Council OKs zoning for expansion of Brassfield Meadows subdivision

Burlington’s city council has given its unanimous nod to a rezoning request that will enable a Greensboro-based homebuilder to construct about 150 single-family homes off of Old Glencoe Road.

The council voted 5-to-0 in favor of this request Tuesday, clearing the way for the Keystone Group to develop the proposed subdivision on some 48.39 acres near the juncture of Old Glencoe Road and Lakeside Avenue – beyond the current extent of Burlington’s northernmost limits.

Billed as a northward continuation of Keystone’s Brassfield Meadows subdivision, the site of the proposed project isn’t actually contiguous with the existing development, which Keystone took over from another homebuilder more than a decade ago.

Amanda Hodierne, an attorney for the Greensboro-based company, tried to explain this geographic oddity when she presented her client’s plans to the council on Tuesday. Hodierne observed that Keystone had purchased the expansion’s proposed site before it ever became involved in the development of Brassfield Meadows.

Attorney Amanda Hodierne

“They actually bought it back in 2004,” she recalled. “They’ve always had the intent to develop it and were holding onto it until the right time. I hope we all agree that now is the right time as we face unprecedented housing needs.”

In order to consummate its plans for this site, Keystone has sought a “limited-use” form of high-density residential zoning to replace the property’s current medium-density designation. The “limited-use” option, which is relatively new to Burlington’s zoning repertoire, allows developers to impose certain constraints on a property’s use without going through the rigorous process required for a detailed “planned development.”

Scott Wallace of Keystone Homes

In this particular case, Keystone has voluntarily curtailed what it does with the property by limiting its potential use to detached single-family homes – along with a handful of “ancillary uses,” as Hodierne characterized them. These other permitted constructions include things like parks, community gardens, a bed and breakfast, and “minor” utilities.

During her presentation on Tuesday, Hodierne tried to put the council at ease about the “high-density” aspect of her client’s request. She insisted that, with the inclusion of roads, open space, and various amenities, Keystone will realistically be able to build no more than 150 homes on the property – substantially less than the 234 that she said the current, medium-density zoning permits. Hodierne nevertheless said that Keystone has opted for the high-density designation in order to accommodate narrower lots which resemble those in the existing Brassfield Meadows development.

Before the council rendered its verdict on Keystone’s request, it heard from a small number of residents who offered some feedback on the proposed development. These speakers included Dave Janicello, a 40-year resident of a home across Old Glencoe Road from the

Dave Janicello

development’s proposed site. Janicello told the city council that this rural highway is already a lightning rod for car wrecks even without the potential infusion of additional vehicles that he foresaw with Keystone’s development.

“Old Glencoe Road is a high traffic road,” Janicello told the council. “We’ve had wrecks there at various times…and there’s going to have to be someone locking down on brakes or they’re going to have to put in a turning area on Old Glencoe Road.”

Janicello went on to share his concern that he could lose some of his property to make room for the modifications needed to accommodate the additional traffic. These fears were later echoed by Janicello’s wife Sally, who also addressed the council on Tuesday.

Sally Janicello

Meanwhile, Charlie Beasley, a one-time candidate for Burlington’s city council, pointed to a large tract along another stretch of Old Glencoe Road that the council had voted to annex earlier that evening. The former council candidate noted that this property is slated to be developed into another residential subdivision, and he inquired about the cumulative impact of all these proposed homes on the road’s traffic.

Charlie Beasley

The hazardous state of this roadway was even conceded by neighboring landowner Carl Buckland, who acknowledged that he had sold the project’s proposed site to Keystone and endorsed the company’s plans for the property.

Carl Buckland

Hodierne tried to assure the property’s neighbors that the development’s impact on existing roads will be fully addressed when her client submits his detailed plans for the project to the city’s staff-level technical review committee.

“We do have to go through many more steps subsequent to tonight if this is approved,” she added, “and that includes DOT analysis…and If we can’t do or don’t want to do [what the DOT demands], we can’t develop the property.”

Hodierne went on to dispel Janicello’s hunch that some of his property could be commandeered to make improvements along Old Glencoe Road. She insisted that the state’s transportation department is only authorized to condemn land for project’s of “regional significance.” She added that it certainly wouldn’t exercise the power of eminent domain on behalf of a private developer.

Concerns about traffic had also come up before the city’s planning and zoning commission, which nevertheless voted 5-to-2 to recommend Keystone’s request to the city council. The council was, likewise, undeterred by the current conditions along Old Glencoe Road when it issued its own ruling on Tuesday.

The council’s prevailing view was summed up by mayor pro tem Harold Owen when he made the motion to approve the homebuilder’s request.

“The opportunity [for development] to the north is welcome,” Owen declared before the council’s 5-to-0 decision. “Our growth has basically been focused to the south and to the west for a number of years now. But the city is invested in the north. We have a major reservoir and a golf course to the north. So, I welcome something like this.”

Read coverage of planning board’s deliberations on the same rezoning last month: