During the past two years on the city council, then-council members Jennifer Talley (now mayor) and Ricky Hall were often in a minority among the five city council members, as the two often opposed rezoning requests for new subdivisions that they felt were “too dense” compared to surrounding or nearby neighborhoods.
The council majority – mayor Jerry Peterman, mayor pro tem Chip Turner, and council member Melody Wiggins – would often approve the rezoning proposals, over Talley’s strenuous objections and both members’ dissenting votes.
Talley would often attempt to elicit support for her position by delving into the details of a particular project and comparisons with nearby areas. While the effort may have irritated her council colleagues, it apparently contributed to her electoral success in November.
In November, in addition to her own election to the mayor’s chair (over Turner), she also got reinforcements in the form of newly-elected members Bobby Chin, himself a former planning board member, and Joey Parsons, both of whom had also expressed concerns about Graham’s pace of residential growth being too fast and too concentrated in small-lot subdivisions.
Earlier this year, the council added a fifth voice of more deliberative growth, Bonnie Whitaker.
So this week’s city council hearing on a 61-unit townhouse development (reduced already from the developer’s requested 69 units at the planning board meeting last month) sandwiched on the front portion of a 14-acre lot brought out an encore of Talley’s questions and concerns. But this time, she and Hall were not alone.
Greensboro developer Will Yearns and his attorney, Amanda Hodierne, explained the proposal to build the townhouses – to be christened “Hanford Landing” – along a single road into the long, narrow acreage off Hanford Road, between the intersections with Moore Street and Monroe Holt Road.
Last month at the planning board meeting, board member Eric Crissman had elicited from Yearns an estimated price point of $300,000 for the one-, two-, and three-bedroom townhouses (with one- or two-car garages). The townhouses would be two stories high.
Hodierne couched the proposal as a plan that would bring some needed diversity – in the form of townhouses – to an area largely consisting of single-family homes. And Yearns characterized his company’s offering in other areas of the Triad as being “high-end communities.”
Hodierne said the area, off Hanford Road, was “a prime residential attractive area.”
Hodierne also tried to portray the townhouses as part of an “augmentation of housing this area,” a sort of infill project, as she described it. This is, she said, “a very small infill subdivision.”
But neighbors continued to object, even as they had last month at the planning board meeting.
The most frequently-mentioned issues raised by neighbors who spoke were those of “density” and “traffic.” And Talley indicated that those were also the issues raised to council members in correspondence (emailed and traditional) that she and other council members had received from others.
Robert “Greg” Sanders, who said he had lived in his single-family home on Hanford Road (across from the entrance to the proposed development) for 51 years, objected to the density.
Sanders used as a comparison that the 61 homes proposed for a quarter-mile long stretch of the planned new entryway into the development would translate into having 244 houses along Hanford Road – where there are a few dozen homes, many on one-acre lots.
Alvis Webster also questioned, “Do we have enough people in Alamance County to buy these homes?” Webster questioned in particular the relatively high price tag for townhouses.
But both men emphasized the difficulties already existing in travelling on Hanford Road.
Councilman Bobby Chin chimed in that putting “another 100 cars” to turn into the Hanford Landing subdivision would, indeed, add to traffic congestion.
Mostly gone from the neighbors’ complaints – voiced at last month’s planning board meeting – was the opening of what is now a stubbed out road in their neighborhood (Nina Drive) that would connect into the new subdivision.
Hodierne repeatedly noted that that connection was not sought by the developer or included in his initial submissions to the city, but had been revised to comply with Graham’s requirements for “connectivity” between subdivisions.
After about 40 minutes of going through her questions to Hodierne and Yearns, Talley concluded, “Density is too great for the area.”
Talley also sought an audience vote (by show of hands) as to how many of those present opposed the developers plans. Seven of about two dozen people in attendance raised their hands to show dissatisfaction.
As presented, all of the townhouses are on the front two-thirds of the 14-acre lot (often referred to as the “front half” of the lot). At the rear, is a forested area of five acres or so around which the developer had agreed (at the planning board meeting) to put a walking trail.
Chin said he shared the view that “density is too much,” and he questioned why “squeezing everyone in to half the acreage” was the plan, rather than using all of the 14 acres – allowing the homes to be spread out.
Hodierne noted that the developer felt that leaving the natural area at the rear of the property was an advantage, and she emphasized that the developer had already agreed to add a walking bridge over a stream that separates the developed area from that which was to remain largely natural.
But Chin, Talley and others began to question whether a better plan might be to have single-family houses (even if the same number, 61) over the entire acreage; they also suggested that one-level patio homes, or even duplexes, might be a preferable layout.
At the end over an hour’s discussion, Hodierne asked that the council vote, nonetheless, on the developer’s proposal as modified with the conditions adopted at the planning board meeting.
Ricky Hall made the motion to deny the rezoning request, which was seconded by Chin and adopted unanimously, 5-0.
Hodierne suggested that the developer may “recalibrate” by checking with his engineer to see if the full acreage could accommodate a similar number of single-family homes.
Talley assured her that the planning board would review a revised plan and the council would act on it promptly.