Friday, June 14, 2024

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Planning board member: Mebane has too many apartments; planning board votes down project that proposed to add 320 more


Planning board member Kurt Pearson thinks Mebane has enough apartments.  In fact, too many already.

So Monday night, he led the charge on the city’s planning board to deny a proposed project off Mebane Oaks Road that would add 320 more plus 96 single-family homes.

The four, four-story buildings sandwiched between the Walmart shopping center and Agape Baptist Church along Mebane Oaks Road south of I-85/40 could have rents above $1,500, according to the developer, Frank Ford.

But the high price tag didn’t persuade Pearson that the project would be a plus for the city.

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“What do local residents get out of [the project]? Nothing, or very little,” Pearson said in answering his own rhetorical question.

“This is not the kind of development we want or need,” Pearson concluded in making the motion to deny recommendation for the requested rezoning for the project.

Pearson’s motion passed 5-2.  Voting with Pearson to deny rezoning were planning board chairman Edward Tulauskas, vice chairman Judy Taylor, William Chapman, and Keith Hoover.  In favor were David Scott and the newest planning board member, Colin Cannell, who was attending his first meeting as a member Monday night. Planning board members Gale Pettiford and Susan Semonite were absent.

The two planning board members who supported the subdivision, and voted against recommending denial, were the board’s newest member, Colin Cannell (left), and David Scott (right).

Pearson has campaigned against a number of previous apartment complexes, arguing that the housing mix in the city is becoming increasingly weighted toward apartments.

Figures presented by the planning staff indicated that the approximate distribution throughout the city is 70 percent single-family (which includes townhouses) and 30 percent multi-family.

“I don’t think we need that many apartments,” said Pearson.

Pearson renewed his suggestion that the city do a study to determine how many apartments would be appropriate for a city Mebane’s size, which development director Ashley Ownbey said is now estimated to be right around 20,000 people.

“We [referring to both the planning board and the city council] have the authority to decide how we want to grow,” Pearson said.

Pearson also lamented the number of proposed developments that come before the planning board requesting various “waivers” of some of the city’s building requirements.

“They need us more than we need them,” he summarized of the pending project.

In the case of the latest proposal, Pearson took aim at the failure to provide the minimum required open space.

That deficiency also drew fire from Judy Taylor, the board’s vice chairman. When the developer’s attorney, Amanda Hodierne, tried to recap the “concentrated and focused amenity package,” Taylor said, “There’s still eight acres missing.”

Under the city’s development requirements, as outlined by Ownbey, the developer is required to provide 11.83 acres of public recreation space, 5.51 acres of private recreation space, and 7.34 acres of open space.

Instead, the developer proposed to provide 1.77 acres of private recreation and 7.08 acres of open space; then the developer proposes to ask the city to accept the dedication of a  7.43 acre lot for future development in lieu of the required public recreation space and remaining private recreation and open space requirements.

Alamance News publisher Tom Boney, Jr. questioned whether the developer had actually volunteered the land donation, or whether city officials had solicited it.

The developer also wanted a waiver on the 50-foot height (requesting 60 feet instead) of the apartment buildings.  Attorney Hodierne described the taller height as included among the waivers in order to provide “flexibility” for the architect and his design as a precaution in order to ensure the four-story buildings would meet the city’s standards.

Meanwhile ten neighbors expressed concerns to the planning board during an hour-long comment period that followed the developer’s presentation and preceded the planning board’s vote.  [See separate story in this edition.]

Despite the planning board’s negative recommendation, the proposal will go before the city council at its next meeting, on August 7. The planning board’s action is advisory; the city council will make the final decision on whether to approve the rezoning request.

Asked after the meeting if his opposition was in any way influenced by his profession as a realtor, Pearson said no, that wasn’t a part of his calculation.

See description of the proposed subdivision from last week’s (July 13) edition of The Alamance News:

Read neighbors’ concerns as voiced at this week’s planning board meeting:

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