The Apex Town Council tabled a rezoning decision on West Village, which would bring 450 housing units and commercial development to 163 acres, following vocal opposition from nearby residents.
The McAdams Company has submitted a rezoning petition for the land bisected by Kelly Road, near Old U.S. 1 and N.C. 540. The developer plans to use 34 percent of that land for exclusively commercial development, a figure above the 30 percent minimum allocation the council is currently considering. A majority of the housing would be townhomes.
The proposal, discussed at the May 17 council meeting, game just a few weeks after the town discussed a study predicting mixed-use development near the intersection.
But the development’s size and density in relation to nearby properties inspired close to a dozen people to speak for and against the development at a public hearing May 17 that lasted nearly two hours.
The planning board unanimously had recommended approving the petition in its May 9 meeting, but the council elected to continue the public hearing until its July 19 meeting to give the developer and those affected by the proposal time to work toward a compromise.
Jason Barron, the lawyer representing McAdams at May 17’s public forum, was given an opportunity to respond to the residents’ statements but did not agree to any immediate changes to the conditions of the petition.
Mayor pro tem Nicole Dozier said she is hopeful that continued conversation could yield a compromise by July 19 – almost a year to the day since McAdams called the first neighborhood meeting concerning the development.
Residents of the adjacent Westwinds neighborhood, which contains up-market homes on lots between 1 and 3 acres along Southwinds Run, said it would be “untenable” to have the abrupt shift in density and home value occur under West Village’s 3.5-unit-per-residential-acre proposal. The petition requests the land, currently zoned for rural residential use, be rezoned for commercial and medium/high-density residential development. In documents provided as part of McAdams’ proposal, home prices are estimated to fall between $175,000 and the mid-to-upper $400,000 range.
Council members expressed various degrees of concern about these discrepancies and other factors, which include potential environmental impact and a perceived lack of responsiveness on the part of the developer to concessions requested by Westwinds residents. A resident who read an 11-item list of those requests said McAdams had agreed to one of them – a 30-foot opaque buffer between Westwinds and West Village in place of the required 10-foot one.
Chief among those demands have been calls for a more substantial buffer and an increase in lot size, especially for homes that border Westwinds. Councilman Gene Schulze said he agrees with residents that the development’s focus on townhomes should be reconsidered.
“You do want some transition between those larger lots and commercial (property), but this was too intense,” Schulze said.
Apex Mayor Lance Olive said he sees the merits of the residents’ concerns. But of the town’s elected officials, he appeared to view the proposal most favorably. Citing the town’s need for affordable housing and the inevitability of development along that corridor, Olive said he found the developer’s vision promising and in line with what the town anticipates being in the area.
Several council members said they worry about the town’s inability to guarantee the commercial side of the project. The stalled Veridea project, for example, promised a similar ratio of commercial property but has had trouble securing tenants for the 1,000-acre mixed-use development south of town. But Olive said he had conversations with developers indicating substantial interest in the West Village site.
“Even though there’s no guarantee from the developer, there are people working to develop that space next to the main roads,” Olive said. “There’s demand all over the place, and I think you’ll see things follow through.”
Those who spoke in favor of the project included landowners who would be selling property needed for the development, but also residents of the semi-rural area who said they’d be grateful to have retail in shorter driving distance. The development could also pay to bring water and sewer infrastructure to the area. Councilwoman Denise Wilkie, an advocate for market-driven development in Apex, said it was hard to imagine a scenario in which land along such a crucial interchange could remain untouched.
“There were people complaining about the growth and the trees being cut down,” she said. “I told them I don’t have a problem with that: Growth brings opportunity. You get better parks, better schools. All that happens when you get more development.”
The land is included in Apex’s extra-territorial jurisdiction but is not within its town limits. If the developer is granted permission to begin construction, it would likely apply for annexation.
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan