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Concord asks developer, opponents to settle differences

Walton mapWEB

The rezoning of 275 acres (pictured here) for a 551-home subdivision
is being appealed by city and Cabarrus County residents who worry
that the project will flood their nearby neighborhoods. They also worry that it will cause
schools to overcrowd and that it will generate too much traffic.

The Concord City Council has asked opponents of a proposed 551-house subdivision to meet with developers in an effort to work out their differences.

The council voted 6-0 to have the two sides talk after holding a public hearing in which the residents presented their appeal of a Planning and Zoning Committee approval of the rezoning.

The council on Wednesday heard two hours of arguments for and against the proposed Ridges at Concord subdivision, which would be built by Walton Carolina LLC. The proposed 275-acre development is west of Odell School Road between Poplar Tent Road and N.C. Highway 73.

The council indicated it would continue the public hearing and rule on the appeal if the two sides could not reach an agreement. The council didn’t give the two sides a deadline, but wants to make a decision on the appeal, if necessary, before two new council members take office in early December.  District 1 Councilman David Phillips and District 2 Councilman Jim Ramseur are leaving office.

Phillips proposed letting the two sides talk.

“We are taking this issue very seriously,” he said.

The hearing was also continued to give the council time to look at documents that the appellants passed out Wednesday, including a report from an engineer about flooding in the area. If the public hearing continues, the council told the two sides it would hear only the flood and stormwater concerns.

The hearing was held at the police department headquarters to handle a standing-room only crowd. About a half-dozen police officers were posted around the room to make sure the hearing remained civil.

Rose Beam, who is leading the appellants’ effort, said Thursday that an agreement is unlikely because she doesn’t think Walton is receptive to her side’s concerns about  flooding, increased traffic and possible school overcrowding.  She lives in the nearby Poplar Trails subdivision, outside the city limits.The appellants hired attorney and state Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, a partner in the Concord-based law firm Hartsell & Williams, to represent them.

Anthony Sparrow,  Walton’s general manager for Tennessee and the Carolinas, said, “We are more than happy to sit down and talk about these issues.” Collin Brown, a partner at the law firm K&L Gates’ Charlotte office, is representing the developer.

“This property will be developed and I don’t mean that to sound like a jerk, those are just the facts,” Brown said.

Opponents of the development are appealing the Planning and Zoning Commission’s Sept. 15 decision to rezone the 275 acres  to a residential compact conditional district, RC-CD, from residential low density, RL.  RC-CD zoning allows the number of housing units allowed to be specified on a case-by-case basis.The RL zoning allows two units per acre with 20,000-square-foot lot sizes.

The appellants said they are concerned that the developer’s plans don’t address potential flooding problems for their neighboring developments adequately.

“I am worried sick that they are going to flood our development,” Beam said during the hearing.

Hartsell showed the council pictures of what he said was flooding in Poplar Trails from the rain last week. He said the developer’s plans aren’t consistent with land use plans for the property.

Kevin Ashley, Concord’s planning and development manager, said the development was consistent with the city’s land use plans.

Jeff Oden, an engineer with Stewart, said the developer has done some flood studies on the land and the storm drainage system in the development would be designed to handle a 25-year storm.

As for the traffic concerns, Brown told the council and audience that the Ridges would not have any street connections to surrounding developments. That drew a round of applause from the audience.

The Ridges would generate 5,048 new vehicle trips near the subdivision per day, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Transportation said in an email.

Residents in the Poplar Woods subdivision, which is adjacent to the proposed development and Poplar Trails, support Walton’s subdivision because it won’t connect to their neighborhood, attorney Zachary Moretz said. Moretz, who is a partner with the Charlotte-based law firm Moretz & Skufca, represented property owners in Poplar Woods.

Brown also argued that the subdivision wouldn’t impact the schools because development of the land has been in the works for several years; the school district anticipated something would be built and it planned for development.

The former property owner, Magland Development, wanted to build 684 homes on the land in February 2006, but those plans were rejected. The developer resubmitted plans for 563 homes in April 2006. The developer never paid any fees and no permits were issued. Walton acquired the property in 2012.

The opposition’s effort is the first zoning decision appeal Concord has faced since February 2006.

Residents appealed a Planning and Zoning Commission decision to give Cabarrus County a conditional use permit for a 480-bed jail on Corban Avenue. Residents opposed the jail because of its proximity to historic neighborhoods and its size.

The residents in that appeal lost a court battle and the jail was built.

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