A divided Town Council voted Aug. 2 to allow office buildings at the western corner of Chapel Ridge and Olive Chapel roads, departing from both the town’s land-use map and the recommendations of Apex’s planning officials.
The town’s long-term plan for the 8.7-acre parcel says it is suited for medium-density housing, but those who voted in favor of the rezoning petition questioned that distinction, given a potential oversupply of homes in Apex relative to its need for office space.
Council members Bill Jensen, Wesley Moyer and Denise Wilkie voted in favor of the rezoning, with Mayor pro tem Nicole Dozier and Councilman Gene Schulze opposing it. Jensen wavered but ultimately voted for the rezoning. He said the town needs more offices and that the proposal’s incompatibility with other nearby uses will soon be rectified by the growth he said is imminent in the area.
“We just need more or less what they’re proposing in that area – professional-type offices,” Jensen said. “I truly do think this is a decent fit. But is it a good fit for today? Or would it be a better fit for tomorrow? Maybe it’s a little early.”
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Multiple buildings are planned for the site, each capped at two stories and 15,000 square feet.
The planning board and staff recommendations against the rezoning were unanimous. Both hinged on the request’s inconsistency with the town’s 2030 land-use plan and the residential character of the land’s surroundings. Planning staff explained that it “does not support the proposed change to the 2030 Future Land Use Map in that office development would not offer an adequate transition from either the north or the west.”
But Jensen and Moyer both argued that the land’s proximity to U.S. 64 and N.C. 540, in addition to the cut-through scheduled to connect Chapel Ridge Road to Beaver Creek Commons, will contribute to a substantial change in character for the area in coming years. Another office development, the 540 Flex & Business Park, is directly west of the land rezoned Tuesday.
Wilkie first asked that the petition be referred back to the town’s planning committee. She said she worried the town would be sending mixed messages to developers by denying the petition. The lawyer representing the Gasiorowski family, which owns the land, said the family first came to the town proposing medium-density housing but were told such a project might not be approved.
“(Developers) often ask us what council would support there,” Apex Planning Director Dianne Khin said. “We might have recommended office, because at the time, council wanted office.”
Residents at the Aug. 2 meeting, including Ken Bunn, said the petition amounted to “spot rezoning,” which is defined as the rezoning of a small parcel surrounded by uniform areas of non-compatible zoning. While not illegal, such circumstances raise the standards a given rezoning petition must meet to pass muster, Bunn said.
After the vote, Bunn said he and his neighbors plan to file a legal challenge to the petition, which they will argue does not meet the higher standards required to justify what the planning department generally considers poor planning practice.
“We’ve told (developers) if you can get the whole neighborhood instead of doing it piecemeal, that’d be better for the neighborhood,” planner Amanda Bunce said, referring to her department’s recommendation that the rezoning petition be denied.
Jensen said he is aware legal action is a possibility, but said he “wouldn’t have voted for (the petition) if I thought we had less than a 50-50 chance of being OK.”
Bunn also asked after the meeting whether Moyer’s relationship with the Gasiorowski family affected the councilman’s support for the project.
“We are concerned that Wes Moyer’s close personal relationship with the applicant clouded his judgment,” Bunn said in an email. “He did not seem to consider the overwhelming opposition and opinions of others, including the mayor and mayor pro tem, in his vote to support (the rezoning).”
Moyer said he knows the family but did not characterize his relationship with them as particularly close. He said it had no bearing on his vote. He said his support was based instead on his assessment of the future of the Olive Chapel Road corridor and the proposal’s potential to provide office space in convenient proximity to several major housing and retail developments.
“I am closer with the families in the Chapel Ridge subdivision than I am with the Gasiorowskis,” said Moyer, who once lived in Chapel Ridge in the house Bunn now occupies. “I went to school with one of the Gasiorowskis, but growing up in Apex, you went to school with just about everybody.”
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the current status of the 540 Flex & Business Park. Though not yet entirely complete, the development is mostly open for business.
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan