A developer seeking to build 158 apartments in Conover has withdrawn its rezoning application and plans to rethink its plans due to outcry from a neighboring neighborhood and concerns raised by members of the planning council.
Woodlawn Baptist Church has submitted a rezoning application to allow developer Redwood Living to build a one-story apartment complex on land off Thornburg Drive, south of Interstate 40. The developer plans to purchase the property from the church if rezoning is approved. .
Redwood’s plan, submitted with the rezoning application, called for a network of roads lined with buildings of five to eight rental apartments, each with a driveway and a two-car garage. The 40-acre property is adjacent to the northern end of the L’Echo Park neighborhood. The nearest road would be 25 feet from several houses in L’Echo Park.
Locals didn’t like the idea.
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On Tuesday, the Conover Planning Board met to consider the rezoning application that would change the vacant property from a single-family residential neighborhood to a conditional neighborhood allowing for higher-density development. About 75 people attended the meeting and about 25 spoke, all but one against the rezoning.
“We just don’t want that to happen”
Many at Tuesday’s meeting expressed concerns about the proximity of neighboring homes, the possibility of entry to the complex through the L’Echo Park neighborhood, increased traffic on Thornburg Drive, environmental impact of development and the impact on schools.
A speaker, Allison Lafone, summed up the group’s sentiment.
“Take a look around,” she said, gesturing at the crowd that filled the meeting room and poured into the lobby. “Look at the community we have, everyone is there to support something. We just don’t want that to happen. Period.”
Prior to the meeting, Warner Lawrence rallied others to register to voice their concerns as well. He spoke first at the public hearing
Lawrence said he was concerned about the drainage of the development. He feared that the runoff would end up in L’Echo Park.
“It’s a lot of asphalt and a lot of roofs going into a drainage ditch,” he said. “I don’t think they’ve done their research on drainage.”
Paul Holden, whose home is closest to the potential development, said he was worried about seeing lights from the road and buildings outside his back door. When he bought the house, he only expected more single-family homes to be built on the Woodlawn property.
“When someone is going to buy a house expecting only single family homes to be back there – looking to rezone to dense zoning like this … I don’t think that would be prudent,” said Holden said.
Other stakeholders expressed similar concerns. Several said that when they bought their house, they expected nearby development, but not apartments.
The plans called for 25 feet of vegetative buffer around the development, which is not required by Conover rules, said Conover planning director Erik Schlichting.
Holden and others have also raised concerns about increased traffic on Thornburg Drive. An entrance to the complex was planned directly across from Shuford Elementary School.
“You are putting these children and families at risk at this entry point,” Holden said.
Many speakers raised the same concern, as did several members of the planning board. Council member Sherman Powell asked if there were any plans to put a traffic light at the intersection.
Redwood Living director of acquisitions Rad Schneider said the North Carolina Department of Transportation didn’t say a traffic light was needed. A traffic study was also not necessary, he said.
Board member Zan Thompson said he wanted to see a traffic study completed, along with preliminary plans for grading the property and possible drainage.
Thompson, who said he lives in L’Echo Park, expressed many concerns about the development. He asked Schneider if Redwood would consider moving the development’s first intersection further away from the entrance on Thornburg Drive, if the development could be rearranged so that a road is not curb behind the homes in L’Echo Park and if the buildings could be modified so that the roof lines were not all at the same level.
Thompson also said he wanted to make sure no entrances or exits would be built by L’Echo Park. Schlichting recommended if the development is approved, possibly entrances to the neighborhood should be sealed off.
Schneider said Redwood was ready to make some changes. The planning meeting could not proceed for these changes to be made due to city bylaws, Schlichting said.
Instead, Redwood and Woodlawn Baptist had to withdraw the rezoning request and resubmit it with new plans. There is no waiting period before an application can be resubmitted, Schlichting said.
After approximately two hours of public comment and discussion, Schneider withdrew the application and said Redwood intended to resubmit new plans and more information for the planning board.
L’Echo Park resident Ben Payseur, who has worked hard to let neighbors and the community know about the rezoning, said he did not expect the plans to be withdrawn, but that he was satisfied with the result. He also plans to stay informed about the next request.