Residents in a largely-rural community on the edge of Elon continued to express their concerns about a new, 129-home development being proposed on 32 acres in the midst of their quiet neighborhood.
Elon’s town council recently finalized plans for GreenHawk’s Parc Northwest, a large development on almost 58 acres with almost 400 houses, townhouses, and apartments and 50,000 square feet of commercial space.
As approved by the town council last year, Parc Northwest could have a maximum of 200 single-family dwelling units, 200 multifamily units and 100,000 square feet of non-residential space. The proposed major development plan, as submitted to the town this year and approved by the town council earlier this month, depicts the following instead: 119 single-family dwellings and 66 townhomes for a total of 185 single family (detached and attached) homes. The plan also depicts 54,500 square feet of non-residential space on the first floor of three mixed-use buildings with 200 apartments also located in those mixed-use buildings.
The newer, and smaller, follow-up project envisions 44 single family homes and 85 single-family attached homes on about 32 acres off University Drive at Shallowford Church Road.
In a meeting with neighbors late last month, GreenHawk’s representatives said the project’s
[Story continues below photo of layout for 129 single-family attached and detached homes and a site map showing the area beside University Drive and bounded by Shallowford Church Road and Cable Road.]
44 single-family homes are expected to have 2,200 to 3,100 square feet of floor space packed in a frame up to 2½ stories in height and will each be accompanied by a two-car garage. The developer also plans to build the attached single-family homes to a maximum of 2½ stories, while the some of the 60 proposed townhouses may rise to a height of three stories.
Most of the neighbors’ concerns at this week’s planning board meeting focused on the changed character they fear will result from the subdivision, with more traffic spoiling their tradition of strolling along, or in, the roadways near the new development.
One resident, Justin Culbertson, of 634 Spanish Oak Road, led off the concerns, “Over the past five years, my family has strolled through our small neighborhood loop on bicycles, skateboards, and often just our tennis shoes,” he said. In echoing themes from the evening, Culbertson said, “We’ve developed strong relationships with our neighbors through our time spent outside, many of whom are the original inhabitants of our neighborhood dating back to 1960 when the first home was built in the loop.”
[Story continues below photos of other concerned neighbors of the proposed new subdivision.]
Culbertson and other neighbors worried that their roads will become “cut-throughs” for traffic between Shallowford Church Road and Power Line Road.
The primary road through the proposed new subdivision, to be known as Parc East – a smaller adjunct to a larger subdivision being built nearby by the same developer, to be known as Parc Northwest – would connect Shallowford Church and Power Line roads.
“This connection,” Culbertson outlined, “would fundamentally change the social dynamic of our neighborhood through the introduction of an unsustainable and unsafe level of traffic on the Cable Road and Spanish Oak Road loop.”
“We commune in the middle of the street [while walking the neighborhood].”
– Marian Christian
“This connection [street to extend from shallowford church road through the new subdivision to cable road] would fundamentally change the social dynamic of our neighborhood through the introduction of an unsustainable and unsafe level of traffic on the Cable Road and Spanish Oak Road loop.”
– Justin Culbertson
The tradition of walking along the roads was central to many residents’ comments Tuesday night. “This increased traffic would eliminate my family’s, our neighbors’, and Elon students’
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ability to use our neighborhood for recreation and exercise,” Culbertson continued.
“We commune in the middle of the street [while walking the neighborhood],” was how neighbor Marian Christian described the current neighborhood atmosphere.
She and others said that the roads would be damaged by the construction equipment, although during an earlier meeting with neighbors, the developer had offered to restrict logging, grading, and clearing construction traffic initially to the Shallowford Road entrance into the site.
“Our neighborhood [roads were] not designed for that level of traffic nor [do the roads] meet the standards of roads within the town limits which are designed to support heavy loads and high volume. We are a neighborhood in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of Elon without street lights or sidewalks.”
Several neighbors suggested that the subdivision’s connection to Cable Road should be gated, or otherwise controlled, so that emergency vehicles could have access to the new subdivision via that entrance, but it would not be available for general, day-to-day traffic.
But Elon planner Mary Kathryn Harward cited Elon’s ordinance, which prohibits “closed, guarded, or gated” entrances altogether.
But residents persisted that other Elon residential communities have one way in, one way out, despite the city planning department’s purported commitment to “connectivity” between subdivisions.
Bill Mann, another neighbor, questioned who was going to pay for what he considered to be the inevitable costs associated with having more traffic on these heretofore low-traffic roads.
Mann suggested that the roads are going to be “torn up.” At a minimum, he suggested, the roads will need to be widened.
Mann and other residents began to suggest that planning board members and ultimately town council members needed to visit the area and see for themselves the road and overall conditions described by current residents.
As discussion turned from the neighbors to the planning board members themselves, planning board member Phillip Owens questioned whether the board was compelled to “vote tonight.”
“I think we’re going way too fast,” Owens summarized of the town’s, and planning board’s, deliberations about the new subdivision.
[Story continues below photo of the Elon planning board members who were present Tuesday night.]
Owens and others suggested that the planning board should have DOT representatives attend a future meeting – the next scheduled planning board meeting is May 16 – to discuss the current maintenance of the surrounding roads, all of which are state-maintained.
Planning board member John Harmon ultimately made a motion, seconded by Owens, to postpone the planning board’s consideration until its next meeting.
Planning director Lori Oakley insisted that any delay should provide some reason for a postponement.
Harmon and Owens suggested that the combination of the need for site visits by planning board members, as well as a request to hear directly from DOT about the current and future status of the roads should suffice.
With that, the planning board voted unanimously, 6-0, for the month’s postponement. Voting in favor were Harmon, Owens, and planning board members Clark Bennett, Diane Gill, Rachael Dimont, and Aliesha Leath.
Planning board chairman Jim Beasley was absent; in his absence, the board’s newly-minted vice chairman, Clark Bennett, who was elevated to the post last month, presided.
Also absent were Mark Podolle and Ralph Harwood.
As for DOT’s future participation, The Alamance News contacted Chuck Edwards, DOT’s local district engineer, midday Wednesday after the planning board’s Tuesday night meeting.
“I’m familiar with both of these projects,” Edwards acknowledged, referring to both the new project, Parc East, as well as the previously approved and larger Parc Northwest.
Edwards said he had been working with town planning department officials on the new subdivision, and he expressed a willingness to attend a future planning board meeting to talk about the status and DOT’s plans for state-maintained roads near the development.
See earlier coverage of the developer’s meeting with residents last month: https://alamancenews.com/proposed-subdivision-with-129-units-will-add-to-400-previously-okd-in-parc-northwest/