Published: Sep 15, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Sep 13, 2012 06:17 PM
CHAPEL HILL - The Town Council will vote a third time Sept. 24 on the Charterwood project planned for Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
The council tied 4-4 Wednesday over whether the mixed-use development meets goals in the town’s Comprehensive Plan. The council must decide that before voting on the proposed rezoning and a special-use permit.
The vote on a separate “resolution of consistency” us a new part of the review process. Planning Director J.B. Culpepper advised the council Wednesday that planning staff learned at a summer training session that a statement of consistency should be decided before rezoning requests.
State law requires local governments to make zoning decisions in accordance with a comprehensive plan. It also states the government agency must approve a statement describing whether its action is consistent and briefly explain why. Some cities have loosely interpreted the law, but an Appeals Court judge ruled in a recent case against the city of Kannapolis that the law must be strictly applied. The decision reversed the city’s rezoning decision.
Developer Bill Christian has asked the Town Council to change the current residential zoning district on three parcels to a mixed-use village district zoning. Roughly 45 percent of the land would be undeveloped, creating a minimum 50-foot buffer between the development and the Northwoods neighborhood.
The council also got a revised SUP resolution Wednesday that limits two of the buildings to a maximum height of about 70 feet; the western side of one building would be limited to 61 feet. The revisions also set the maximum number of residences at 145.
In addition, the project includes up to 72,000 square feet of retail and office space, and preserves an existing farmhouse. The developer plans to pay the town $233,000 instead of building affordable housing the town requires in new projects.
Council member Ed Harrison said it’s not the worst plan he’s seen, but it doesn’t ease his concerns either.
“I find particularly the visual impact of this development on longstanding developments to be potentially excessive,” he said. “It could have been changed. It could have been softened. The developer could have made the biggest impact on the public road … but the applicant didn’t seem to want to do that.”
It also could open the gate for developers to bring any design they want to areas along future light rail or bus lines, he said. The town doesn’t have specific transit-oriented design standards now.
Christian has pegged the 15.7-acre project just south of Weaver Dairy Road as transit-oriented. It would lie near two bus routes, sidewalks and bike lanes. Previous votes
The council first voted on the Charterwood rezoning request in June, rejecting a motion to deny it, and then approved the rezoning on a 5-4 vote. However, state rules required a second vote since the first did not get six of the council’s nine votes.
Before Wednesday night’s vote, council member Matt Czajkowski proposed asking the developer if he wanted to delay the vote, since only eight council members were present.
“My goal is just to be as fair to the applicant as possible regardless of how I feel about the special-use permit,” Czajkowski said.
Town Attorney Ralph Karpinos advised the council to make the decision, so that someone opposed to the plan couldn’t question why they only asked the developer.
Czajkowski declined to make a motion delaying the vote, which fell along the same lines as in June.
Council members Czajkowski, Laurin Easthom, Ed Harrison and Lee Storrow voted against the resolution of consistency. Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and council members Jim Ward, Penny Rich and Donna Bell voted in favor.
Council member Gene Pease was absent.