New form of zoning – for “limited” uses – makes debut at monthly planning board meeting
Burlington’s planning and zoning commission has endorsed a relatively new form of zoning to accommodate a residential developer’s plans to expand an existing subdivision on the city’s north side.
The commission’s members ultimately voted 5 to 2 in favor of this request for “limited” high density residential use, which the Keystone Group has submitted for a 48.39-acre swath of land off of Old Glencoe Road. The Greensboro-based developer has requested this change from the property’s current medium-density designation in order to expand the Brassfield Meadows subdivision, which lies due south of the site under consideration.
Unlike conventional zoning changes, which allow any in a range of uses that the city permits in a particular zone, the limited use option has allowed Keystone to restrict its plans for this property to a short list of potential activities. The company’s rezoning request explicitly states that these uses would be limited to “detached” single family homes, a “community garden,” a public or private park, a bed and breakfast, a “small” wireless facility, and “minor” utility improvements.
Conrad Olmedo, the city’s planning manager, told the commission that the city introduced “limited use” rezoning in January of this year in order to give developers some middle ground between the freedom of a conventional zoning and the precision of a master plan.
Amanda Hodierne, a real estate attorney in Keystone’s employ, told the city’s planning commission that the “limited use” option has provided her client with the means to develop a project which it has long had aspirations to build along Old Glencoe Road.
Hodierne recalled that Keystone originally picked up Brassfield Meadows from another developer, whose own work on the project had ground to a halt.
“Keystone has owned this property since 2004,” she added, “and this was an opportunity for us to provide a much more tailored request for what we want to do.
“Everything else is off the table,” Hodierne stressed. “This is not a multi-family request. This is not townhomes. This is not patio homes, bungalows or mobile homes.”
Hodierne noted that Keystone could hypothetically build up to 7 units an acre under the requested high-density zoning. She added, however, that the actual density will be far lower once features like stream banks and open space have been factored out of the equation.
150 single-family homes could be built on 48-acre site
“We’ve done several feasibility studies and layout sketches on this site,” she said, “and we’re looking at no more than 150 units…which comes out to less than three units an acre – and that is less than is allowed in your MDR zoning district.”
Scott Wallace, a partner in the Keystone Group, told the commission that high density residential zoning would allow him to develop lots with 60 foot widths similar to the existing sections of Brassfield Meadows instead of minimum 75-foot widths that are mandated in a medium density district.
“We have invested in Burlington for some time,” Wallace added, “and we are excited about doing quality communities in Burlington going forward.”
The city’s planning department received nine sets of written comments about Keystone’s plans prior to the planning commission’s meeting on Monday.
These submissions included a missive from Renee Wilson of 1427 Lakeside Avenue, who bemoaned the prospective encroachment of high-density housing into her rural, pastoral neighborhood. A similar sentiment was voiced in another letter from Kelly Moyer of 425 Old Glencoe Road.
“I moved to this area due to the quiet nature of this property. I also love the fact that there is not much foot traffic and the wooded area beside and behind my house is like living in the country.
“If this rezoning project takes place, this entire atmosphere…will change. I hope you will take into consideration the fact that current residents have lived here for a reason.” – Old Glencoe Road resident Kelly Moyer
“I moved to this area due to the quiet nature of this property,” Moyer recalled in her letter. “I also love the fact that there is not much foot traffic and the wooded area beside and behind my house is like living in the country.
“We’re very concerned about how this will affect our quality of life. We’ve been here three years and we’re completely surrounded by forest now.
“It’s going to be much louder. There’s going to be more traffic, and I imagine there’s going to be more foot traffic as well.” – Jennifer garrison, another Old Glencoe Road resident near the proposed subdivision
“If this rezoning project takes place,” she added, “this entire atmosphere…will change. I hope you will take into consideration the fact that current residents have lived here for a reason.”
Moyer’s fears were echoed by Jennifer Garrison of 570 Old Glencoe Road, who shared her misgiving verbally with the commission on Monday. Garrison noted that her home is physically surrounded by the property that Keystone intends to develop.
“We’re very concerned about how this will affect our quality of life,” she told the commission. “We’ve been here three years and we’re completely surrounded by forest now.
“It’s going to be much louder,” she added. “There’s going to be more traffic, and I imagine there’s going to be more foot traffic as well.”
Wallace assured Garrison that his current plans call for no road connections near her property and no “meaningful” development to the east of her home.
Meanwhile, Tasha Burnette of 410 West Old Glencoe Road objected that her neighborhood currently has a much different ambiance than the existing sections of Brassfield Meadows.
“Even if they change everything,” she added, “the traffic and everything is going to be worse.”
Keystone’s request also generated several concerns for the commission’s own members.
Ryan Kirk asked whether Keystone had any other options that would allow narrower lots while retaining other features of medium density zoning. Olmedo insisted that there really were no other alternatives occupying the middle ground between conventional zoning and a master-planned subdivision.
Joan Zec Nelson asked what Keystone would do about the homes that would be swallowed up within the proposed expansion. Hodierne stressed that the city would require a 20-foot perimeter buffer between the new lots and any existing, lower density development.
Meanwhile, Richard Parker, the commission’s chairman, observed that the previous sections of Brassfield Meadow received the city’s permission to defer their compliance with the city’s stormwater management rules.
“That’s the first subdivision that I’ve seen since I’ve been on planning and zoning that got a deferral,” Parker recalled.
The planning department’s staff ultimately endorsed this “limited” request on the part of the residential developer.
“The proposed zoning is consistent with [Burlington’s] future land use map and complements existing residential uses in the surrounding area,” the staff noted in a report that was presented to the commission.
The commission, for its part, voted 5-to-2 to endorse Keystone’s request to Burlington’s city council. The request was supported by John Black, James Kirkpatrick, Richard Parker, Ethan Raynor, and Lee Roane. Ryan Kirk and Joan Zac Nelson voted against the request.
Self-storage on Trail Two
The commission also voted 5-to-2 to endorse a “limited use” form of business zoning for a 3.19 acre parcel at the end of Trail Two.
Alan Lee Brown, the owner of this property, told the commission that he has requested this restricted variety of zoning in order to set up a mini-storage facility on this parcel. Brown insisted that the project’s proposed site, which is presently zoned for medium-density residential use, would be ill suited for any sort of residential development because it is boxed in between the interstate and the end of Trail Two.
“I also think that a nicely done mini-storage would be a real asset to that area,” he added.
Brown’s request drew some objections from members of a nearby American Legion post who addressed the commission on Monday.
In the end, Richard Parker and Joan Zac Nelson voted against Brown’s proposed change, which John Black, Ryan Kirk, James Kirkpatrick, Ethan Raynor, and Lee Roane voted to endorse to the council.
Return to in-person meetings
The commission’s meeting on Monday took place over the Zoom teleconferencing platform as a holdover from the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Before it adjourned for the evening, the group’s members voted unanimously to resume in-person meetings, which are now to take place in the downstairs conference room of Burlington’s city hall.