Last updated: March 19. 2014 4:28PM - 1121 Views
By - tjoyce@civitasmedia.com



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Citizens can weigh in tonight on rezoning proposals tied to the fate of two separate apartment complexes eyed for Mount Airy, during public hearings before the city commissioners.


And participation in at least one of those hearings could be heavy, based on citizen concerns expressed during a February planning board meeting where the apartment projects were discussed, and reports this week from one of the neighborhoods involved.


The hearings will be held during a meeting of the commissioners which begins at 7 p.m. at the Municipal Building, giving citizens the chance to speak against, or in favor, of the requested zoning changes. Later in the meeting, city officials will consider action on both issues.


Up to now, the proposed Stonebrooke Terrace development, a 60-unit complex targeted for the 800 block of South Franklin Road, has drawn the most scrutiny of the two — including from the Mount Airy Planning Board. On Feb. 24, it unanimously rejected the related rezoning request to accommodate the project.


That group declined to recommend a change of zoning from R-20 (single-family residential) to a conditional-use R-6 classification that would permit its general residential (including multi-family) use at the apartment site. The 60 units would be spread out into 15 quadruplexes on an 11-acre tract that is behind property on the west side of South Franklin Road facing the State Employees Credit Union.


The site is not in the city limits, but within an ETJ (extra-territorial jurisdiction) boundary where Mount Airy has zoning control.


Neighboring property owners have expressed concern about the project’s impact on their quality of life, including increased traffic, adverse effects on wildlife and other conditions that could result from the apartment complex.


One person who lives near the site said Wednesday that the proposed development has aroused the populace of the South Franklin Road area as well as others in nearby communities who are concerned about the increased traffic.


About 15 citizens attended a “courtesy hearing” at the February planning board meeting, which culminated with the board voting 6-0 to not recommend the rezoning. Members were of the belief that the apartments might negatively impact surrounding properties, as well as significantly increase vehicular flow, by an additional 400 trips per day based on estimates.


Planning board members also were concerned about the spot-zoning associated with the move, referring to a condition that occurs when a small area of land or section in an existing neighborhood is singled out and placed in a different zone from that of adjacent properties.


The makeup of the South Franklin Road area is predominantly single-family residential.


However, findings of fact listed with the zoning proposal and the issuance of a conditional-use permit now before the commissioners — the subject of tonight’s hearing — state that the apartment project represents an eligible conditional use for the property.


They further state that the applicant for the rezoning has agreed to abide by use limitations to prevent the complex from materially endangering public health or safety, and lessening the value of nearby properties.


The proposed development would increase the improvement value of the parcel eyed for rezoning by $7 million, city documents state.


After the planning board declined to support the rezoning request, the Charlotte firm seeking to develop the apartments, The Flatiron Group Inc., exercised its option to take the matter to the board of commissioners, which is not bound by planning board decisions.


The commissioners learned at their last meeting that they had no choice but to schedule tonight’s public hearing.


In the meantime, residents of the area have become even more mobilized in their opposition, according to neighborhood reports.


The property sought for rezoning is now owned by Ricky Shelton of Cana, Va.


Senior Apartments

The other public hearing scheduled at tonight’s council meeting affects plans for a 56-unit, three-story apartment complex geared toward senior citizens proposed for property at 502 Factory St.


Wesley Community Development Corp. in Huntersville has an option to buy a 5.8-acre site there, now owned by Alvin Eckenrod, where it hopes to build the Lovills Glen Senior Apartments to serve persons 55 and older.


Some concern was expressed by nearby property owners at the same planning board meeting in February in which the apartments in the South Franklin Road area were discussed.


But unlike that project, the planning board did vote to recommend the rezoning of the Factory Street site from from its present M-1 (industrial) classification to the R-6 general residential zone that permits multi-family use.


One consolation to neighbors noted at the planning board meeting was that the senior apartment complex would be much less disruptive than a factory or similar entity that could be located at the site now.


City planners also point out that the rezoning request is consistent with adjacent uses, which includes properties on the east and south sides of the 5.8-acre tract presently having R-6 zoning.


In addition to the rezoning hearings during tonight’s commissioners meeting, a general public forum is scheduled during which citizens may speak on any municipal government topic.


Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

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