The Concord City Council voted 5-2 Wednesday night to deny a rezoning request for a 551-home subdivision after neighbors appealed a Planning and Zoning Commission approval of the rezoning.
“I’m so happy. The little guy prevails,” Rose Beam, who led the appellants’ effort, said after the hearing.
District 6 Councilwoman Jennifer Parsley and Mayor Pro Tem John Sweat Jr. voted in favor of the rezoning request by developer Walton Carolina LLC.
The required consistency statement also approved by the council stated that the development was inconsistent with the town’s land-use plan; it would cause traffic problems in an already congested area; it would create a negative impact on the public school system; and it would allow significantly more homes than the current zoning allows, which is 440 homes.
Beam lives in the Poplar Trails subdivision which is in Cabarrus County and is adjacent to the Walton’s proposed 275-acre Ridges at Concord development.
The opponents to the development appealed a Sept. 15 Planning and Zoning Commission decision to rezone the land, which is west of Odell School Road between N.C. Highway 73 and Poplar Tent Road, to 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.
Walton officials declined to comment after the meeting. The company’s attorney, Collin Brown, a partner with K&L Gates’ Charlotte office, said Thursday that Walton is reviewing and evaluating the outcome of the hearing.
Brown said before the meeting that Walton’s commitments, including a stormwater system designed for a 25-year flood instead of 10-year flood, which is the norm for the area, went above and beyond what is required.
As for Beam’s flooding concerns, Brown said Walton’s plans to cluster homes together on smaller lots would have meant the developer would not have to build as many roads since the homes would not be spread out, creating less impervious ground for water to run off, he said.
Walton also offered to increase the buffer size between The Ridges and Poplar Trails to 40 feet from 25 feet, but the appellants also wanted larger lot sizes for the homes near Poplar Trails, Brown said. He said it would have been very difficult to increase the lot sizes and have that much buffer space, he said.
“It was apparent to us that there didn’t seem like a way to get” to an agreement with the appellants, Brown said during the hearing.
Before voting, the council briefly discussed the points raised during the hearing, which was continued Wednesday after having been started Nov. 11. The two days of hearings lasted about four hours, and the Nov. 11 hearing attracted a standing-room-only crowd in a large room at the Concord Police Department. The turnout for Wednesday’s hearing in the same location was much lighter, with only about half of the seats filled.
District 5 Councilman W. Lamar Barrier made the motion to deny the rezoning request, saying, “The traffic is terrible … I can’t see adding more traffic.”
District 1 Councilman David Phillips seconded the motion.
District 3 Councilwoman Emma Mae Small echoed Barrier’s views on the traffic and said that even though some of the appellants didn’t live in the city limits, she was concerned that the rezoning would have a negative impact on the county residents.
“We want you to have a good quality of life in Cabarrus County,” she said.
District 2 Councilman Jim Ramseur called the increase in the number of homes that would be allowed by the rezoning “a great concern.” Cluster developments such as what Walton proposed usually don’t result in a developer building this many more homes, he said.
The council’s decision came after it directed the appellants and the developer to meet to work out their differences over stormwater and flooding concerns following the Nov. 11 hearing.
Another reason the council decided to continue the hearing was because the appellants passed out documents Nov. 11 that the council members didn’t have time to read and consider, including an engineer’s report about flooding in the area.
The two sides met three times since Nov. 11, including a face-to-face meeting that lasted more than five hours Nov. 25.
During those meetings, Walton proposed increasing the buffer size between The Ridges and Poplar Trails and other measures, including mitigating any potential flooding problems on private property near the proposed subdivision.
“They were trying to get me to sell out the entire neighborhood for 15 feet (of additional buffer space),” Beam said before the meeting.
The council’s decision brings to a close the first rezoning appeal in the city since February 2006, when the Planning and Zoning Commission gave Cabarrus County a conditional use permit for a 480-bed jail on Corban Avenue. Residents who opposed the jail because of its size and proximity to historic neighborhoods lost their appeal and a court battle.
City officials did not know when the last time the council voted in favor of an appeal against a Planning and Zoning Commission decision was.