Burlington’s planning and zoning commission has endorsed a developer’s proposal for 205 rental apartments along St. Mark’s Church Road.
The commission’s members voted 7-to-0 in favor of these apartments after the project’s would-be developer Trey Riddle went over his plans during the group’s latest regularly-scheduled meeting on Monday. Riddle told the commission’s members that he hopes to build the proposed rental units on 6.84 acres at 1408 St. Mark’s Church Road. He added that this project strikes him as an ideal addition to the neighborhood, where commercial development is increasingly bumping up against residential land use.
“I view the subject property as a place maker for the entire area,” he told the commission’s members. “The project itself will act as a stream between the residential uses to the north and the commercial uses to the south.”
According to the developer’s plans for this project, the proposed apartments would be stacked in buildings up to four-stories high – with most of the units surrounding an interior courtyard with a swimming pool and other amenities.
In order to facilitate the proposed project, Riddle has asked the city to reclassify its proposed site from medium density residential use to a planned development district. The proposed designation is one that was recently introduced under Burlington’s new Unified Development Ordinance in order to encourage developers to propose high-quality projects that require more flexibility than is otherwise permitted under the city’s development rules.
In this case, Riddle has asked the city for some latitude in its usual requirements for building size, street setbacks, and building height. In exchange, the developer has promised to garnish its project with enhanced landscaping, interior traffic improvements such as a loop road, and greenways leading to nearby shopping centers and parks. Riddle told the commission that he has even agreed to set up a bus stop in response to a request from city officials.
Although the city’s land use plans envisions a regional commercial development on the site of the proposed apartments, the city’s planning staff has nevertheless endorsed the request based on its compatibility with neighboring land-uses and the high quality of the developer’s plans.
Riddle told the commission that his plans for this project were also generally well received during a neighborhood meeting that he convened on February 9. Riddle added that, during this meeting, he offered to raise a fence between the existing residences and the greenway, which the neighborhood’s residents saw as more of a “safety hazard” than an amenity for their own use.
The commission’s members ultimately heard from a number of neighboring residents prior to Monday night’s vote.
Charlotte Fitzgerald, a 44-year resident of Willow Oak Drive, raised some concerns that the proposed apartments would “overwhelm” her own sleepy neighborhood. Fitzgerald also asked Riddle to confirm the proposed height of the apartment buildings. The developer conceded that his plans call for buildings of up to four stories, although he stressed that the structures visible from Fitzgerald’s home would stand no more than three stories tall.
Riddle also field several questions from other residents of Willow Oak Drive. He was able to reassure homeowner Jonathan Mann that Willow Oak Drive will remain a dead-end road after the proposed apartments have been constructed. He was nevertheless put on the defensive by Brian Wagner, who argued that four-story apartments are closer to commercial development than most other residential projects. Meanwhile, Riddle’s boast that he’d build a bus stop seemed to dismay Willow Oak resident Gay Henshaw, who recalled no mention of this feature during the neighborhood meeting on February 9.
The commission also heard from Lisa Boze and Donna Campbell of Berkshire Road, which like Willow Oak Drive, is slated to remain a dead-end street after the proposed apartments are built.
Mike Nunn, the city’s planning and transportation director, was also able to assure Boze that the city could erect a sign at the entrance to Berkshire Road to inform motorists of the street’s lack of outlet. Nunn also described the turn lanes and other traffic improvements that Riddle has agreed to construct as part of his project.
“We have enough apartments out here. We have had nothing but more things built and more traffic on this road…for 40 years…I’m just terribly disturbed that yet one more time we’re being infringed upon.” – Lenora Saunders, St. Mark’s Church Road resident
Lenora Saunders of St. Mark’s Church Road complained that she never received notice of the neighborhood meeting on February 9. Saunders said that she would’ve welcomed the opportunity to vent her own objections to the proposed apartments.
“We have enough apartments out here,” she went on to tell the planning commission. “We have had nothing but more things built and more traffic on this road…for 40 years…I’m just terribly disturbed that yet one more time we’re being infringed upon.”
Ryan Kirk, a member of the planning commission, urged the group’s members to continue hammering at the traffic issues along St. Mark’s Church Road regardless of what happens with Riddle’s proposal. But the project drew nothing but kind words from James Kirkpatrick, who made the motion to recommend the rezoning request to Burlington’s city council.
“There is something that is going to go there,” Kirkpatrick told the developer, “and your flexibility is refreshing.”
The commission went on to approve Kirkpatrick’s motion unanimously.
See other planning commission recommendations from Feb. 22 meeting:
Planning commission closely divided, 4-3, in recommending residential rezoning for home near Burlington Alamance Regional Airport: https://alamancenews.com/planning-commission-endorses-residential-rezoning-near-airport-4-3-over-staff-objection/
Planning commission recommends office rezoning near ARMC: https://alamancenews.com/burlingtons-planning-commission-gives-go-ahead-recommendation-for-205-apts-along-st-marks-church-road/