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Council approves two sets of apts. in east Burlington near Walmart


Burlington’s city council has agreed to let a pair of developers establish multi-family projects on two separate parcels in the city’s east end that were once part of the Fairchild Airport.

The council figuratively cleared both ventures for a landing on Tuesday when it unanimously approved two rezoning requests that will enable the would-be developers of both projects to proceed with their respective plans.

The first request that the council accepted that evening will allow Charlotte-based Fitch Irick to build 56 apartments on 4.4-acres at 2002 North Mebane Street. This parcel, which sits at the northern edge of the former Fairchild Airport, is currently located across Mebane Street from the Walmart supercenter in east Burlington.

Meanwhile, a second request from Richard Angino with Winston-Salem-based Third Wave Housing will permit another 190 units to go up on some 17.5 acres at 804 South Graham-Hopedale Road. This property, which was also once part of the defunct airport’s grounds, is situated across the Graham-Hopedale Road from Burlington’s Fairchild Park, which owes its name to the same former airport.

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Both of these projects had come to the council in the form of requests for “limited use” general business zoning in lieu of the light industrial designations that were previously attached to both parcels.

A relatively new addition to Burlington’s planning and zoning toolkit, the limited use option enables landowners to pare down the list of allowable uses for a particular zone in order to make their requests more palatable to city officials.

In Angino’s case, the enormous catalog of activities permitted in a general business zone have been reduced to just multi-family dwellings and “other” retail uses. Meanwhile, Fitch Irick has submitted a somewhat more voluminous list of potential uses that includes catering establishments, coffee shops, restaurants – including those with drive-thrus and outdoor seating – and large format retail, in addition to multifamily dwellings and “other” retail.

Under Burlington’s development rules, a landowner who submits a limited-use zoning request isn’t obligated to provide any details about their plans beyond the self-imposed limitations they propose to the council. Both Angino and his counterparts from Fitch Irick were nevertheless willing to share some project specific details when their requests came before the city’s planning and zoning commission last month. The city council, however, didn’t insist on having this same information rehashed for its benefit on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the open questions about the nature of the proposed apartments drew a few words of caution from former city council member Celo Faucette.

“We’ve done so much to revitalize east Burlington, and we need affordable housing in Burlington,” Faucette conceded during a public hearing that preceded the council’s decisions. “I know the applicants haven’t decided how they’re going to charge rent on these things. But if the apartment complexes are going to devalue property in that area, I think we need to look twice at it.

In response to Faucette’s caveat, council member Kathy Hykes encouraged Fitch Irick’s representatives to develop their Burlington project along the same lines as a set of apartments in South Carolina that’s profiled on the company’s website.

The council went on to approve both of the rezoning requests by a unanimous vote of 5-to-0.

Read earlier coverage of the planning board’s discussion on:

Mebane Street project across from Walmart and Graham-Hopedale Road project:

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