In council chambers, as in math classrooms, the order of operations matters.
That’s a lesson the Apex Town Council learned at its July 19 meeting, where council members denied two petitions they later decided they wanted more time to consider.
Both cases addressed two proposed developments. In the first case, a failed motion meant the council effectively denied the development and no longer could consider it at that time.
In the second, the council denied an amendment to the town’s transportation map, which was connected to a development’s site plan. In denying the amendment, the council precluded itself from approving the site plan later in the meeting.
Some council members seemed to want to revisit their decisions, which will need to happen within the next two weeks. Otherwise, the petitions would have to be resubmitted to the town and considered anew.
The first case involved a failed motion to approve a rezoning petition from developers Peak Engineering & Design for a 2.5-acre, 13-home infill project on James Street.
Council members Wesley Moyer, Nicole Dozier and Bill Jensen voted against it because they said the development would be too small and out of character with its surroundings.
“You need an assemblage of properties to make this higher quality and better fit the neighborhood,” Jensen said.
Council members Gene Schulze and Denise Wilkie, who voted for the motion, tried to convince the three-member majority to entertain a new motion to continue discussion of the petition and allow the developer time to assemble more property and discuss a more robust buffer. They said the council couldn’t force a developer to buy more property and that relatively affordable housing near downtown is badly needed.
Town governments often vote to extend deliberations rather than deny petitions outright – at least the first time petitions are heard before the town council. Developers often return to the council with modified petitions meant to address whatever concerns were raised during the first hearing.
But town attorney Laurie Hohe told the council that a failed motion to approve the petition was, in effect, the same thing as outright denying it.
“You’ve already voted on the rezoning, so you can’t vote to continue it,” Hohe said. “You could come back with a motion to reconsider, but it would have to be (from) someone on the prevailing side.”
Later in the meeting, the town council voted by the same 3-2 margin to deny an amendment to the town’s transportation map that would designate an unbuilt portion of Reunion Creek Parkway as a “minor collector” rather than “major collector.” The designation would allow for driveways that back out onto the street, which are not allowed along major collector roads.
Some council members said they were worried a long straightaway along the road’s eventual path would encourage speeding and make backing out of driveways unsafe.
That amendment was related to the next item, though – a site plan for a second development, which Peak Engineering & Design hopes to build along Reunion Creek Parkway.
The developer had approached town staff about downgrading the road to minor collector so that the proposed site plan, which includes homes with direct driveway access to Reunion Creek Parkway, would be approvable under town code.
After hearing that orienting driveways otherwise wouldn’t be feasible, some council members appeared frustrated that they had been asked to make a decision about the transportation map before hearing more about why that request had been made.
Because the site plan included homes with driveways directly accessing Reunion Creek Parkway, which remained a major connector, the council was unable to approve it.
Town Manager Drew Havens said the items had to be presented in that order so the subdivision would have a chance of approval.
“To consider the subdivision before the transportation amendment, they would have had to deny the subdivision,” Havens said.
Olive told Moyer, Dozier and Jensen, the three-member majority that voted against the map amendment, that one of them could ask to reconsider the vote.
“We could rewind that if you will and reconsider it,” Olive said. “That would give us a path toward approving this as a site plan if you’re so inclined.”
Havens said a motion to reconsider a decision must be made at the same meeting or the meeting directly after. The July 19 meeting, the only meeting scheduled for July, was divided into two parts because of the number of development-related petitions.
The second half, scheduled for July 26, is considered part of the meeting that began July 19.
The council has until its Aug. 2 meeting to formally reconsider.
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan