HUNTERSVILLE –Epcon Communities’ rezoning petition and sketch plan for an age-restricted community will go to the Huntersville Town Board of Commissioners on Jan. 5 with both the town’s planning staff and Planning Board recommending they not be approved.
The Planning Board voted down Epcon’s rezoning request and sketch plan Tuesday night after Epcon had requested to defer the Planning Board’s vote nearly a month ago.
The development would include 94 homes ranging from 1,500 to 3,000 square feet at an average price of $350,000. The homes would include stone façades and wood exteriors, landscaping, granite countertops and hardwood floors. The community would include a clubhouse, a lap pool, a fitness center, a community garden, “parkettes,” and bocce and pickleball courts.
Concerns were raised by Senior Planner Whitney Hodges at November’s Board of Commissioners meeting about several parts of the site plan, including inadequate descriptions of buffers, inadequate tree-save plans, garages that don’t meet the zoning ordinance’s 10-foot recession requirement, and possibly undesirable street connections.
Hodges reiterated the plan’s buffer and garage issues at Tuesday’s meeting, but issues concerning a private gravel easement that runs along the western border of the site received most of the Planning Board’s attention.
Residents in four houses west of the site use the easement as a driveway to get to and from their houses from McCoy Road, and are concerned about the development’s proximity to their houses. Company officials have said that residents will continue to be able to use that road.
Huntersville requires 20-foot buffers for adjacent residential development, and although Epcon’s plan meets that requirement, two feet of that buffer would impose on the shoulder of the gravel road, and the buffer that Epcon has proposed drops down to 18 feet at certain points along the western boundary of the site.
Epcon offered at the meeting to maintain the shoulder of the road, as well as the ditch that runs along the road.
Hodges said at the meeting that there are issues with the sketch plan’s eastern buffer, which is adjacent to a business park on Lindley Drive, as well. The town requires 80-foot buffers for adjacent commercial development, but Epcon wants to reduce the eastern buffer to 50 feet.
Hodges said on Wednesday that reducing the buffer to 50 feet is possible, but that it would also make it difficult to put in service facilities for the business park in the future, and an 80-foot buffer would be ideal.
Epcon’s plans also include commercial development on an additional 9.5 acres now owned by Poly-Tech Holdings LLC on Lindley Drive in the business park, which – in addition to providing more space for the age-restricted housing community – is why the company wants the buffer reduction, to provide space for two office buildings.
But the Planning Board said Epcon’s plans for that land should not be taken into consideration for the housing community because the company doesn’t own the land, and its development there is only hypothetical at this point.
“They just need to think this through a little better,” Hodges said Wednesday.
Epcon chose not to change the structure of the plan’s garages in order to meet the town’s 10-foot recession rule, which was also suggested by the planning staff at the November board meeting. Huntersville has never had a developer not comply with this rule since it was incorporated into its zoning ordinance in 1996, and about 4,000 garages have been built since then, according to Hodges.
Epcon “knew what they needed to do the last three weeks, and they did not do it,” said Planning Board member Joe Sailors following the votes.
But despite Epcon’s failure to conform to the planning staff’s requests, board members recognized the demand for age-restricted housing in Huntersville.
“I think it’s unfortunate because the community needs this kind of development,” Chairman Hal Bankirer said.
Gary Knox, a commercial real estate broker who was representing property owners adjacent to the site’s western easement, said that by 2020, 23 percent of Huntersville’s population will be above the age of 55.
Epcon is one of the most active age-restricted community developers in the Charlotte area. It began building Courtyards at Huntersville earlier this year, and is also developing communities in Mooresville, Cornelius, Harrisburg, Rock Hill, Marvin and Stallings.