Marvin Mayor Joe Pollino says he’s upset by the North Carolina General Assembly’s vote to de-annex 6.9 acres from the village into unincorporated Union County.
Sen. Tommy Tucker introduced the bill in the Senate in April after hearing a developer’s complaint that Marvin’s zoning codes were too strict. Mitchell Puckett, the registered agent for the land’s owner, PTG Properties, said he spoke to Tucker regarding the issue after village officials turned him down on a proposal to develop the land along Rea and Tom Short roads.
The 7 acres are part of a 26-acre tract, the rest of which is already under the jurisdiction of Union County.
Puckett said in an interview that he has had “issues” with village officials dating back to the early 2000s in “getting things through.”
“They have very restrictive development guidelines,” he said. “It’s very tough to deal with them.”
The village’s Planning Board faced similar criticism in fall 2014 when Raley-Miller Properties sought a rezoning and annexation of property it owns across Rea Road from Puckett’s property. That 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.
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.
Most of the council publicly supported Shkut and the Planning Board’s decisions.
Another Planning Board member, Karl Behrens, expressed frustration with the process in an April 2015 letter announcing his resignation from the board.
“Marvin is not pro-development,” Behrens said in an interview at the time. “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.”
But Pollino, who has been mayor for two and a half years, disputes Puckett’s assessment of the village as “tough to deal with.”
He said Puckett met with some village officials to discuss Puckett’s proposal to build 150 apartments for seniors at the site, but that Puckett never “made a formal presentation to us.”
He said he told Puckett that such a project would be much too dense for Marvin’s standards.
“He came to us with this ridiculous proposal that doesn’t touch our land-use plan,” Pollino said.
The residential component of the village’s land-use plan calls for low-density single-family subdivisions, with exceptions made for designated areas.
Pollino said Marvin is not adverse to development, and pointed out that the village has approved two age-restricted single-family home subdivisions, the Courtyards at Marvin and Amber Meadows. The Village Council is scheduled to vote on whether or not to approve a third age-restricted project, part of the commercial Marvin Gardens development, this year. Regency Centers is requesting a rezoning of 38.7 acres for a mixed-use development including the homes, a Publix grocery store, restaurants, retail and a gas station. It would be the town’s first commercial development.
Reached by phone, Tucker said he sponsored the de-annexation bill after it appeared negotiations had broken down. He said he had asked Pollino to talk to Puckett and his father, developer Steve Puckett, whom he characterized as a family friend.
Pollino said he balked at the proposal.
“It’s not my job to chase down developers,” Pollino said. “That’s not my role as mayor. He asked me to do something that I don’t do for any other developer.”
Pollino wrote a letter to Tucker in May, requesting that he withdraw the legislation. He said that the de-annexation bill placed undue pressure on municipalities to “deviate from standards that our residents voted us into office to implement and protect.” He said that a de-annexation brought the threat of increased traffic, noise, pollution, and school overcrowding, and set a precedent for other landowners who wanted to develop a product not in keeping with the Marvin’s land-use plan.
However, the bill passed the N.C. Senate in late May and the House on June 29.
“I’m very upset,” Pollino said. “We want to stay within our land-use plan. This is way too far overreaching.”
Tucker filed a similar bill in the General Assembly last year after property owners in Wesley Chapel sought de-annexation because the village required 40,000-square-foot lots, or a little less than an acre, for single-family development. Property owners said the regulation made their land unattractive to developers who wanted to cut costs through increased density.
But Tucker backed off after the village’s leaders agreed to allow senior housing as a conditional use in its zoning ordinance. The conditional zoning allows three units per acre for senior housing. Wesley Chapel also is working on plans to allow for conservation subdivisions with smaller lot sizes.
As for Marvin, Tucker said he would have preferred that Puckett and Marvin officials had reached a consensus.
“I wanted them to work it out as they did in Wesley Chapel,” he said.
He added that he doesn’t believe the de-annexation will impact the village much, because the de-annexed 7 acres are in a floodplain, leaving just 2 acres that are able to be developed.
“It’s on the periphery of the town,” he said. “Ninety percent of the property is under Union County zoning. Two acres is not that big a product.”
Mitchell Puckett, meanwhile, appears to have altered his plans to build apartments on the site. Puckett said he is thinking of developing the property commercially, with office, retail or restaurant space.
“It’s still early on,” he said. “We will work with the county folks to put a vision together on what goes there.”