BY DEBBIE PAGE
The Troutman Planning and Zoning Board faced a standing room only, overflow crowd during a four-hour meeting on Monday night as it had three major projects up for consideration that would add another warehouse distribution center and two new residential developments with about 336 single-family and townhome residences to the town.
WAGNER STREET TOWNHOMES
After two hours of presentations, public comment and discussion, the board voted to deny recommendation to the Town Council to rezone 13.6 acres for the 72-unit Hilltop Bluffs Townhome development on Wagner Street.
The area, dominated by single-family homes, is located between Era Street and Quail Haven Drive.
The developers, representing landowner Mary Edmiston Tolbert, requested the tract be rezoned from suburban residential (2 units per acre) to mixed-residential conditional zoning with a density of 5.2 units per acre.
Planning and Zoning Director Lynne Hair said that the 2018 Future Land Use Map designated this area for medium-density development, which is single-family homes with a density of 3 to 4 homes per acre.
Town staff recommended approval of the rezoning, while acknowledging the higher density, saying it “may be consistent with the medium density recommendation.”
Developers noted the project would have two entrances located near Massey and Calvin Streets. Surrounded by a minimum 25-foot buffer and berms, the development plan features a 10-foot soft-surface walking trail, sidewalks, and 4.55 acres of walking space with a gazebo and picnic shelter.
Existing healthy trees would be preserved as much as possible.
Developer James McKnight said the development would use a variety of styles, colors and building materials, and that each unit would have a one-car garage with additional driveway space and street parking on the 24-foot-wide streets as well.
McKnight also said the retention pond would also be an attractive area for residents to walk along and enjoy.
“We designed the project to meet your UDO,” added McKnight.
The homes are expected to be above the $260,000 price point required for them to be tax neutral.
At the community meeting attended by 40 citizens on September 16, nearby residents expressed concerns about an increase in traffic, security issues, light pollution, stormwater runoff, and the size of buffers between the townhomes and single-family homes adjoining the tract.
Board member Mark Taylor questioned the traffic count date of August 25, the first day school was in. He also wondered if background traffic numbers were built into the estimates, which would skew the numbers.
Board Chairman Randy Farmer asked if vinyl siding would be allowed other than in trim areas. McKnight said he would ask builder D.H. Horton if that was feasible. Farmer also asked if the developer would drop the density to the 3 to 4 units per acre now allowed, which McKnight said was not economically feasible.
Board member Karen Van Vliet questioned why the number of townhomes rose from 66 to 72 in the plan. Engineer Matt Grant explained that instead of 3 to 4 units per building, 5 to 6 units construction worked better in the space.
Board member Brent Tedder was concerned that developers once again were asking to change to a zoning that goes against the town’s 2018 Land Use Plan. “We are quick to change if a request comes in,” he said.
During the public comment period, all speakers expressed concerns about the additional traffic generated by the project. Several also expressed concerns on the impact on their property values and the impact on schools, infrastructure, and emergency services.
Eric Williams pointed out residents bought their homes on Quail Haven Drive with the understanding the nearby zoning was suburban residential. “It was not zoned that way when I bought it,” he said.
Williams also expressed concern about the health of his neighborhood’s pond with the additional stormwater runoff. He also objected to the loss of old growth forest and asked that all healthy trees be preserved within 50 feet of the project buffers on the north and south side if the project goes forward.
Alan Hale said the development was a case of “a square peg in a round hole.” He objected to multi-family structures being “plopped in the middle of single-family residential.”
Alison Peterson pointed out the Strategic Master Plan and Future Land Use Plan was being harmed by all the “one-off decisions.” She questioned the cumulative impact of all these decisions since 2018 that deviate from the plans, especially on schools, traffic, infrastructure, and services.
After public comment closed, board member Darryl Hall asked whether a decision to recommend rezoning the project would set a precedent that other developers would expect later.
Van Vliet ended the discussion by making a motion to deny the rezoning request, which Hall seconded. The board unanimously voted to deny the request as being inconsistent with the Future Land Use Plan.
