Troutman Planning and Zoning Board votes against development rezoning request
BY DEBBIE PAGE
The proposed rezoning of nearly 91 acres near the intersection of Hoover and Perry roads met with strong opposition from neighbors at Thursday night’s Troutman Planning and Zoning Board meeting.
The property, owned by Bruce and Catherine Murdock, is being sought by LGI Homes for a 220-home development. Representative Evan Mooney said that the plan calls for 30 percent open space, pocket parks, and trails which would not be gated and woul be open to the community.
The Murdock/LGI rezoning request asked that the property be rezoned to Mixed Residential with no conditions, a zoning that could legally allow up to 12 units per acre. If the LGI development fell through and another developer brought the property, over 1,000 multi-family residences could be built on the property since the LGI zoning request contained no conditions prohibiting it.
Mooney also said the N.C. Department of Transportation plans to mandate improvements to access points to the proposed neighborhood to improve safety, but the specifics have not yet been determined.
The surrounding area is mostly undeveloped with lowdensity residential homes. However, the 2035 Future Land Use Plan has the area moving to Medium Density Residential.
Opponents lined up to speak against the project durin Thursday's meeting.
John Dulin, a close neighbor, asked the board to leave the zoning as Suburban Residential, which only allows two homes per acre. He cited severe impacts on traffic on already dangerous intersections and narrow roads not built for this volume of traffic.
Dulin wants Troutman to maintain its identity, not become a clone of Huntersville or Cornelius where they “are throwing up houses left and right," he said. "We need to be something different, a place that’s better and more desirable to live.”
Citing the beauty of the property, Dulin suggested the town buy the property for a second park and build a connector trail to ESC Park to expand the town’s recreational offerings.
Barry Lippard, the owner of over seven acres of adjoining land, believes the development would negatively impact him and other neighbors. Lippard also asserted that the development sketch showed little thought about improving the community’s road frontage and intersection concerns.
“You have to pray to the good Lord to get out now,” said Lippard.
Community member Jim McNiff questioned the need for more homes in the $175,000 to $250,000 price range, though no one present would state the new homes’ planned values.
McNiff had a “philosophical issue” with the project, worrying that Troutman is creating a mass of homes in this price range and sacrificing housing diversity that appeals to a wider variety of socio-economic levels.
McNiff asked if the town was tracking new home prices to maintain “proportionality,” to which Town Planner Erika Martin indicated that it was not.
McNiff urged the board to look at allowing a wide spectrum of home values, which “would be more attractive in the long-term."
"We are reaching a tipping point where we have too many eggs in one basket,” he said.
Board member and local realtor Mike Todd shared McNiff’s concerns, saying the town needed to consider whether having 2,500 homes that are essentially the same product is in its best interest.
Karen Davies also expressed her concern about increased traffic issues, saying that they had already had to move their driveway entrance because of current dangers. She asked if the town or developers planned to add stoplights or reduce speeds to mitigate safety concerns.
As a sheep and cattle owner, Davies also questioned whether new neighbors would register complaints about odors from her already established farm, which has been in her family for generations.
Neighbor Alan Hales worried about the development’s effect on traffic and schools as well as police and fire resources for 220 more homes. “This is a change we’re not ready to take on right now.”
“My wife and I built a haven in the country, we thought, which is part of our retirement plan. I hate to see my property value go down,” added Hales.
After the public comment period ended, board member Randy Farmer pointed out the rezoning request to a higher-density Mixed Residential zoning did not follow the 2035 Plan’s recommendation for medium-density housing. He also pointed out the danger of approving the request without conditional restrictions on the possible 12 units per acre allowed under Mixed Residential zoning.
After discussion of traffic and access roads, Farmer made a motion to reject the LGI request and send a rejection recommendation to the Town Council, which passed unanimously. In response to a neighbor’s query, Martin pointed out that the Town Council could possibly still overrule the Planning and Zoning Board and approve the request at its September meeting.
BIKE AND PEDESTRIAN MASTER PLAN
The Town of Troutman requires the development of a network of greenways and bike paths to connect parks, schools, cultural sites, and neighborhoods to encourage health and provide transportation alternatives.
However, Martin said three different plans, the Troutman Pedestrian Plan, the Carolina Thread Trail, and the Lake Norman Bicycle Route, cover 38 miles of proposed bicycle and pedestrian trails and greenways with some redundancies that need thought and organization.
Martin proposed to the board that a steering committee be formed, composed of one or two planning board members, one or two Parks and Recreation Committee Members, one or two Town Council members, and three or four citizens.
This committee would look comprehensively at all routes, delete duplicate routes that lack community value, and designate specific routes as pedestrian, bike, or shared use. The committee would also determine priority miles and set “horizon” dates for completion.
The committee would also engage the public with a 30-day comment period to get its input in developing a final bicycle-pedestrian master plan for Troutman.
The committee would also update the Unified Development Ordinance to “require mandatory dedication of right-of-way on all projects, construction for designated priority routes, and leave construction optional for other routes of importance.”
Todd thought the steering committee idea was a good idea to “make sense of it. We don’t want trails leading to nowhere.”
Board member Kenneth Reid pointed out that cyclists come to Troutman from Charlotte and other areas, “so anything that would enhance that would be great.”
The board voted unanimously to appoint Karen Van Vliet and Reid to the proposed steering committee.
NEW BOARD MEMBERS
The board unanimously chose Louis Weeks for consideration by the Town Council for the open inside alternate seat on the board.
Frank Whiting announced that he must soon resign from the board since he is moving outside of town limits. Steve Rimmer’s term will also be up in September.
The board decided to allow time for additional nominations before recommending candidates to fill these two slots next month, even though the board had three other planning board applications.
Farmer raised concerns about public perception of conflicts of interest with two of the other three board applicants being realtors since one realtor, Todd, already sits on the board.
The other candidate was recently made a voting member on the Parks and Recreation Committee since submitting her application to this board, so there was concern that she might reconsider her candidacy for a planning board spot.