Morrisville town leaders decided Tuesday, April 26, to delay a vote on development ordinances that could create higher density housing on smaller parcels of land, a change that would affect the town’s proposed town center.
The council will revisit the document in two weeks after council members disagreed on several key changes to the ordinances.
“I’d like to vote tonight, but I think people have been quiet because they were waiting to see where things settled,” Mayor Mark Stohlman said. “I know people are waiting on this decision, and I don’t take that lightly.”
Two new development types known as “pocket neighborhoods” and “bungalow courts” are being considered as part of the process to amend the town’s unified development ordinance, which was adopted in 2013.
Pocket neighborhoods are collections of closely built homes along a short street or cul de sac, often with shared green space in the middle.
Bungalow courts are also a dense group of homes, sometimes townhouses, that share a driveway.
Both concepts allow for multi-home development on smaller parcels of land, which would help increase density and make use of undeveloped land between existing development.
The proposed changes would specifically apply to land near the site of Morrisville’s proposed town center.
Councilman TJ Cawley said the town already allows these types of smaller developments and that he doesn’t think increased density is in the town’s best interest.
“I think we’re developing quickly enough,” he said. “We don’t need special provisions to encourage that.”
But Stohlman disagreed.
“We’re asking for walkability, and the town center cannot succeed with the current number of residents in that area,” Stohlman said. “We can’t expect development if we don’t put a residential footprint there.”
Councilwoman Vicki Scroggins-Johnson praised the concepts, saying they could encourage more units of affordable housing, something the town currently lacks.
Other proposed revisions include a building-height requirement near interstates and a compromise on the amount of exterior masonry the town requires from new development. Developers had requested a decrease from the town’s current requirement of 75 percent to 25 percent; the amendment would set that number at 50 percent in most cases and 25 percent for buildings that include structured parking.
The town council voted Tuesday to approve an application for a state grant that, if successful, would help pay for the town’s delayed and often debated renovations to the Morrisville Aquatic and Fitness Center.
Most of the debate has centered on the difference between the project’s most recent budget estimates and the estimates that were provided to residents who approved a $5.7 million bond in 2012 to pay for the improvements.
Councilman Michael Schlink said he considers the application as binding the town to a project that could end up being more than $2 million over budget. The town has until the fall to decide if it will accept the grant – if it is awarded – but Schlink said declining the money wouldn’t reflect well on the town. He was the only council member to vote against the application.
Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) grants match project funding up to $500,000 and are awarded by the state when available funds permit. They require applicants to stick to the substance of the plans submitted with their applications and that the resulting facility be used for recreation for the next 25 years.
The town has reviewed plans that could cost between $5.7 and $6.5 million, which would include a new indoor lap pool and renovations.
Discussion revealed Stohlman has reservations related to the three-year deadline grant recipients are given to begin work on a project funded by a PARTF grant. Ultimately, though, he voted in favor of taking action.
“People are paying taxes for this right now as well,” Stohlman said. “We have to start somewhere, and this is a good place.”
Councilman Steve Rao said he is hopeful the town would be able to secure a private partnership to help cover part of the project’s cost. A proposal to partner with the YMCA was scrapped earlier this year.
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan