Just two months after town commissioners rejected a rezoning request to allow two Raleigh developers to build up to 60 homes on a 13-acre tract of land off West Academy Street, a new town board found itself considering a new project for the property.
Wendell developer and former mayor Lucius Jones presented plans for a 48-unit senior apartment complex. If Jones moves forward with the project, he would ask the town to approve a conditional rezoning, which would give the town greater control over the development of the property.
It would also give Jones the flexibility to disregard some of the town’s development rules.
In rejecting the request last November, commissioners cited the lack of control the town board would have over the kind of development that would occur on the site because new state laws prohibit the town from setting rules on a variety of construction and appearance matters.
Jones has not formally submitted a rezoning request to the town, but he did want to run his ideas past commissioners before he invested too much money in the project.
“The property owners have tried to sell their land. They are getting older and they just want to sell it. They came to me and asked me what they could do,” Jones told commissioners Monday night.
‘Not subsidized housing’
Jones’ plans call for builders to construct the apartment complex on about 5.2 acres of the site. The remaining acreage would remained zoned as it is. Town planner Patrick Reidy told commissioners Jones plans to divide the complex evenly between one- and two-bedroom apartments.
Because the project is designated as senior living, rents would be capped and based on a tenant’s ability to pay. But Jones told board members that is not the same thing as subsidized housing. “They have to pay the full amount of their rent. They would go through income verification just like any other apartment complex requires,” Jones said.
The project would be eligible for state tax credits which would accrue to the developer, reducing his exposure in the project. The nature of the project also means the apartment complex would be rated differently for tax purposes, meaning the town would see less tax revenue that it would if a typical apartment complex were built on the site.
Jones estimates the town now receives about $3,000 per year in property tax on the vacant land. If the apartment complex is constructed, he estimated the town would receive about $17,000 in property taxes.
Relief from the rules
He is asking the town to release him from about half a dozen mostly-technical development regulations required by the town’s ordinance. At least one of those requests drew some raised eyebrows from elected officials.
Jones was seeking permission not to install sidewalks and curbs and gutters along West Academy Street in front of the project. Asked why he wanted relief from that requirement, Jones pointed out that none of the other property in the area has sidewalks or curbs and gutters. “I could build a sidewalk, but it would start nowhere and it would lead to nowhere,” Jones said.
“Well, you’ve got to start somewhere,” Mayor Ginna Gray said.
Jones said there is pent up demand in Wendell for senior living opportunities. Another senior apartment complex he constructed on Hollybrook Road, Cedar Springs, currently has a two-year waiting list of people who want to live there. Jones said Robinwood has a similar two-year waiting list.
“It’s a good selling point for families who may want to come here,” Jones told commissioners. “If they know there is a nice place nearby where their elderly parents can live when they need to, it makes Wendell look more attractive to those families.”
If commissioners were to OK the deal, they would have to write a letter to Wake County asking them to waive the county’s affordable housing policy to allow the project to go forward. That policy effectively routes tax credits to places in Wake County with lower affordable housing rates.
Ginna Gray said the issue ultimately is one of control.
“We are considering the way it is zoned now. 10,000-square-foot lots and we have no design standards control. But this is commercial. We could have some control over the designs. Is it worth that to waive the policy? I think in this limited case, it could be,” Gray said.