The Town Council on Tuesday, July 5, voted to deny two rezoning requests for subdivisions, one for a proposed 26-home subdivision and one for a development that might have contained as many as 700 units.
The council voted unanimously to deny the rezoning for the Lawson Creek proposal, which could have meant 650-700 new units on nearly 150 acres south of Buffaloe Road, east of Old Crews Road and west of Lucas Road.
The council voted 4-1 to deny the rezoning for Whitley Ridge, the smaller development north of I-495 and east of Rider Drive. Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Chalk cast the dissenting vote.
The Land Use Review Board had voted unanimously to recommend against approval of the Lawson Creek rezoning and the town staff recommendation was to deny it. The LURB voted unanimously in favor of approving the Whitley Ridge rezoning but the town staff had recommended against approval.
The town staff found that both plans did not fit with some guidelines in the town’s comprehensive plan, including promoting a “sense of place,” preserving the local character of the town and promoting a mix of uses that reflect and build on the town’s character.
LURB OK’d Whitley Ridge
The LURB forwarded a statement about the Whitley Ridge plan’s consistency with the comprehensive plan that reads in part: “By designing a subdivision that does not seek to maximize density and includes open space that greatly exceeds the (Unified Development Ordinance’s) minimum requirements, the proposed development of the subject property strikes an excellent balance between rural and urban Knightdale.”
The Whitley Ridge plan called for only one house per acre, while the Lawson Creek plan called for a mix of densities in its proposed uses, including multi-unit town homes.
Before the vote, council member Mark Swan asked senior planner Jason Brown, who presented both items to the council, what would happen next on the Whitley Ridge property if the rezoning was not approved. “What’s the alternative?” Swan asked. “If not this, is something else being submitted there?”
Brown said the applicant could request a rehearing or reapply for a rezoning after a one-year waiting period.
Swan said in a telephone interview after the meeting that he wasn’t comfortable that the plan would follow the town’s plan for development set out in the comprehensive plan. “I was confident at the end I had to trust the town staff,” he said.
Council member Dustin Tripp said recent changes at the state level have meant that in rezoning decisions the council is now deciding on projects much earlier in the process, which has created a challenge.
“We didn’t feel comfortable with the amount of information we saw on the (Whitley Ridge) project, at least in my opinion,” Tripp said. He said the council is working on how it will handle rezoning decisions under the change.
Swan also referred to the changes, saying that he’s seeing a lot of exceptions to town code in recent projects. “I feel like the process is still in transition,” he said.
Summit Design, the applicant for the Lawson Creek rezoning, requested a change from Neighborhood Mixed Use, Urban Residential-12, and General Residential-8, which is designed to foster suburban-type development, to Neighborhood Mixed-Use Planned Residential Development, Urban Residential-12 Planned Residential Development and General Residential-8 Planned Residential Development.
Eastwind Development was the applicant for the Whitley Ridge rezoning, and it requested a change from from General Residential-8, Special Highway Overlay District to General Residential-8 Planned Residential Development, Special Highway Overlay District.
Members of the public had spoken out against Lawson Creek at public hearings, citing concerns about a small cemetery on the property and runoff into a stream on the property. No one from the public spoke for or against Whitley Ridge.
Matt Goad: 919-829-4826