A 164-townhouse development proposed for N.C. 751 in southern Durham won the planning commission’s endorsement last week, despite the planning staff’s objections.
Southpoint Trails, north of Stagecoach Road and south of Massey Chapel Road, would go on land currently zoned Rural Residential.
The City-County Planning Commission voted 8-5 for rezoning to Low-Medium Density Residential, allowing four to eight units per acre. The developer says the project would be limited to six units per acre.
The developer intends to ask the city to annex the new community.
The planning commission also went against the staff Tuesday night on a smaller, single-family home development downtown.
On Southpoint Trails, the staff took issue with the developer claiming “multiple transportation routes,” especially a connection to the American Tobacco Trail that could provide an alternative to traffic on N.C. 751 and provide recreation opportunities. The staff concluded that a lower-density development, which would be in line with the city’s Future Land Use Map, would serve the walking and cycling trail just as well as the denser development of Southpoint Trails.
There is a bus stop 0.8 miles from the site, which the staff concluded is not standard walking distance to transit and not connected by sidewalks for the whole trip.
The staff also expressed concerns about the traffic Southpoint Trails would add to N.C. 751, especially in conjunction with the contentious, 167-acre 751 South project a mile to the north. Including Southpoint Trails, proposed projects there would bump the highway to more than 120 percent of capacity.
Kenneth Spaulding, attorney for the owner of the Southpoint Trails site, said after the commission’s decision that the development would add only 3 percent to 4 percent of that total, though. He also said the 751 South project is “languishing” without support for water and sewer service from the city of Durham.
“We’re dealing with traffic in a manner of reality rather than some remote possibility,” Spaulding said of Southpoint Trails.
Florida-based Jeff Gelman owns the property through 751 LLC.
“We were very pleased that we have satisfied the resistance to the project thus far,” Spaulding added.
Both the Trails and Southpoint and 751 South sites lie close to the congested N.C. 54-I-40 traffic corridor where Durham and Chapel Hill hope to manage heavy development pressure and roads that are already congested.
George Stanziale of Durham and Charlotte planning firm HadenStanziale, which is working with owner Gelman on the project, told the commission Tuesday evening that over the two years the project has been in the works, differences with neighbors have been hammered out through two neighborhood meetings and a public hearing in May. The developers also have held four additional onsite meetings with neighbors.
Three neighbors spoke in favor of the project, saying the developer has alleviated concerns about cut-through foot traffic to the Streets at Southpoint mall by including a 6-foot masonry wall along the border with the Kentington Heights development to the north. No neighbors spoke against the project Tuesday.
The developers have also reduced impervious surfaces on the project by more than 20 percent, Stanziale said.
Commissioner Rebecca Board, who voted against Southpoint Trails, called the proposal “immature,” adding “The applicant doesn’t really know exactly what they want to do.” She said she doesn’t want to see the scenic drive south to Jordan Lake spoiled by townhouses crowded up to N.C. 751.
The site abuts the Jordan Lake watershed on the south and west.
“What it’s really about,” said Commissioner Margaret Beechwood, “is that in this economy you have to bump up the density to make the numbers work,” adding that she wished the development team had been more honest in its approach, rather than claiming it seeks higher density to reduce suburban sprawl.
Board and Beechwood were joined by Harry C. Monds, Rebecca Winders and David Harris in voting against the project.Downtown project
The commission also supported a development of six single-family homes downtown, over staff objections that Commissioner Melvin Whitley called “alien.”
Staff members said they had hoped to see multifamily housing go in at the site, on the 700 and 800 blocks of North Street, in line with the Comprehensive Plan vision for a livelier downtown. The property sits at the edge of downtown and a section of single-family houses.
But Whitley said he views the single-family homes to be known as North Street Residential as strengthening the roots of the community there.
Bill Anderson, a real estate agent working with the property owner, said he understood the staff’s desire to add density downtown, but said the town should take the development that is proposed now for the previously blighted area.
“Right now, at that vacant lot, we’re providing zero density,” Anderson said.