Thursday, August 11, 2022

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Large Elon development with homes on small lots draws neighborhood opposition at town council meeting

Plan also features apts. above first-floor retail space

Elon’s town council spent most of a 4-hour meeting Monday night considering a major new multi-use project on about 58 acres at the corner of University Drive and Shallowford Church Road.

During a 2½-hour public hearing on the project, the council heard from the developer and his team of engineers as they sought to portray the project as a unique and needed response to a “real dire housing shortage throughout North Carolina,” in the words of Jeremy Medlin, president of Green Hawk Developers, the company proposing the new developments.

[Story continues below layout of the development.]

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Opponents, many from the adjacent neighborhood of Cable Square, focused on what they characterized as the high density of the neighborhood and what they considered to be the inevitable consequence of the project: traffic congestion. The project would contribute to the college town losing its “small town charm,” according to Peggy Teague.

Under the project, there would be 200 apartments to be located above approximately 100,000 square feet of commercial buildings on the first floors in three- or four-story buildings.

An example provided by the developer of the type of apartments over retail that is envisioned for Parc Northwest.

Another 200 homes – some as townhouses, others as single-family homes – would also be located in the project. There did not appear to be as much specificity, as is more common in such presentations, about the exact number of houses, townhouses, or apartments to be built.

The developer’s materials referred to a “maximum of 80” townhomes (on 3.99 acres), and a “maximum of 130” detached homes (on 14.48 acres), which adds up to 10 more units than the ostensible maximum of 200 total homes portrayed in parts of the developer’s materials.

Similarly, confusion resulted from the fact that various slides and materials presented a maximum of 150 apartments, while others indicated 200. The developer said the higher number should be assumed. The plans show 100,000 square feet of commercial space, above which the apartments would be built.

[Story continues below photograph of the council chambers during Monday night’s public hearing on the proposed Parc Northwest project.]

Green Hawk president Jeremy Medlin is on far left of front row, landscape Tony Tate is next to him. The council chambers was filled to capacity Monday night during the public hearing on the project, dubbed Parc Northwest.

The rezoning would expand the “village center” zoning at the corner of Shallowford Church Road and University Drive from its present size of 9.9 acres to 19.7 acres, while the townhouses and single-family homes would be built on the remaining 18-20 acres; another almost 19 acres is assumed to remain as open space, according to the developer’s plans.

Medlin described his company’s efforts as trying “to cultivate something complementary for Elon.” Medlin described the residences as offering “multiple sizes” with “multiple price points.”
In an interview with The Alamance News after the meeting, Medlin elaborated that he expected the townhouses and single-family homes to range between $285,000 (for townhouses) and $500,000 for the single-family homes.

Another unique aspect of the project is a plan to have private trash collection, rather than using the town’s garbage collection. The layout for the townhouses and single-family homes has 27-foot wide streets, which would be public, but some 20-foot alleyways that would be private.

Leading much of the opposition were Adam and Kristen Trzonkowski. Kristen Trzonkowski cautioned the council that the conditional zoning approach being used for the new mixed-use development is an “untested tool for the town to use.”

Husband Adam Trzonkowski focused on the density of the new development and the likely traffic consequences. “Huge traffic issues” will result, he said.

[Story continues below photographs of speakers during the public hearing.]


Adam Trzonkowski, a resident of the neighboring Cable Square community, organized much of the opposition to the new project, repeatedly highlighting the project’s high density.
Josh Trotter, a 19-year teacher worried about the impact of the subdivision on capacity and over-capacity schools.
Joe Alexander told councilmen he had lived many places across the U.S., but had never seen a subdivision as densely crowded as that being proposed in Elon.
Jamilah McConnell worried about the long-term effects from the development, particularly if there’s a downturn into recession.
Kristen Trzonkowski cautioned the council that the conditional zoning approach being used for the new mixed-use development is an “untested tool for the town to use.”
Burlington resident Mackenzie Brown said the new project would be “overall a mess.”
Pat Hall lives right beside the new proposed development. While the developer reduced the height of one of the buildings, from four stories to three, beside her, she remained opposed to the project.
Peggy Teague lamented the loss of Elon’s “small town charm.” She also cautioned the town council to slow the pace of its consideration. “I’m not against development,” she said, “but I do want you to slow down.”
Burlington resident Reid Cardwell also expressed concerns about the project’s impact on the area.
Sammerah Quawasmy worried that the new project would end up “being student housing in some way.”

Adam Trzonkowski also suggested, as did some other speakers, that the residential portions of the development would likely attract Elon University students, who would have convenient access to the university, just across University Drive from the development.

“I don’t see families and senior citizens making their homes here,” Adam Trzonkowski told the council.

Josh Trotter, a 19-year veteran teacher, also raised the question “how this project will impact schools” in the area. He said Western Middle School is “overcrowded” and Western High School is “at capacity.”

Another Cable Square resident, Peggy Teague, urged the council to “slow down and do their due diligence” on the project. “I’m not against development,” Teague told the councilmen, “but I do want you to slow down.”

Parking was of particular concern to several councilmen. “Where are everybody’s cars going to go?” asked councilman Monti Allison. “How are you going to fit cars in?” questioned councilman Randy Orwig.

The developer and his team explained that all parking would be on the premises of the homes, most of which are on long, narrow lots.

Some of the lots are 90-feet deep, it was explained, which would allow residents to park in the rear. The developer assured that there would be no on-street parking.

Also, some parking could be under the approximately eight mixed-use buildings, it was noted.

Because the alleyways in the rear would be privately owned and maintained, the municipality’s trash trucks would not traverse the development, it was explained, although several councilmen and speakers wondered whether the town would be expected to take over trash collection if somehow the private collection system failed, or stopped for some reason.

Resident Joe Alexander voiced the concern that in several locations across the country where he had lived, he’d “never seen a development as dense” as the proposed one, which envisions as little as three feet from the property line, thus six feet between houses.

After about 2½ hours of public hearing, mayor Emily Sharpe characterized the proposal as “probably the most controversial rezoning we’ve faced.”

The council will resume consideration at its next meeting, scheduled for July 12 at 6:00 p.m.

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