Burlington’s city council went on to hold four other public hearings during its latest regularly-scheduled meeting on Tuesday night (March 16), which took place over the Zoom teleconferencing platform in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The council has nevertheless deferred its final decisions on all four of these matters until Thursday morning in order to give residents some additional time to weigh in on the requests.
The city’s attorney, David Huffman, advised the council to give members of the public an additional 24 hours to submit written remarks about these requests. The city attorney recommended this extended comment period under the state statute that has allowed the city’s elected leaders to hold remote meetings during the coronavirus pandemic.
The council’s members agreed to reconvene over Zoom at 9:15 a.m. on Thursday in order to resume their consideration of the four deferred items.
Potential Shamrock expansion – even before currently approved project starts
The rezoning proposals that the council plans to revisit on Thursday include one potentially contentious request from a Greensboro developer who received the city’s permission to build a residential subdivision on the grounds of the former Shamrock Golf Course in 2018.
Paul Milam of the Henson Realty has now asked Burlington’s leaders to increase the maximum number of homes that he can erect on the now-defunct golf course from 219 to 241 dwellings.
Although the city’s planning staff has endorsed this request, it failed to obtain a positive recommendation when it went before the city’s planning and zoning commission in January.
Ryan Moffitt, an attorney for this subdivision’s would-be developer, told the council that there are several factors which have compelled his client to seek this increase in the previously-approved housing allowance.
Moffitt pointed out that Milam had originally sought the city’s permission to build 241 homes on the now vacant golf course but agreed to scale back this figure in response to numerous objections from the residents of Shamrock Estates – a decades-old neighborhood that was laid out at the same time as the former recreation facility.
Moffitt added that demand for residential construction has skyrocketed since the council originally signed off on his client’s proposed subdivision.
In the meantime, he noted that the city’s own development rules have become more conducive to the sort of “cluster” development that Milam envisions on the old site of the golf course. In fact, Moffitt contended that, under Burlington’s new unified development ordinance, Milam could build some 350 townhomes on the 100-acre property if not for the zoning that he previously obtained from the council.
“So, we’re two and a half years later,” the developer’s attorney added. “We have market forces that are calling for additional residential development…and based on today’s conditions, [a plan for 219 homes] is not fully utilizing the property.”
In contrast to the veritable deluge of public comments that this project originally drew in 2018, the council heard a mere sprinkle of feedback during the public hearing on Tuesday.
Dana Stewart of Monroe-Holt Road objected to the proximity of the additional dwellings to her own home as well as the developer’s plan to take a fence out of his plans to separate the proposed subdivision from her own property. Meanwhile, a second resident inquired about the extension of water and sewer lines to residents who live near Milam’s proposed subdivision.
The council also heard from Bryan Brice, a Raleigh attorney who represents a couple of neighbors who took Milam to court after the council signed off on his original plans in 2018. Brice noted that he is in the process of refiling this lawsuit, which a judge recently tossed out over a technical oversight.
In response to the rival attorney, Moffitt conceded that the legal challenge that Brice’s clients have lodged has indeed derailed Milam’s original plans for the golf course’s redevelopment.
“His client has rung the bell on this property,” he added. “Until a judge decides those issues on its merits, it’s going to be hard to do anything.”
Rezoning of home in landing path near airport
The council will address another request on Thursday from J. Patrick Harman, who has sought the city’s permission to build a new residence next to his own childhood home along Hatchery Road.
Although the land that Harman hopes to develop has been in his family for decades, the city’s planning staff has opposed the resident’s request on the grounds that the city’s land-use plan recommends industrial development along that particular stretch of Hatchery Road.
The staff’s objections received a bit of lift last month when the administrative head of the nearby Burlington-Alamance Airport shared his own concerns about Harman’s request with the members of Burlington’s planning and zoning commission.
Dan Danieley, the executive director of the airport’s governing authority, told the planning commission that he and his colleagues are eager to keep the airspace over the Harman’s property clear in anticipation of a future extension of the facility’s runway.
Danieley added that the airport authority will eventually seek a “avignation” easement to ensure planes have an obstruction-free path as they’re coming or going. Danieley was able to further clarify these remarks when the city council held its own hearing on Harman’s request on Tuesday. The authority’s executive director said that, since his appearance before the city’s planning commission, he has asked the airport’s engineers to take a closer took at the parcel that’s currently up for rezoning
“On that particular tract,” he added, “a structure can be built up to 71 feet off the ground without interfering with our approach.”
Danieley nevertheless raised a caveat about Harman’s plan to build a new home so close to the runway’s future approach.
“He will not have that quiet and peaceful enjoyment when he moves in,” he insisted. “I want Mr. Harman to understand that he will not have a good night’s sleep.”
More apartments along St. Mark’s Church Road
The council also deferred its decision on a rezoning request that would allow developer Trey Riddle to build 205 rental apartments on 6.4 acres at 1408 St. Mark’s Church Road.
Riddle’s plans for this multi-family development prompted several members of the council to inquire about the dicey traffic conditions along St. Mark’s Church Road, which they ultimately conceded are not the developer’s fault.
The council also heard one comment from a neighboring resident about a fence that Riddle has agreed to put up between a greenway that the city has asked him to develop and some existing homes near the proposed site of his project.
Seth Hart of Berkshire Road accused the developer of reneging on his promise to construct this barrier if the city permits him to do so. Riddle insisted that he’s as committed as ever to this concession. “I will build a straight fence if the city will allow me to build a straight fence,” he assured the neighboring resident.
Rezoning for future office building near hospital draws no comment
The council heard no public comments at all on a fourth rezoning proposal that came up for a hearing on Tuesday. This item, which is slated to come back before the council on Thursday, concerns a request for office or institutional zoning on a vacant 22-acre parcel on the other side of Grand Oaks Boulevard from Alamance Regional Medical Center.