Sometimes you have to lose to win.
At a developer’s request, the Clayton Planning Board recommended denial of a 72-unit apartment complex on U.S. 70 Business. With some creative maneuvering, the decision gives Rea Ventures one month to fix a number conflicts with Clayton code before the town council hears the project May 1.
The proposed apartment complex, Abbington Forest, would be built just west of the under-construction Stallings Mill development and next door to WakeMed medical park. It will cater to lower-income residents.
Rea Ventures, , a prolific apartment developer in the Southeast, is under a tight deadline, saying it needs approval by May in order to apply for state tax credits for affordable housing. Those tax credits are part of the financing plan for the project.
The town planning board, and reluctantly the planning department, seem willing to meet that deadline, putting forth a scenario in which town staff and the developer will work out issues over the next month. The goal is to hammer out something that’s up to code by the time it reaches the town council.
Planning director David DeYoung said the timing is irregular and could be a strain on his department, but doable.
“The question at hand is are we in a place where we want to start jumping through hoops on project because of a deadline put on us by an applicant?” DeYoung said about the project’s timing going forward.
Typically when a project gets the endorsement of the planning board, more than a month passes before the Clayton Town Council votes the project into existence or sends it back to the drawing board. Now, Abbington Forest will have one week between the planning board’s April meeting and the council’s first May meeting. DeYoung said the town doesn’t usually operate this way and that former town councilman and current planning board member Bob Ahlert had fussed at him years ago for doing such a thing on a previous project.
DeYoung, though, said the project is close. “Our concern is getting the plans to the stage where we feel comfortable recommending approval, and I think we can get there,” he said. “I don’t think we’re that far from recommending approval.”
Abbington Forest would be a 72-unit apartment complex, with three three-story apartment buildings and a separate clubhouse. The development would be built on a little less than five acres of land, accessed by U.S. 70 Business and backing up to a small stream. Each of the three buildings would have landscaping features and open areas developers say could be used as open space.
The project needs a special-use permit to build in office/institutional zoning, but town staff don’t have a problem with that because Abbington Forest would be just a few hundred feet from Stallings Mill, another apartment complex. But DeYoung and his staff do have qualms with some of the smaller details, including a mail kiosk, the location of dumpsters and a landscaping/storm water conflict.
Sean Brady of Rea Ventures said the postmaster had signed off on the mail kiosk, and he said his company could easily resolve the dumpster issue. But Brady pushed back on the utility conflict.
“We’re talking about private, underground storm-water conveyance pipes, and the landscaping with which it’s conflicting is shallow-rooted shrubs, not deep-rooted trees,” he said. “The interference and the conflict is not with public infrastructure, it’s private infrastructure, it’s privately maintained. The burden is on the owner of this project to maintain that.”
The developer and planning board didn’t argue the point further and will presumably iron out the differences before the board takes the project up again at its April meeting.