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Monroe Road apartment proposal draws opposition

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Everlane Development’s request for a rezoning to build an apartment complex in Matthews, illustrated above, is meeting with resistance from neighbors. Image courtesy the town of Matthews.

MATTHEWS – Dozens of people, including a representative of Family Dollar Stores Inc., told the town Board of Commissioners on Monday that they oppose a rezoning request that would allow a 312-unit apartment complex to be built on the last large tract of undeveloped land along Monroe Road, just south of Sardis Road North.

The petition is scheduled to go before the town’s Planning Board for consideration and recommendation June 2. The earliest date that the Board of Commissioners would vote on it is June 8.

Everlane Development is seeking the rezoning of nearly 22 acres known as the Renfrow property, which includes the overgrown Roseland Cemetery, believed to be one of only four cemeteries in Mecklenburg County containing the remains of slaves and freed African-Americans, according to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission website. Dating to about 1865, it was designated as a historic site by the commission in August 2012 and is estimated to hold 70 to 75 graves.

About 100 people attended Monday’s public hearing on the petition, with more than half of them responding when speaker Catherine Hall, a Sardis Forest resident, asked those opposed to the request to stand.

Neighbors also have submitted a valid protest petition, which means that when the board ultimately votes, three-quarters will have to approve Everlane’s request in order for it to pass, which translates into six of the seven voting members, including the mayor. When no protest petitions are filed, rezonings require only a simple majority.

Several commissioners and Mayor Jim Taylor expressed reservations about the proposal as well, including concerns about increased traffic on busy Monroe Road near Galleria Boulevard.

“We already have a capacity issue on Monroe Road,” said Taylor. “We’re already hitting capacity.”

Seven of the eight speakers from Monday’s audience cited traffic as one of their main concerns; the North Carolina Department of Transportation estimated that 26,000 vehicles used that span of Monroe Road daily in 2012.

The Galleria Apartments project would have two access roads, one leading to Monroe Road where there’s no traffic signal, and the other connecting to Nolley Court in the Sardis Forest Patio Homes development just north of the proposed development. Nolley Court leads to Galleria Boulevard, which has a traffic signal at Monroe Road.

Residents of that neighborhood were concerned that Galleria Apartments’ drivers would choose the Nolley Court route to leave the complex since there would be no traffic signal on the main access road.

The public hearing was a continuation of one scheduled for April 13. Everlane requested a deferral until Monday so it could address some of the concerns raised by the town. Those changes included decreasing the number of units from 320, increasing set-backs along Monroe Road, including on its plans a proposed right-turn lane into the complex, shifting a walking trail further from the cemetery and connecting it to Nolley Court and the Legacy Matthews Apartment Homes to the south, and providing additional screening between the back of the proposed complex and the Sardis Forest single-family subdivision.

The zoning change would be from residential varied style to conditional multifamily residential.

The town in 2008 had approved a rezoning for up to 96 patio homes, but the project was halted by the recession. Everlane President Matt Poindexter said that concept was no longer economically feasible.

Galleria would include seven two- and three-story buildings with studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. The average size would be 955 square feet and the average monthly rent $1,150.

Poindexter said the apartments would be Class-A luxury apartments with hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances and tiled bathrooms. The complex would also include a clubhouse, a “resort-style” swimming pool, a yoga and fitness studio, a resident lounge and business center, a coffee bar and a dog park and spa station.

About 60 percent of the facades would be brick, mixed with fiber cement panels and a stucco product, Poindexter said.

Poindexter said Everlane is open to increasing the amount of brick used, in response to concerns raised by town Commissioner W. Kress Query, who also said, “I don’t know how you can call this upscale apartments without any elevators.”

Poindexter said the designation is based on price point, which for the Galleria would be rents in the range of $1.21 to $1.35 per square foot.

Although speakers said they were also concerned about the effect the project would have on their homes’ values and stormwater runoff, most of the concerns were over traffic.

Taylor said that it wasn’t just the impact that the Galleria would have on traffic, but that combined with other recent developments, an additional 800 to 900 housing units would bring more traffic to a short stretch of Monroe Road.

“We’re adding cars. We’re not hiding that,” said Poindexter. But he said the company will make improvements to the center turning lane on Monroe Road and the right-turn lane on Sardis Road North, in addition to adding a southbound dedicated right-turn lane into the development.

Thomas Schoenheit, assistant general counsel for Family Dollar, said that tractor trailers leaving the company’s distribution plant across the street often turn left heading south toward Interstate 485, and because of heavy traffic, often use the middle turn lane before merging into traffic. He said that could create a safety hazard for northbound Galleria residents who would be using the lane to turn left into the complex.

Poindexter, responding after everyone had spoken, said the middle turn lane isn’t meant to be an acceleration lane for those merging into traffic: “That’s an illegal movement by their trucks.”

The one speaker who didn’t oppose the project was Matthews native Harvey Boyd, who has family members buried in the Rosedale Cemetery and was instrumental in seeing it preserved by the landmarks commission.

Poindexter said Everlane was committed to the cemetery’s upkeep, and planned to remove debris from the site and surround it with a fence to help preserve it, and that it would provide parking to visiting nonresidents and a pathway to provide access to the 1.3-acre tract.

“We’re going to create an environment that makes it much more accessible,” he said.

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