QUESTION: Why were lot size requirements for Gibsonville’s upcoming Owen Park development reduced after the town’s board of aldermen approved R-15 zoning last year?
ANSWER: Though not an issue often put before the town, an ordinance approved by the board of aldermen in 2004 is what ultimately allowed Raleigh developer Matt Kirkpatrick to shrink lot sizes on the upcoming 130-home development Owen Park, which will back up to the Ashley Woods neighborhood.
The 16-year-old ordinance states that if a development contains a substantial amount of unusable space — in Kirkpatrick’s case, a nearly 27-acre swath of wetlands — the developer can build the same number of lots as they would have if all of the land had been usable.
With that, Kirkpatrick will still be able to build the 130 lots that he would have under the R-15 zoning that the board of aldermen approved for the entire property in April 2019, but those lots can now be sized to what town staff termed “RS-9 standards.”
“The objective of the cluster option is to place the houses in a development closer together and on smaller lots than would normally be permitted by the zoning district in which the development is located, and to place land which would otherwise have been included in private lots into public dedication or common area,” the ordinance states.
The smallest lot sizes will now be 9,680 square feet, according to the developer’s preliminary site plan, which was approved by the aldermen in a unanimous vote on December 7. Lots of at least 10,500 square feet are planned to back up to the Ashley Woods neighborhood on Owen Park’s east side, while lots of at least 15,000 square feet will border the neighborhood to the south.
The site plan also shows four roadway connections through the existing neighborhood: Ashley Woods, Brookview, and Driftwood drives, and Aspen Avenue.
As for the 27 acres of unused space in the development’s northern portion, Kirkpatrick told the aldermen this month that the area will become an open field for residents, with trails being constructed later. That field, he said, will be maintained by a future homeowners association.
In addition to the field, the developer said, there are plans for a small shelter with fire pits for residents to use.
As of this month, the site plan was approved with little discussion among members of the board of aldermen and no comments from the public.
The relative quiet of this latest meeting stands in stark contrast to the time between January and April 2019 when scores of residents repeatedly poured into town hall to urge the town’s planning board, then its board of aldermen, not to approve Kirkpatrick’s plans for any lot sizes under 15,000 square feet.
By the time the aldermen approved the developer’s all R-15 plan that April, Kirkpatrick had submitted two unsuccessful rezoning requests for higher density development.
A primary argument from the residents at the time was that Owen Park’s lot sizes should be compatible with the existing neighborhood, which is zoned as R-15.