Thursday, June 30, 2022

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Planning board seeks delay in 41-acre residential project near former BMOC

Burlington’s planning and zoning commission has postponed its decision on a rezoning request that, if approved, would allow a high-density residential development to go up on 41 acres just north of Interstate-85/40.

The commission’s members chose to put off their discussion until December to give the project’s would-be developer, Mark Eisenbeis of Raleigh-based Old East Properties, a chance to share his plans with residents who live near the development’s site. Eisenbeis also promised to flesh out the details of his original rezoning request, which had simply called for high density residential use across the entire tract, which extends from Tucker Street to Plantation drive and is presently split among medium and high density residential and industrial uses.

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During an online, or “virtual,” meeting last Monday, Eisenbeis agreed to return to the planning commission with a “conditional” version of his rezoning request after the group’s members raised some concerns about the project’s potential impact on neighbors. Eisenbeis added that his current inclination is to set up a newfangled form of rental community on this tract, which he conceded he and his colleagues had spent months contemplating before they filed their original rezoning request.

“We looked at any number of uses from industrial to self-storage to various kinds of residential, including townhomes, apartments, and single-family detached,” “We know there is a severe housing shortage,” he added. “What we are really settling in on is a built to rent option – so each unit would be detached for single family uses…but they would be smaller units so they’d be more affordable.”

Eisenbeis insisted that this residential development would be less onerous for neighbors than the aforementioned self-storage proposal. He added that he expects the dwellings themselves to attract younger millennials and divorcées in addition to a smattering of elderly residents.

Eisenbeis conceded that the details of the project have yet to be nailed down. He added, however, that he’ll have a better idea of the development’s particulars after a neighborhood meeting that he hopes to conduct next month.

Beth Blackmon with the Timmons Group, a Raleigh-based civil engineering firm in Eisenbeis’s employ, told the city’s planning commission, that her client has already given some thought about this project’s potential impact on neighbors as well as its own future residents.

“This zoning district would provide good flexibility for whatever the end user may be,” she added. “It would provide a good transition from the existing single family that’s on one side of this development and the businesses and industrial development that are on the other side.”
Blackmon’s assertion got no argument from commission member James Kirkpatrick, who acknowledged that his grandmother once lived in a nearby development.

“I think what your proposing is outstanding,” he added. “It’s the perfect transition.”

The reaction of the project’s actual neighbors nevertheless posed a conundrum for the commission’s vice chairman, John Black, who proposed that he and his colleagues postpone their vote in order to facilitate the developer’s plans to meet with the neighbors.

“We can sit here and make plans,” Black went on to declare. “But when you get to the neighbors, all the questions come out.”

Black’s misgivings were heightened when the commission’s members heard from Tucker Street resident Korie Jordan Thornton, who weighed in on the rezoning request during last Monday’s meeting. Thornton inquired specifically about the location of the proposed development’s entrances, which Eisenbeis admitted would empty out onto Tucker Street – a prospect that didn’t sit easily with either Thornton or her husband, who chimed in as well.

In the end, the planning commission voted 7-to-0 to resume their discussion at the end of December – at which point, they presumed, Eisenbeis would have had enough time to hold his proposed neighborhood meeting.

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