wide, they said, a lack of on-street parking could create problems.

“I live in a community like that,” said Commissioner Jeff Neely. “When you get relatives over on holidays or for a 65th birthday party, the streets are loaded with cars. With a 20-foot-wide street, a fire engine, I don’t think, could get down that street.”

Commissioner Melinda Bales said her mother lives in a similar community, and said on-street parking at times is “a nightmare.”

Heareth told commissioners that some on-street parking would be provided in the southeast corner of the property, near walking trails, a community garden and picnic tables. He also said that for the 1.6 people per home they expect, two parking spaces in each garage and two spaces in the driveway should be sufficient.

Parking would also be available at the clubhouse, but the staff said the site plan did not meet the ordinance for the placement of the parking spaces on the side adjacent to a public street, and that parking should be moved to behind the clubhouse. However, Hodges said Tuesday that the town could issue a waiver if it determines that the proposal is the best option.

Other staff concerns include the lack of a required 50-foot landscaped buffer between The Park-Huntersville and the development; the lack of a specific tree-save plan; the lack of an indication that 20-foot landscape buffers will be undisturbed; and the presence of a cul-de-sac at the south end of the property instead of a street stub.

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