Mordecai plan called too big

Neighbors fear impact of traffic

Staff WriterMay 3, 2006 

— Plans for 54 townhouses on a quiet street in the Mordecai neighborhood are too big, say residents, who have stuck signs in their front yards protesting the project.

Residents in the neighborhood, which is just north of downtown, are opposing a proposal to rezone 4.14 acres on Courtland Drive just north of its intersection with Mordecai Drive. A vacant 40,000-square-foot industrial building sits on the property.

About half of the land is zoned for industrial uses, where office and retail space isn't limited and homes aren't allowed. The other half allows for 21 homes and no office or commercial space.

A rezoning request would allow for as many as 62 units. As part of the request, the developer promises to limit it to 54 on the entire tract. No office or commercial space would be permitted.

A Planning Commission committee endorsed the rezoning Tuesday. The commission will consider it Tuesday. It has until July 27 to make a recommendation to the City Council, though the time can be extended.

"It's a good location, and I think we need to encourage uses like this," said Settle Dockery of York Ventures.

Residents worry that the townhouses would create traffic congestion in a close-knit neighborhood with narrow streets, dogs and young children. Black-and-white signs call for "No R-15," the rezoning category, and urge "Preserve Mordecai." About 250 residents have signed a petition against the rezoning.

"I just think putting up a large-scale housing complex is pretty insulting to the existing neighborhood, the whole feeling we have here," said Matt Vooris, drummer for the band SMNMNMN. He has rented a bungalow across from the property with his new wife for about two months.

The two-bedroom townhouses would likely sell for about $225,000. The project will be nearly identical to townhouses that the company has built on St. Mary's Street and is building off Whitaker Mill Road, Dockery said.

Judging from the traffic that goes in and out of the St. Mary's project, Dockery said traffic from the townhouses will not have a major neighborhood impact.

Neighbors disagree. The property is in a curve on narrow Courtland Drive, where it can be tricky for drivers to see what is ahead.

Donald Mertrud, co-chairman of the zoning committee for the Mordecai Citizens Advisory Council, said the project will only stress the neighborhood's already over-stressed streets.

Staff writer Sarah Lindenfeld Hall can be reached at 829-8983 or

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