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Planning Board recommends approval for Denver development

DENVER – The Lincoln County Planning Board recommended Monday night that the county Board of Commissioners approve a rezoning of 116 acres for a mixed-use development off N.C. Highway 16 Business, just west of Lake Norman.

The Board of Commissioners will vote Feb. 16 on the rezoning for Rivercross Investments LLC’s Rivercross development. Sonny Crater, land acquisitions manager for Charlotte-based Simonini Group, which is developing the property, said the project could break ground in July if it’s approved.

The Planning Board and residents who spoke during a public hearing on the rezoning were concerned about increased traffic, specifically along N.C. Highway 16 Business, but the board recommended approval because members said that increased traffic was inevitable and not a good reason to deny a “first-class” development like the one Rivercross Investments is proposing.

Planning Board member Michael Johnson said he believed the traffic study submitted with the rezoning application overstated traffic, citing its conclusion that 2,150 daily car trips would be generated by the 220 single-family homes alone.

“For a single-family home, that’s 10 trips daily,” he said.

The total number of daily trips that would be generated by the entire development at build-out would be 8,750, according to the report.

Rivercross Investment requested the property be rezoned from neighborhood business and transitional residential to planned development mixed use. The development is consistent with the county’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan, which calls for mixed-use development on the site, as well as its N.C. 16 Corridor Vision Plan, which supports an urban-style community center.

The Rivercross community would include 220 single-family homes, 200 apartments, 39 town homes and 100,000 square feet of commercial space, as well as a 10-acre park that all residents could use.

The single-family homes will cost about $250,000, and the nine apartment buildings will include one-, two-, and three-bedroom units with rent rates ranging from $800 to $1,300 a month, according to Crater. The town homes would be for sale, and Crater said the commercial space would be a mixture of retail and office space.

The first phase of the development, scheduled to be completed in 2017, will include 79 single-family homes and two of the development’s four access points. The main entrance will be off N.C. Highway 16 Business on the eastern part of the site, and the secondary entrance will be off of Triangle Circle, which runs northwest from N.C. Highway 16 Business.

Rivercross Investments has agreed to put in turning lanes at both entrances and to install turning lanes north of the site at Triangle Circle and Optimist Club Road.

Crater said that at some point during the first phase, Simonini will also connect the main entrance to planned future development northwest of the site at the Airlie Business Park. The entire development is scheduled to be completed by 2020.

The planning staff’s statement of reasonableness notes the number of additional roads being added, and that those roads should help alleviate traffic congestion and make it easier to get from the Airlie Business Park to N.C. Highway 16 Business.

Crater said Monday night that Simonini would also pay for the installation of two traffic lights, one at the N.C. Highway 16 Business entrance and one at the intersection of Triangle Circle and Optimist Club Road. But the traffic lights will not be installed until the N.C. Department of Transportation determines that traffic at those two intersections is busy enough to warrant installing the lights, which also concerned the planning board.

“Until DOT fixes the traffic problems, they’re going to be there, and they’re going to get worse,” Johnson said. “And at some critical point, somebody at DOT – here, Mooresville, Raleigh – is going to say, ‘well there is a problem here. This needs to be fixed.’”

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