BY DEBBIE PAGE
With a final vote expected at Thursday night’s Troutman Town Council meeting, Matt Prince of TPA Group and Austin Watts of Kimley-Horn participated in a forum requested by council members to respond to questions and concerns about the proposed Troutman Logistics Project.
The 159-acre site for a proposed 1.7-million-square-foot speculative distribution center was turned down by the Troutman Planning and Zoning Board in October after intense community opposition related to traffic concerns and the impacts on neighboring homes.
Prince noted the site was selected because its 0.6-mile proximity to Interstate 77. The project would add a total of $2 million in tax revenue each year to Town of Troutman and Iredell County coffers.
The project is expected to create 400 to 900 jobs, which is a large reduction from the anticipated 3,000 jobs presented to the planning board.
When former council member Paul Bryant questioned the discrepancy during last Thursday’s forum, Prince explained that the potential tenants who have expressed interest so far would employ a smaller number of employees over one or two shifts.
Previous estimates were based on three shifts per day, which is still a possibility depending on what company eventually leases the space. No official agreement is in place with any company, Prince emphasized.
In response to traffic concerns, Prince said that the developers will add multiple turn lanes to several roads, new signage, and a traffic signal to the site entrance on Highway 21/South Main Street, which will handle truck traffic only.
Auto access would be via Oswalt-Amity and Perry Roads, per the NCDOT traffic study findings.
Prince noted that the signal would require NCDOT approval and that the project would not be built if traffic signal approval was denied.
The project would conform to all town building requirements. Conditions include a single-story building with a height maximum of 95 feet, though developers currently expect it will only be 50 feet tall. They added the 95-foot maximum to the proposed site plan for flexibility to meet any tenant’s needs, if the tenant is identified before construction begins.
Prince said they needed the variability in requirements because they do not know who the tenant is and do not want to rule out potential users with unique needs.
The site plan divides the 1.7 million square feet of distribution space into two structures.
Watts is working with the Army Corps of Engineers on a plan to avoid impacts on the stream running through the property, and the site plan includes storm water measures, culverts over streams, and a 50-foot undisturbed buffer on both sides of the stream.
The building has a 100-foot setback requirement and a heavily landscaped entrance with 10-foot berms to screen the facilities from South Main Street and surrounding properties.
A 50-foot untouched vegetation buffer is planned next to Levo Drive residential neighbors, but the developers are willing to add more if this space is not enough.
In response to neighbor concerns, Prince and Watts said they would consider a 10-foot berm along the five residences bordering the property to assist with noise, but Watts noted a tradeoff related to disturbing existing vegetation and losing mature trees.
Developers are open to adding further enhancements along the Levo Drive sight line as needed.
Prince said the project would likely be built in phases. The buildings will have a maximum of 480 loading docks, with as few as 100, depending on the tenant. The project calls for a maximum of 500 truck spaces, with the number of employees determing how many auto spaces there will be.
Town Planner Lynne Hair noted the conditional zoning ties the developers to the presented site plan; any changes must be approved by the Planning Department. Any significant changes would require developers to go through the approval process again.
Levo Drive neighbor Mike Spangler expressed concerns about diesel fumes, trash, drivers urinating in the parking lot buffer, and noise. Developers were also open to Fran Spangler’s request to add an opaque fence instead of a berm and leave the existing buffer trees and vegetation.
Prince said traffic studies indicate a by-right residential development on the property would generate two to three times more daily trips at peak traffic times. In contrast, the lower level of warehousing traffic peaks in the middle of the day and around 7 p.m. if there is a second shift.
They also plan to install a “no right turn” sign at the entrance so that trucks will not go through town.
The Traffic Impact Analysis indicated that with the developer’s mitigations, the level of traffic service will be improved or equal to existing conditions.
Bryant expressed a need for three lanes all the way from the site entrance to Oswalt-Amity Road, with which developers and town officials agreed. Town Manager Ron Wyatt said the town “will use its resources to convince NCDOT” of this need.
The facility would also use less sewer and water than the 318 homes that could be built at the site under its current county residential/agricultural zoning designation.
This second two-hour community meeting, scheduled for 3:30 p.m. to avoid staff overtime, according to Wyatt, had a small number of community members in attendance compared to the first evening gathering.