A brief but intense debate about building an apartment complex near Apex’s new Costco wrapped up Tuesday as the Town Council voted unanimously to approve a rezoning petition that would permit its construction.
Northview Partners, the developer of Meridian at Nichols Plaza, agreed to reduce the project’s maximum number of apartment units from 300 to 270 and to beef up its stormwater retention pond to handle more severe flooding. Those concessions were made to address resident concerns related to both runoff from the site, which is uphill from Apex Lake, and traffic along U.S. 64 and Laura Duncan Road.
Those issues were hashed out about the development at the July 11 planning board meeting, and a nearly identical group of about a dozen speakers for and against the complex returned to the council chambers Tuesday night to restate their cases in front of the town’s elected officials.
Apex resident Lisa Valdmets, who spearheaded opposition to the development by creating an online petition that accumulated nearly 900 signatures, argued that the unpredictable effects of climate change and current runoff make it dangerous to build more impermeable surfaces in the area. To illustrate that point, she and other opponents of the project brought photos of a muddy Apex Lake after Saturday’s torrential rainstorm.
“I’m not sure how much stock you can put in pictures taken after a 5-inch rainfall,” Councilman Gene Schulze said. “To me, if there’s ever an appropriate place for an apartment complex, it’s here.”
The complex, in addition to its placement on land designated for high-density housing as part of the town’s long-term land-use plan, has been praised by town officials for its proximity to the park, transit and retail.
Although the traffic analysis performed in conjunction with the developer’s proposal didn’t show the need for new traffic signals or road construction, several speakers, including some from bordering portions of Cary, said the traffic impact of 270 units in an area already known for congestion would be unacceptable.
Others, as they did at the planning board meeting, questioned the need for and desirability of apartment buildings in general. That evoked an emotional reaction from Councilwoman Denise Wilkie, who said she lived in an apartment when she first arrived in Apex and plans to retire to one eventually, too.
“I moved here 25 years ago when the population was about 5,000,” Wilkie said. “Now the population is about 45,000. It makes me sad when I hear that myself or my husband or my children would not be wanted here in Apex because we would crowd the parks.”
Jason Barron, a lawyer for Northview Partners who represents numerous projects before area town governments, noted that the project’s taxable value of about $40.5 million would make the development the town’s third-largest taxpayer.
The Town Council appeared to need little convincing, though. Even Councilman Bill Jensen, who typically hesitates to approve new residential projects, said he saw the project as a win for the town.
“I don’t like putting more living quarters in Apex, but this is the right place for apartments,” Jensen said. “This will be the last of the residential things that are going to go in here.”
However, the Town Council also unanimously approved a second rezoning petition by Northview Partners, presented by Barron, for a senior living facility on 10 acres directly northeast of the land rezoned in the earlier hearing for Meridian.
Barron noted that Apex has only 10 memory care units, or assisted living options for those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and that all of them are occupied. The proposed development would provide 30 new memory care units, in addition to 30 assisted living and 90 independent living units.
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan