Two of three items on the Graham planning board’s agenda Tuesday night were revisions to previous rezoning proposals that had been rejected by Graham’s city council earlier this year.
First up was a revised proposal for 72 townhouses along a narrow lot off of heavily-traveled Hanford Road on the western edge of the city.
In April, the city council unanimously rejected a developer’s proposal to build 61 townhouses on a narrow, 14-acre lot off of Hanford Road, between Moore Street and Monroe Holt Road.
That number had already been reduced, at the urging of planning board members, from the developer’s original submission of 69 townhouses on the site.
But council members still considered the development “too dense” relative to the mostly single-family homes nearby, many of whose owners turned out – at both the planning board and city council meetings – to vigorously oppose the subdivision rezoning.
In particular, the council did not like to see all the townhouses squeezed onto what was often termed “the front half” of the lot (actually about two-thirds of the total property) while reserving a 5-acre portion, separated by a stream that would remain in its natural state with a walking track around it.
ORIGINAL – REJECTED BY CITY COUNCIL IN APRIL
NEW – CONSIDERED AND RECOMMENDED BY PLANNING BOARD THIS WEEK
EXAMPLES OF STYLES TO BE BUILT IN THE PAIRS OF HOMES
Councilman Bobby Chin, for instance, said in April that the “density is too much,” and he questioned why “squeezing everyone into half the acreage” was the plan, rather than using all of the 14 acres – allowing the homes to be spread out.
This week, the developer, Will Yearns, and his attorney, Amanda Hodierne, returned with a new proposal that won some plaudits from planning board members, if not from neighbors who still oppose the plan; that opposition was now focused primarily on the subdivision’s likely impact on traffic in the area.
While the council members had suggested single-family homes, the revised plan consists of 72 townhouses, now configured as pairs of patio-style homes – spread throughout the entire 14-acre lot, allowing more separation between some of the pairs of homes.
Hodierne emphasized that both the homes and the recreation areas – i.e., what she termed “pockets of green space” – had been “thoughtfully spread out” in the new configuration.
Whether the townhouses would be one or two stories, however, became a major focus of the planning board discussion Tuesday night. [See architectural illustrations above.]
One of the objections at the city council meeting in April had been the plan for a row of two-story townhouses whose residents could peer down on about a half-dozen of the existing single-family homeowners in the adjacent subdivision, Canterbury Plantation.
Hodierne emphasized in her description of the new project that the proposed homes were one-story, although she did acknowledge that homeowners would have the “option” of an upstairs bedroom.
She described the proposed models that the developer has in mind as mostly one-story, or story-and-a-half at the most. All examples shown had two-car garages. She ultimately outlined that the maximum height would be 30 feet tall.
And while she said the homes were “not ticky-tacky homes,” she would not give any forecast for the potential price tag, or price range, of the future homes. (In the earlier version, the developer had suggested $300,000 townhomes.)
Also left somewhat vague was the size of the homes. Hodierne at one point said 1,800 square feet. But some opponents wanted to know whether that was an average, and, if so, what was the range of sizes to be constructed.
Candy Plumley said the proposed development “doesn’t blend in with existing homes.” She also raised concerns about Monroe Holt or Nina Drive being used as a “pass-through” for residents of the new townhouse development, to be named Hanford Landing.
[Story continues below photos.]
NEIGHBORS OPPOSE PROJECT
Hodierne described the added traffic from 72 additional homes in the area as having a “de minimis” impact, but neighbors frequently focused on the cumulative effect of this project in conjunction with other ones nearby – in one case, close at hand, but across the municipal line in Burlington’s jurisdiction, where land has been cleared for 249 townhouses.
Crystal Drury and her daughter Mackenzie Carroll talked about how, even now, it is difficult to pull out from Monroe Holt Road onto Hanford Road; Drury said the townhouses will “skew more traffic” onto already heavily-traveled roads. Drury also said that “mice and rats” have overrun the area already, a consequence of the grading that has removed ground cover for the 249 townhouses being constructed.
Brittany Hoffman and Susan Davis expressed concerns over both the volume and speed of the traffic.
Planning board chairman Dean Ward commended Hodierne and Yearn for the changes made since the planning board’s initial consideration in March, when that plan was approved 4-1.
“The developer has done what the council asked them to do,” he said, calling the revised submission a “good plan.”
But planning board member John Wooten (who had been the dissenting vote in March) continued to voice the view that the plan was “not in character with the neighborhood” and that the board and city would be “setting a [bad] precedent” by allowing the rezoning for the 72 homes in an area with mostly single-family residences.
When it was mentioned that the state’s Department of Transportation, which previously studied traffic in the area, had concluded that the traffic was not at capacity – and in particular that traffic on Hanford Road was only about half of its maximum level – Wooten emphasized that “DOT doesn’t live” on those roads to experience what the neighbors testified to and that Wooten confirmed from his own experience; he lives nearby.
Ultimately – after about an hour and half of presentation and discussion – planning board member Eric Crissman made a motion to approve the rezoning request as submitted. It was seconded by Tony Bailey and passed 5-1. Joining Crissman and Bailey were chairman Ward, as well as planning board members Jerome Bias and Chad Huffine. Wooten was opposed; planning board member Michael Benesch was absent.
The item will likely be on the city council’s September 13 agenda.