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Residents weigh in on proposed Marvin development; Planning Board member resigns

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Regency Centers has asked for a rezoning at Providence and New Town roads, where it plans to build a Publix-anchored commercial development and up to 35 age-restricted homes. Photo by Sharon Roberts

About a dozen people attended a second public information meeting on a proposal for what would be the village of Marvin’s first commercial development, on the southeast corner of Providence and New Town roads.

Regency Centers, which developed Phillips Place in SouthPark and Providence Commons in south Charlotte, is seeking a rezoning to build a Publix grocery store, restaurants, retail and service stores, an eight-pump gas station and up to 35 age-restricted detached homes. The Florida-based company wants the town to rezone the 38.7 acres from mixed-use conditional to individual conditional district.

On the other side of Providence is a car wash and pharmacy, and across New Town road is a small commercial center with a bank, real estate and insurance offices, The Goddard School and a coffee shop, all of which lie in Union County.

Neighbors who attended the Thursday meeting at the Banks Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall were primarily concerned about traffic along the two-lane stretch of Providence, as well as the placement of a traffic light just north of a Weddington Chase subdivision entrance and just south of an existing traffic light.

Jonathan Guy, an engineer with Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc., explained that the company plans to install a center turn lane on Providence as well as extend and add turn lanes along New Town and Providence roads. He said the N.C. Department of Transportation has determined that a traffic light would be necessary at an entrance to the Marvin Gardens development along Providence Road to improve safety.

Neighbors also requested that the company perform a balloon test, floating balloons at the height of the tops of proposed buildings, so they can see what will be visible from their homes, something that Regency Vice President of Investments Chris Widmayer said he would look into.

The process is in the early stages. The company last year met informally with the Village Council to get a sense of what type of development members wanted. Council members stressed that they wanted the development to integrate aesthetically into the community’s pastoral, equestrian ambience.

The village Planning Board recently met with the company for eight hours, Widmayer said, and is currently assembling its comments on the project. The two plan to meet again in early June to go over suggestions and proposed changes. The village’s Parks, Recreation and Greenways Advisory Board is tentatively scheduled to discuss it June 2 and provide its input. Regency will then submit any plan revisions to the planning staff for review.

After changes are made, the Planning Board will make a recommendation to the Village Council on whether or not the proposal should be approved. Lisa Thompson, the village’s administrator and senior planner, said that may be in July or August. The council will then call a public hearing and, at a subsequent meeting, vote to approve or deny the rezoning.

The land was rezoned in 2008 to mixed-use conditional when Lat Purser and Associates had plans to develop more than double the proposed footage of commercial space.

The current proposal calls for 105,000 square feet of commercial space in one-story buildings, including a 49,000-square-foot Publix, other multi-tenant buildings ranging from 10,000 to 12,000 square feet, and four outparcels, which could include a small gas station and a drive-through restaurant. It would include three access roads, one at the new traffic light, one right-turn-in, right-turn-out entrance on Providence, and one to New Town Road.

The commercial development, on 23.23 acres, would connect to a residential area further east on New Town Road. The homes, which would be built by Saussy Burbank, would range from 1,800 square feet to 2,800 square feet, with minimum lot sizes of 6,000 square feet.

During a joint meeting of the Village Council and Planning Board on March 26, the boards hammered out their respective roles in the process and talked generally about their concerns with the project.

The Planning Board faced some criticism of its process last year when Raley-Miller Properties was seeking a rezoning and annexation of property it owns at Rea and Tom Short roads. The tract is in Union County, and the company wanted Marvin to annex it because Union County does not allow the sale of alcohol.

Raley-Miller planned to build a grocery store, a movie theater and buildings for retail, offices and restaurants on the 28 acres.

Last fall, the company withdrew its petitions after the Planning Board recommended the requests be denied by the Village Council.

Raley-Miller expressed frustration with the process at several points, including in June having its attorney write a letter to the council asserting that Planning Board Chair Mary Shkut’s “conduct is outside the normal bounds for how planning board officials are expected to conduct themselves in the public interest” and requesting that the council ask her to recuse herself from the process, which the council declined to do.

Last fall, Raley-Miller partner Ken Orndorff filed a public records request for documents, audio and emails and returned some of them with comments disputing facts and raising questions about the fairness and transparency of the process.

Most of the council has publicly supported Shkut and the Planning Board’s decisions. Some of the actions Orndorff highlighted were Shkut’s measuring and re-measuring an area designated for parking and questioning whether the number of proposed spaces would fit; offering to physically count the seats in a comparable movie theater in order to refute Raley-Miller’s parking space numbers; and questioning stormwater engineering assessments and the accuracy of traffic impact studies.

At a retreat in March, Shkut and council members talked about clarifying the board’s role in the process and other ways to improve it.

Another Planning Board member, Karl Behrens, expressed frustration with the process in an April 30 letter announcing his resignation from the board.

Behrens wrote that “we’ve reached a crossroad in our processes, as a town in Union County, where positive growth development for the families that call Marvin home more often than not have to give way to personal opinion. Major issues i.e. unsafe roads, traffic congestion, lack of ‘sense of place’ and updated published land use plan, which has been on the PB agenda since my very first meeting in 2010, never receive the urgency it deserves. I can only ask that you see my decision to resign is (a) plea towards decongesting the process and bringing back efficiency, vision and leadership that will deliver the future for Marvin that we all have spent countless hours in meetings dreaming of.”

“Marvin is not pro-development,” Behrens said Friday. “Their process, in my mind, is geared around a few individuals’ motivations and the town is run around that. … I am no longer condoning that behavior.”


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