Wednesday, May 29, 2024

114 West Elm Street
Graham, NC 27253
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Developer’s revised plan gets planning board reversal, unanimous approval


Two months ago, Graham’s planning board members were decidedly unimpressed with a developer’s proposal for 57 townhouses and 396 apartments to be built on 38 acres off East Gilbreath Street.

Most board members expressed concerns that the plan as presented was too preliminary, but the parts that could be understood showed far more density than members were comfortable to approve.

The board voted 5-0 to recommend to the city council against the project.

In August, September, and October, the city council skipped over that item on its monthly agenda, as the developer opted to seek a postponement.

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This week, the developer’s representatives were back before the planning board with a very different proposal that ultimately garnered unanimous support.  Instead of 5-0 against, the board voted 6-0 in favor.

The new plan cut by more than 60 percent the number of housing units, but also substantially changed the types of units.  In place of 57 townhouses was a smaller townhouse portion of the development, now with 46 units.

In place of 396 apartments, the developer this time around is proposing 118 single-family homes.  Back during their first meeting on the project in July, some planning board members had lamented the shortage of entry-level homes that families could afford to buy in Graham.

Gone was much of the vagueness of the original proposal although the developer’s attorney, Amanda Hodierne, pleaded for flexibility in what she repeatedly characterized as the early phases of the new plan.

Supplementing Hodierne’s pleas was the revelation that the builder for the new subdivision would be Florida-based Lennar Homes, one of the nation’s largest home builders.  The Graham subdivision will be the company’s first in Alamance County although it has numerous construction sites nearby in Hillsborough and Chapel Hill in Orange County and farther to the east, in Cary. The company has projects in 21 states across the U.S.

Brian Schwindt, Lennar’s vice president of land acquisition, was present to describe the kind of homes that the company intends to build.  He and Hodierne avoided citing any potential “price points” for the construction, although Hodierne said the homes would be “market-priced.”

The single-family homes will have three to five bedrooms, with 1,400 to 2,600 square feet and two-car garages. Lot sizes will typically be 41-feet wide, with as much as 16 feet of that width taken up with a driveway. Houses would be 10 feet apart, based on getting the waiver from the city’s usual requirement of 25 feet.

The townhouses will have 1,300 to 1,600 square feet with two- and three-bedroom options.  There will be no garages for the townhouse portion of the project, but rather a designated parking area.

Hodierne touted the fact that the residential development was considerably less dense than the earlier version that the planning board had shunned, with just 164 units, rather than the 453 in the townhouse and apartment configuration.

She also highlighted that most of the existing property is zoned for light industry and suggested that the city and residents would be more pleased by an attractive residential development than with an industry.

She suggested that the proposed development would set “a much different tone” for future development along the Gilbreath Street area, rather than the potential for trucks from a potential industrial development.


She also lauded the “more fleshed out” nature of the new proposal, knowing that planning board members had expressed irritation and frustration at the lack of specificity when the original plan was first heard in July.

Planning board members were generally very laudatory and appreciative of the changed focus of the revised plan.  They did, however, want to nail down a few of the uncertain dimensions that Hodierne had preferred to generalize.

In particular, members expressed a desire to require a dog park and playground equipment for any two of several areas that the company had labelled simply as “amenity open space.”

They also wanted to encourage a walking trail on the areas that are in the flood plain that would tie in to the sidewalks.  Board members were pleased that there were sidewalks proposed for both sides of the street throughout the development.

Lastly, the wanted to establish a requirement for trees in the front yards of the single-family homes.

They also agreed to a staff request to require a stub-out to a possible future subdivision on the northern side of the property “if feasible.”  The caveat was added when the project’s engineer pointed out that gas lines in the area could preclude being able to pave over an area where those existing gas lines run.

With those stipulations, the planning board gave its endorsement 6-0.  Voting in favor were board chairman Dean Ward and members Bobby Chin, Tony Bailey Michael Benesch, Eric Crissman, and Jerome Bias.  Absent was board vice chairman Justin Moody.

The city council is expected to take up the proposal at its November 14 meeting.

See planning board’s reaction to the initial plan (in July) for 57 townhouses and 396 apartments:

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