Thursday, December 1, 2022

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Graham, NC 27253
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Graham planning board gives go-ahead to townhouse development after cutting number from 69 to 61

Graham’s planning board members heard plenty of concerns from neighbors along and around Hanford Road about a proposed townhouse development that is being proposed for about 14 acres between Moore Street and Monroe Holt Road.

The developer proposed a long row of townhouses on both sides of a road through the long, narrow lot.  The back third of the lot would remain undisturbed, according to the original submission, with a wooded area.

The layout above shows the full 14-acre lot with plans for 69 townhouses on the front two-thirds, in front of a stream that separates the lot from a wooded area at the back. The enlarged layout below show more of the townhouse layout, as proposed by the developer.

The developer wants to build Hanford Landing, a development with 69 two-story townhouses, which the board was told could sell for  $300,000 each.

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Neighbors registered concerns about added density, increased traffic in the area, and that the townhouses did not fit the character of the largely single-family residences in the area.

But the developer’s attorney, Amanda Hodierne, countered that there were similar townhouse developments in close proximity to the proposal she represented. She also said the added traffic from 69 townhouses is small compared to other, larger projects already approved or already existing traffic concerns, declaring its impact on the situation “de minimis.”

Neighbors in the adjacent neighborhood were particularly concerned with the “stub out” road that would be opened into their neighborhood (on Nina Drive) to provide a second route for egress and ingress to the townhouses.

Hodierne tried to emphasize that the city had insisted on that dimension of the rezoning plan.  She expressed a willingness to accommodate some form of hinged bollards, or a keyed system, that could allow emergency vehicles to have access through the secondary road (Nina Drive) but be restricted for everyday vehicle traffic.

But planning director Justin Snyder said the city was very opposed to any form of a barrier being erected, preferring instead to allow access to and from the development through a secondary access, in addition to the main entrance off Hanford Road.

Snyder termed the proposal “a little bit out of character” for the area and put the planning department on record against the rezoning request – while acknowledging that outright opposition was a rare stance for the city.  He said allowing the narrow strip of land to be rezoned for townhouses amounted to “almost spot zoning,” which is illegal.

Hodierne took particular exception to that as an “inappropriate characterization” to what she termed “a well thought out and intentional” plan.

Planning board member Tony Bailey noted the lack of amenities in the layout for the development. That theme was also emphasized by Clint Albright, 1013 Hannah Court, who said inasmuch as there were no amenities in the development, residents would likely come over to their area to walk, for instance.

Janice Murray, who lives on Hanford Road, across from the proposed entrance into the townhouses, said traffic is already heavy, often making it difficult for her to exit her driveway onto Hanford Road; more townhouses would only make it even more difficult, she said.

Clint Albright
Janice “Jan” Murray
Robert “Greg” Sanders
Ruth Sanders

Ruth Sanders noted that most houses in the area are one story, rather than two, as proposed for the townhouses; and her husband, Robert “Greg” Sanders, cited the number of 606 housing units already approved, but not yet constructed, in the general vicinity, pointing to major traffic difficulties in the future.

The emphasis on one-level homes was picked up by planning board member John Wooten, who suggested they would be more compatible and more in character with the surrounding neighborhoods.

Planning board members were sympathetic to some of the residents’ concerns, but did not take action to close off the new subdivision’s access through Nina Drive.

Instead, planning board member Eric Crissman began to press for how many homes could be trimmed from the proposed layout.  “Could you cut it in half,” he asked.

Will Yearns said that would be too extreme a cut, but Crissman and other planning board members began focusing on cutting out the front two buildings (each with four units), one on each side of the entrance.

Planning board chairman Dean Ward and members Eric Crissman and Jerome Bias.

Planning board members also pressed for some amenities, prompting Hodierne to volunteer a walking track around the natural area at the rear of the lot, which would also necessitate a pedestrian bridge over a stream in order to reach the natural area.

Finally, board members pressed for some recreational area – be it basketball court, playground, or something else – to be included near the cul-de-sac at the rear of the townhouses.

With those changes, the planning board gave its assent to recommending the project, 4-1, with Wooten still opposed.

The revised plan, with the planning board’s recommendations, will come before the city council at its April 12 meeting.

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