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Garages – or porches – could make or break Epcon’s subdivision

HUNTERSVILLE – The town Board of Commissioners on Tuesday deferred making a decision on a rezoning request for an age-restricted subdivision, advising developer Epcon Communities to make design adjustments to its garages before returning to the board for approval.

Epcon wants to build 94 homes in its Courtyards at Kinnamon Park subdivision off McCoy Road, but design plans show the garages being flush with the front of the homes, as opposed to being recessed 10 feet as the town’s code requires.

The board said Epcon could come back to seek the approval before or by April 6.

Prior to last night’s meeting, there were three big issues that Epcon had been advised by the town’s planning staff and planning commission to address: the site’s northeastern buffer, the depth at which garages recess behind the face of the houses, and the confirmation of the right of adjacent property owners to use a gravel driveway to access their homes from McCoy Road.

Epcon proposed a 50-foot buffer on the site’s northeastern boundary, but is not seeking a rezoning on the land, and under its current zoning would be required to have an 80-foot buffer. The planning staff has recommended that the buffer be reduced to 60 feet, and the Planning Board will vote next week whether to recommend to the commissioners that the change be approved.

The gravel driveway had been a concern because residents in four nearby houses use it to access McCoy Road, and they were worried about not being able to continue if Epcon developed the property. But since December, Epcon has granted easements to the residents to allow them access to the driveway if Courtyards at Kinnamon Park is built.

Although Epcon worked out two of the planning staff’s issues, the commissioners again requested Epcon to redesign the homes’ garages to abide by the town’s 10-foot recession rule.

The Planning Board and the Board of Commissioners had also advised Epcon late last year to alter its plans to fit its regulations. Huntersville has never approved an exception to the ordinance since it was enacted in 1996, said Hodges.

“We’re not trying to be stubborn, we’re trying to fit in, and most important right now is answering what we’re going to do,” said Epcon Communities CEO Phil Fankhauser.

Several board members said they recognized there is a high demand for age-restricted housing in Huntersville.

“Everyone realizes that we need 55 and older communities, and we obviously want to welcome developers into our community that want to develop these kinds of communities,” said Commissioner Jeff Neely. “But we also want our zoning and our rules for building be adhered to.”

On Jan. 5, the commissioners approved an amendment to the town’s zoning ordinance that would allow “prominent” front porches, as opposed to the face of houses, to be used as the primary plane from which garage recession depth is measured. The amendment considers porches that have a depth greater than 6 feet and cover at least 55 percent of a building’s width to be prominent.

Planning Director Jack Simoneau said Epcon’s plans do not specify the dimensions of houses’ porches, and that next week’s meeting with the Planning Board will give Epcon the opportunity to discuss the possibility of designing porches that would meet the requirements of the amendment. Adding porches that meet the requirements of the amendment could allow Epcon to keep its original garages.

But Fankhauser did not say whether or not Epcon would change its plans.

“We’ll need to study that, and we’ll need to understand that, and maybe we need to incorporate that,” he said. “Maybe we need to do something totally different. But our mission is to come before them with something they will say is welcome in their town.”

The Courtyards at Kinnamon Park’s single-family homes would range from 1,500 to 3,000 square feet, with an average price of $350,000. They would feature 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.

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