Half a dozen people who live near a proposed multi-use development just south of Pineville expressed opposition to the project during a public hearing at the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners meeting Tuesday, citing concerns about traffic and the possibility of establishing a precedent that allows commercial buildings into the largely residential area.
The Planning Department will make a recommendation Jan. 5 to the Zoning Committee on Southern Apartment Group – Ballantyne LLC’s requested rezoning, and the commissioners will make a decision at their Jan. 21 meeting.
Southern Apartment Group is requesting a rezoning from conditional multifamily residential to neighborhood services on 3.78 acres on the west side of Lancaster Highway between Southcrest Lane and Winghurst Drive, just south of Ballantyne Commons Parkway.
The company wants to build two office buildings totaling 10,000 square feet and up to 24 apartments, a density of 10 units per acre. The plan is for two one-story buildings, each about 5,000 square feet, for general and medical office use along Lancaster Highway and a three-story apartment building at the back of the property.
The apartment building will offer one-, two- and three-bedroom options, with rents ranging from $900 to $1,500 a month.
The land was rezoned in 2008 from single-family residential to conditional multifamily residential, and the company’s original plans were to build 22 town houses.
The planning staff does not recommend approval of the petition because the greater density now proposed doesn’t meet criteria in the county’s development policies, and the office use does not match the “character” of the surrounding uses, which are primarily residential.
Keith MacVean, an attorney with Moore & Van Allen who represented Southern Apartment Group, said the office buildings did match the style of the neighborhood because they were residential in architectural character.
Rezoning Planning Manager Tammy Keplinger said the Planning Department likes to keep commercial development at major intersections, which is why the department has recommended the commercial space be removed from the site plan.
“I’m just trying to figure out why we should deny this man the right to develop his land,” was District 3 Commissioner George Dunlap’s response to the planning staff’s recommendation.
Those who were opposed to the rezoning were largely concerned with the development’s effect on traffic.
But Lindsey McAlpine, managing partner at Southern Apartment Group, said he expected the revised plan to cause less traffic than the original plan because the town homes were designed for large families.
He also said the decision to build the apartment building rather than the town homes was based on the fact that apartments are at the top of the market right now.
“We don’t think that (the town homes) would sell at their highest value right now,” McAlpine said.
Residents who live in a single-family housing community southwest of the property were primarily concerned about the possible increased traffic along Lancaster Highway. They said Winghurst Drive, which runs west off Lancaster Highway and is south of the property, is the only way in and out of their neighborhood, whereas residents who live on the east side of Lancaster Highway have several ways to get in and out of their neighborhoods.
Southern Apartment Group has proposed building a turning lane on Lancaster Highway in front of the property to control the traffic.
Residents are also worried that the development could encourage commercial growth along Lancaster Highway.
The closest commercial development to the property is a small business across the street from Winghurst Drive, Garrett’s Antiques and Indian Shop, but several commercial structures make up a retail shopping center about one-quarter of a mile south of the property on Lancaster Highway.
McAlpine said the office space would be occupied by low-intensity users, such as a dentist’s office or a law practice.
Residents said they preferred the previous site plan, which included four buildings that made up 22 town homes at a density of six units per acre and a parking lot.
MacVean said he thought the new plan was better because it has fewer buildings and provides more open space, on top of the fact that the office buildings would be facing the road, and would offer better streetscape treatment than the previously proposed town homes would.
Outside comfort zone
The board asked the planning staff how the property managed to acquire its rezoning in 2008, and Keplinger said the planning staff did not recommend that rezoning either.
The previous rezoning petition was handled by the Charlotte City Council, not the board of county commissioners, according to the approved site plan.
The property also is not included in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg land use plan, which means the county has not provided a vision for the type of development it wants to see in that area.
The property is outside Charlotte city limits, and although it falls within what is considered Pineville’s extra-territorial jurisdiction, Pineville has not taken action on it, spurring the county to take it up.
“As the county commission, we are typically not in the zoning business, but we are in this particular situation,” Chairman Trevor Fuller said to open the public hearing.
Commissioner Bill James asked why Pineville officials hadn’t shown interest in the matter, and said that Pineville did provide input on the previous rezoning in 2008.
“If they were involved in it (in 2008), they should be involved in it now,” James said.
MacVean said he had talked to Pineville officials about the current rezoning, and that they expressed no major concerns with the proposed project.