Burlington’s planning and zoning commission closed out the current calendar year with a brief, eight-minute meeting last week that featured a single rezoning request for multi-family housing.
Submitted by Asheboro-based Lucas Development, this particular request keys in on a relatively small, 1.43-acre tract that the Alamance Antique Auto Club owns along Whitesell Drive – a short feeder street for Huffman Mill Road. Lucas Development has asked the city to assign this lot a “limited” form of general business zoning that would allow multi-family residences as the one and only allowable use on the property.
This seemingly modest proposal, which received the planning commission’s unanimous blessing last Monday, is merely the latest in a series of “limited use” rezoning requests that Lucas has submitted near this same stretch of Huffman Mill Road. These proposals are, moreover, a mere sliver of the multi-family and high-density residential developments that have come through Burlington’s planning department in the past year – and which could add nearly 1,500 new units to the city’s stock of rental apartments, townhouses, and duplexes.
A rezoning jigsaw
Lucas Development’s contribution to this veritable cascade of new residences includes two earlier proposals that the company has brought before the city’s planning commission. The first, which the developer unveiled in April, sought the city’s permission to develop apartments on roughly 16.67 acres of land along Whitesell Drive. The second, which debuted in October, concerned another 4.5 acres of nearby but non-adjacent real estate. Each of these submissions ultimately received the planning commission’s endorsement before they went on to obtain formal approval from Burlington’s city council on May 17 and November 1.
When presenting the first of these requests to the planning commission, the firm’s co-owner Darren Lucas told the city’s planning commission that he would use this property to build “luxury A-style” apartments that he said would be difficult to distinguish from townhouses.
Lucas was unable to pin down precisely how many of these dwellings his company would potentially build. Yet, under Burlington’s unified development ordinance, a developer can theoretically squeeze up to 24 multi-family dwellings per acre into a general business zone – which sets an upper limit of 508 units on the two rezoning requests that the council has already approved on behalf of Lucas Development.
The site of Lucas’ most recent proposal would provide crucial link between the company’s other two, noncontiguous tracts that the company has already shepherded through the rezoning process. What’s more, this parcel’s 1.43 acres could potentially sustain another 34 apartments – bringing the developer’s hypothetical tally to as many as 542 units.
This wildly speculative figure doesn’t take into account property that’s either ill-suited for residential development or that Lucas will need to accommodate buffers and various amenities. Yet, this number still comprises less than half of the potential new multi-family residences that have received the all-clear from Burlington’s leaders in the past year.
A busy year
In addition to the rezoning requests approved on behalf of Lucas Development, Burlington’s city council has also signed off on five other high-density residential developments during 2022.
The council greenlit the latest of these projects on December 6 when it gave local homebuilder Dennis Euliss permission to set up a 200-unit apartment complex along Grand Oaks Boulevard. Meanwhile, on November 1, the council gave an out-of-town firm the go-ahead to establish another 135 new rental units along Maple Avenue by converting an old motel into an apartment building for the coveted millennial market.
The council signed off on a much smaller contribution to the community’s housing reserves on August 16 when it agreed to allow five new townhouses to go up on less than an acre of land along Cleveland Avenue. Less than two months earlier, it sanctioned a much more sizeable entry when it approved a request from Wilmington-based Zimmer Development to build 252 new rental apartments along Bonnar Bridge Parkway.
Also on the list of 2022 approvals is a request for high-density residential use that its members signed off on in February along Tucker Street. Billed as a “straight” zoning change, this particular submission didn’t come to the council with a specific unit count – or even with a generic description of the dwellings to be built on the development’s 41.22-acre site. Even so, the project’s developer has indicated a preference for one-story duplexes that, under the city’s unified development ordinance, could be constructed at a density of 9 units per acre – or a theoretical maximum of 370 homes for the entire 41.22-acre tract.
Factoring in the 508 potential new units from Lucas’ two previous approvals, the city of Burlington has something on the order of 1,470 apartments, townhouses, and duplexes that could be hypothetically developed under the assorted rezoning requests that cleared the city council this year.
This figure, while admittedly speculative, might strike some residents as a bit of an overkill. Yet, that isn’t necessarily the case according to Burlington’s planning director Jamie Lawson.
“If you talk to most of the developers, they say there is a demand” Lawson told The Alamance News in a recent interview, “and I think there’s areas [of the city] that make sense for infill residential development.”
There’s no guarantee that any of these recently rezoned parcels will actually be developed – much less at maximum density allowed under Burlington’s unified development ordinance. Even so, contractors have been steadily pressing ahead with dozens of other multi-family projects that have received the city’s imprimatur in previous calendar years.
Since 2015, Burlington’s planning department has received detailed site plans for 24 apartment complexes that, taken together, envision a grand total of 2,849 new units. According to the department’s records, 1,222 of those proposed units have already been built, while another 662 are currently under construction and 311 have been approved by the city but not yet begun. Meanwhile, a further 654 units are either awaiting building permits or the clearance of their site plans by a staff-level technical review committee.
READ COVERAGE OF TWO RECENT PROJECTS
Developer files plans for 252 apartments: https://alamancenews.com/developer-files-plans-for-252-apartments-in-west-burlington/
Council approves 200 apartments in West Burlington: https://alamancenews.com/council-grants-zoning-for-200-apts-along-grand-oaks-blvd/