Monday, November 28, 2022

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Planning board gives unanimous nod to three-story apts along Whitesell Dr.

The harsh judgment that Zimmer Development received from Burlington’s planning and zoning commission this week wasn’t extended to another developer with plans for an apartment complex on the city’s west side.

The commission’s members ultimately conferred their unanimous nod to this other multifamily proposal, which Asheboro-based Lucas Contractors hopes to develop near the juncture of Whitesell Drive and Huffman Mill Road.

Unlike Zimmer’s proposed project, which was submitted as a lavishly detailed planned development, Lucas had sought a much more open-ended form of “limited-use” zoning for the 16.63-acre lot that it intends to develop. The company has asked the city to replace the property’s current medium density residential zoning with a general business version of the limited-use designation. It has, moreover, added the self-imposed constraint that the future land use must be restricted to multi-family housing.

During the planning commission’s latest meeting on Monday, Darren Lucas of Lucas Contractors was hard pressed to give the commission’s members a more precise vision of his company’s plans for this site.

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“We’re just trying to rezone this to get the apartments built, and we know that we’ll have to come back and draw up a site plan,” he told the group. “We do a good product and everybody usually loves us…and what we’ll do will be extra nice.”

Lucas went on to inform the commission that he and his brother Brian, who runs Lucas Contractors, typically construct three-story buildings that contain 24 dwelling units apiece.

He acknowledged that he isn’t sure how many of these structures will fit on the proposed site, although he added that the maximum density allowed in a general business zone will be 20 apartments per acre.

Lucas told the commission that his company plans to develop “luxury A-style” apartments along Whitesell Drive that he pledged would be “just as good as townhouses.” His assurances nevertheless failed to win over a couple of neighboring property owners who were on hand to share their concerns with the commission.

Joe Routh, a homeowner along Whitesell Drive, was especially worried about the impact the proposed new apartments would have on his sparsely-developed neighborhood on the outskirts of Burlington’s municipal limits. Routh fretted over the possibility that Whitesell Drive will have to be widened to accommodate the proposed apartments, and he elicited a pledge from city officials that he’ll still be able to use his well and septic system rather than the city’s water and sewer system.

Routh also inquired about the setbacks and vegetative cover that the developer will be required to put between the new apartments and his own single-family home.

“I don’t want to wake up in the morning and see some apartments across from my deck,” he told the planning commission. “It’s going to bring a whole lot more traffic into that road, and we’d also like to have some privacy there.”

The planning commission also fielded some additional questions from Ray Combs and Elizabeth Coble of the Alamance Region Antique Automobile Club, whose headquarters are parked near the development’s proposed site.

The requested zoning nevertheless received an all-clear from the city’s planning director. The planning commission consequently voted 5-to-0 to recommend the proposal to Burlington’s city council for a final decision next month.

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