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Elon’s town council postpones its review of developer’s pitch to remove road barrier

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Elon’s elected leaders have thrown an additional hurdle before a residential developer who wants the town to take down a roadblock that’s keeping him from using one of town’s municipal streets as an entrance into a new subdivision within the town limits of Gibsonville.

Elon’s town council had been scheduled to hear from developer Matt Kirkpatrick on Monday about his plan to extend Elon’s Aspen Avenue, whose paving currently stops short of the Gibsonville border, onto the grounds of his Owen Park subdivision. As a prerequisite to this plan, Kirkpatrick has also petitioned the town to dismantle a roadblock that presently prevents construction traffic from barreling past Owen Avenue’s dead end to reach his development.

[Story continues below photos.]

Developer Matt Kirkpatrick and his attorney, Amanda Hodierne, confer during Monday night’s Elon town council meeting.
Elon’s town council during Monday night meeting.

Rather than entertain the developer’s proposal that evening, the council resolved to table the matter until Kirkpatrick meets with the residents of Elon’s Ashley Woods subdivision, which lies on the other side of Owen Park’s proposed entrance.

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In the meantime, the council has declared its intention to hold a public hearing on Kirkpatrick’s request – a move that Elon’s mayor Emily Sharpe had strongly encouraged despite vigorous objections from the developer’s attorney.

Elon mayor Emily Sharpe, who does not have a vote on the council (except in cases of a tie), urged the council to conduct a public hearing on the proposal to reopen Aspen Avenue into the neighboring Gibsonville development.

“I think we should have a public hearing,” Sharpe went on to explain after the council had accepted her recommendation, “and the reason is that, when we first shut [Aspen Avenue] down [to construction traffic] we had a room full of residents…and the information we received from the developer was different from what we heard from the residents.”

The council’s decision to open this matter to the general public is merely the latest twist in Kirkpatrick’s ongoing struggle to provide his new subdivision with a permanent outlet along Aspen Avenue into Elon.

Although the Owen Park subdivision is located entirely within Gibsonville’s limits, Kirkpatrick’s need for adequate road access has compelled him to seek Elon’s permission to extend Aspen Drive past its current terminus within Ashely Woods.

The developer’s dealings with Elon actually began on an auspicious note when he successfully obtained a driveway permit from the town’s municipal staff just over two years ago. Elon’s town council nevertheless reversed this decision in April of 2022 after its members discovered that heavy equipment had been rumbling across the unimproved right of way beyond Aspen Avenue.

Elon’s leaders would eventually go on to erect a barricade along Aspen Avenue to ensure that additional construction traffic wouldn’t sneak onto Owen Park’s site using that route. Even so, Kirkpatrick has remained wedded to his long-term ambition to transform this dead-end road into a permanent entrance for Owen Park.

Last fall, Kirkpatrick inadvertently kicked up a firestorm when he intimated this plan to one of Ashley Woods’ residents. This casual remark ultimately drew some two dozen homeowners to a meeting of Elon’s town council, whose members were somewhat taken aback by the hue and cry since, at the time, Kirkpatrick had taken no additional steps to have Aspen Avenue reopened to traffic.

The other shoe nevertheless made its ineluctable descent in late March, when Amanda Hodierne, a Greensboro-based lawyer in Kirkpatrick’s employ submitted a formal request to have Aspen Avenue reopened now that the construction of Owen Park has entered its final phase.

In deference to Hodierne’s request, this item was added to the agenda for the town council’s latest semimonthly meeting on Monday. But the promise of a full and fair hearing that evening began to unravel mere moments after Elon’s mayor called the council’s proceedings to order.

Before plunging into Monday’s agenda, Sharpe took a moment to remind the rest of the council about a confab that she and some of the town’s administrators had with Kirkpatrick on December 8. The mayor recalled that, during this meeting, the town’s representatives laid down the ground rules for Aspen Avenue’s reopening, including a neighborhood meeting with the residents of Ashley Woods.

During Monday’s council meeting, Sharpe asked Kirkpatrick point blank if he had conducted this gathering. The developer confessed that he hadn’t.

“If that didn’t occur,” Sharpe added sternly, “we will entertain a motion…to table the request until the community meeting is held – and until we hold a public hearing [about the request].”

Sharpe’s proposal drew a speedy objection from Hodierne, who observed that a public hearing isn’t sine qua non under state law for a proposed street reopening.

“We can hold a public hearing whether it’s required or not,” Sharpe retorted.

“Under what authority?” the developer’s attorney replied.

“We have the authority,” the mayor fired back.

With that, the council voted 5-to-0 to table Kirkpatrick’s request before Kirkpatrick and his attorney quietly slipped out of the council’s meeting chamber. The council’s decision also cleared the room of the nearly two dozen residents who were on hand for this agenda item – the vast majority of whom had indicated that they were opposed to Aspen Avenue’s proposed extension.

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