A proposal for a four-story apartment complex behind Apex’s new Costco received preliminary approval from the town’s planning board Tuesday night in a 4-1 vote, but only after about a dozen residents had their say.
The development’s high profile is due in part to a 840-signature online petition started by Apex resident Lisa Valdmets, who also spoke at Tuesday’s public hearing in opposition to Northview’s plan. Her concerns are primarily environmental, although many of those who joined her Tuesday to oppose the rezoning petition spoke in more general terms against the change in town character the development would represent.
“The standard of living residents have come to expect in our town and hope to maintain is fading away,” said Rhonda Riley, who lives in Apex’s Abbington neighborhood. “I love my Apex bubble, but now my bubble in Abbington is surrounded by (the recently begun Sweetwater development), and trees are coming down everywhere. It’s falling down around me.”
Northview Partners has built similar apartment communities around the Triangle, including the recently opened Meridian at Harrison Pointe in Cary. Their Apex community would bring up to 300 units, a slim majority of them one-bedroom apartments, within walking distance of a new retail complex that opened earlier this year and is anchored by a Costco.
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Planning board member Jim Mead, who cast the lone dissenting vote against the rezoning petition, had concerns related to future residents’ potentially heavy use of nearby Apex Community Park, which would be in walking distance of the apartments.
“You want more people to get out and enjoy the park, but if you turn it into an overcrowded experience, you degrade that,” Mead said. “(Northview Partners) is basically using the community nature park as an amenity for their apartment complex, and I’m still wrestling with that.”
Traffic was a more specific concern for other speakers, who complained of worsening backups at the nearby intersection of Laura Duncan Road and U.S. 64, as well as the noise impact on nearby neighborhoods that could result from more cars and fewer trees in the area.
Those voices were countered, though, by a handful of residents who said they thought the town should embrace growth and saw the proposed apartments as an intelligent way to do so.
“I love the project,” said Sarah Fowler, who lives on Laura Duncan Road near the 15-acre site. “As for everybody who’s against it, we’re very fortunate we built before they came.”
Town officials, including Mayor Lance Olive, planning staff and planning board members, have so far appeared eager to approve the project, which they said would provide affordable housing in easy walking distance from various town resources. The town’s long-term land-use plan has identified the area as well-suited for high-density development, which is what Northview Partners’ rezoning petition is requesting.
“The fact of the matter is that I can’t say, ‘I’m here, lock the door,’ ” planning board member Jim Clark said. “There’s a certain burden that comes with being the number one place to live. We can’t stop people from coming here.”
He was referring to the town being named Money magazine’s No. 1 place to live in the United States last year.
Jason Barron, a lawyer representing Northview Partners, said in his presentation to the planning board Tuesday that Apex has approved relatively few new apartment buildings during its recent years of growth. That deficit has left crucial segments of the market untapped, Barron said, specifically baby boomers and millennials.
“Detached options aren’t affordable for people entering the workforce for the first time or people moving down,” Barron said. “A gross income of $35,000 (per year) will qualify for a one-bedroom apartment in this community. We think this would be an opportune place for young teachers, firefighters or policemen.”
One reservation the town will likely address as the project moves forward is the relatively low proposed ratio of parking spaces per unit, which is currently about 1.6. The town’s standard is 2 spaces per unit, although Apex planning director Dianne Khin said the town has regularly approved ratios around 1.8.
The Town Council will discuss and vote on the rezoning petition at its July 19 meeting.
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan