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Planning board endorses rezoning for 41-acre rental community near former BMOC

Burlington’s planning and zoning commission has agreed to endorse the zoning for a 41-acre rental community that its members were initially reluctant to recommend one way or another when they first considered the request two months ago.

While no specifics were offered during the planning and zoning commission meeting, the results of a neighborhood meeting held last month revealed that one and two-story duplexes comprising one-, two-, and three-bedroom units, with floor areas of 800 to 1,500 square feet apiece, are planned for the site.

During its latest monthly meeting on Monday, the commission voted 5 to 1 in favor of the request, which Mark Eisenbeis of Raleigh-based Old East Properties hopes to develop between Tucker Street and the grounds of the former Burlington Manufacturers’ Outlet Center.

In order to follow through with his plans, Eisenbeis has asked the city to confer high density residential zoning on the project’s 41-acre site, which presently consists of two lots designated for a medley of medium and high density residential and light industrial uses.

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Although Eisenbeis’ request doesn’t specify any details about his proposed residential development, the city’s planning commission was initially eager to know the particulars when its members first heard his proposal at the end of November. Eisenbeis confessed, at the time, that he hadn’t nailed down precisely what kind of dwelling he planned to use for his rental community.

He told the planning commission then that his project could feature anything from multifamily apartments to single family homes, although he added that whatever he puts up would be leased, rather than sold, to prospective residents.

The commission, for its part, asked the developer to finetune his plans after it heard the broad strokes of his proposal during its regularly-scheduled meeting in November. The group also expressed interest in the feedback that Eisenbeis expected to get from a neighborhood hearing, which eventually took place online on December 13.

Beth Blackmon of Timmons Engineering ultimately returned to the commission on Monday to brief the group on the results of this neighborhood meeting.

Blackmon gave the planning commission a rundown of the various issues that she and her colleagues discussed with the residents. Among other things, she touched on the potential for flooding, which she attributed to existing industrial development. Blackmon also addressed the buffers and roadwork that would be part of her client’s plans for the rental community.

“One of the improvements,” she added, “is that [the residents] will have a better road to utilize coming in.”

Contrary to the commission’s expectations, Blackmon didn’t provide any precise details about Eisenbeis’ plans for the proposed rental community. Blackmon concurred with the city’s planning staff that a workup of the project’s specifics isn’t needed for a “straight” rezoning request like the one that her client submitted.

She nevertheless assured the city’s planning commission that Eisenbeis’ plans for some form of high density residential development would serve an ideal cushion for the residential, industrial, and commercial activity that currently surrounds the project’s proposed site.

“Mr, Eisenbeis has bounced around a lot of different ideas,” Blackmon went on to add. “None of these are a done deal…[But] there is an intent by the developer not to develop garden-style apartments.”

Representatives of the Raleigh-based developer apparently offered much more in the way of project specifics during last month’s neighborhood meeting.

A synopsis of this Q&A, which was presented to the planning commission on Monday, includes a description of the proposed dwelling units that Eisenbeis and his associates shared with the meeting’s participants. According to this synopsis, the proposed development will feature one and two-story duplexes comprising one-, two-, and three-bedroom units with floor areas of 800 to 1,500 square feet apiece.

“Each house will be a duplex,” the developer’s summary proceeds to point out, “[But] the intent is to make them look like a typical single-family house.”

The synopsis goes on to acknowledge that the project’s plans make no accommodations for attached garages although space is set aside in the plans for 30 “exterior garage/storage spaces throughout the neighborhood.” The developer’s associates also reportedly clarified that none of the proposed dwelling units would be subsidized for low-income residents.

“The target demographic is young professionals, downsizers, retirees, and divorcees,” the synopsis continues. “Less children are projected for this unit type. But yes, there will be children.”

The planning commission ultimately heard comments from two people who tuned into its own online meeting conversation on Monday about Eisenbeis’ request.

Tracey Michaels, a 60-year-old lifelong resident of Burlington, objected to the prospective infusion of so many new residents into an area that she said has traditionally been given over to wilderness:

“I have been in these woods all my life,” she told the commission. “I just think it’s too many people for the area.”

Meanwhile, Tim Spears, the proprietor of a trailer dealership along Plantation Drive, raised some concerns about the project’s impact on the potential expansion of own business. Spears was ultimately satisfied with the assurances of the city’s planning staff that Eisenbeis’ development won’t affect the standards which he’ll have to meet if he expands his operations at some unspecified point in the future.

In the end, the imprecise state of Eisenbeis’ plans proved no deal breaker for most members of the city’s planning commission.

“In my personal opinion, it is a great transition piece,” member James Kirkpatrick said, echoing one of the developer’s own talking points.

“I agree with you,” Richard Parker, the commission’s chairman added, “I just hope they don’t turn around and sell it.”

Parker and Kirkpatrick were ultimately joined by Lee Roane, Ethan Raynor, and John Black in a 5-to-1 vote to recommend Eisenbeis’ request to Burlington’s city council during the online meeting held by the Zoom platform. Joan Zec Nelson cast the only vote in opposition to the commission’s endorsement.

Earlier coverage from November planning and zoning commission meeting:


Decision to expand radius for sending notices about future rezoning requests:

Planning board agrees to recommend business rezoning on Alamance Road south of interstate:

Planning board recommends rezoning for Northlawn Cemetery expansion:

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