After another two hours of presentations and comment, the board also recommended denial of Troutman Logistics’ request to rezone 159 acres near the Oswalt-Amity Hill intersection with Highway 21.
Developers asked for a zoning change from Iredell County residential/agricultural to Troutman heavy industrial to build a 1.7-million-square-foot speculative warehouse and distribution center.
The area to south of the site will be Redwood Apartments, a 95-unit multi-family complex, while other sides abut residential neighborhoods or county residential/agricultural zoning areas.
Hair said the 95-foot-tall building, which exceeds the town’s four-story limit, also requires 500 square feet of signage on three sides to meet the building’s scale, which also exceeds the town’s 300-square-foot signage limit. Both would require variances from the town to be allowed.
At the October 11 community meeting on the project, citizens expressed concerns about the impact on property values and traffic, an increase in light pollution, and the size of buffers to adjoining property and to Highway 21, which is the gateway area to Troutman.
Project representative Chris Kouri said the site, which is one half mile from I-77, would provide easy access for truck drivers. He projected the project would create 3,000 jobs that pay an average of $50,000 annually.
The $150 million build would also double in value to $300 million once outfitted with required machinery and equipment.
Project representative Dominic Reinecker said that these tax value projections were conservative; when a tenant comes in and adds equipment, it will further increase the town’s tax base.
Kouri noted that 3,000 homes that could now be built on this tract would double the traffic expected with the warehouse. This project would double the town’s tax revenue and also be a lower draw on public services and schools.
The developers would also add multiple turn lanes to ease traffic flow and a traffic light at the entrance. There would be 480 tractor-trailer parking spaces on the site, in addition to employee parking.
The project would have 500-foot buffers at edges and a 10-foot berm with landscaping on top to block view from the road.
“The project would be a tremendous benefit to the community,” said Kouri.
Taylor questioned why the traffic impact analysis (TIA) was done for a general warehouse. An e-commerce tenant would generate much more traffic, according to Taylor, a former NCDOT employee. He was also uncomfortable with the potential impact of 3,000 employees on site in addition to truck traffic.
He also pointed to the delayed Flower House Loop/Houston Road realignment and traffic light improvements. Town manager Ron Wyatt said this intersection project may begin as early as 2023.
Project rep Austin Watts said if a different intensity business came into the building, a new TIA would be required. A planned left-turn lane into Ostwalt-Amity would also help traffic flow.
Van Vliet wondered if the 1.7-million-square-foot footprint would significantly expand if the 95-foot tall building was modified to become multiple stories.
In the public comment period, Doris Spangler, whose Levo Drive home will adjoin the project, objected to the traffic increase, diesel fumes, and noise. A realtor she consulted about her home’s value and sales potential if the project goes forward said that her property will be negatively impacted.
Jeff Ott said that if the project is approved, the developers should have to four-lane the area from the entrance to I-77 since traffic there is already excessive. He also suggested the project would hurt existing small businesses’ ability to get and retain employees.
Ott said the project will “turn Troutman into a truck stop and decrease property values for all.”
Allison Peterson questioned the projected $50,000 average salary for warehouse employees.
Jenn Bosser, president & CEO of the Iredell Economic Development Corporation, said the technology, robotics, and artificial intelligence expected to be in use in this project will require more highly skilled workers than ordinary warehouse jobs.
Mark Klinger questioned all the “facts” that the developers stated about employment projections, salaries, and tax base when “you have no idea who will lease the building. It’s all speculation.”
After public comment, Mark Taylor immediately made a motion to deny recommendation of the project because it was inconsistent with the 2018 Future Land Use Plan that marked the area for medium density residential.
The board voted unanimously to deny the rezoning request.
ROCKY CREEK MIXED USE PROJECT
As the board prepared to discuss the Rocky Creek project at 11 p.m., Farmer asked the developers if they preferred to delay consideration to the November meeting, to which they agreed. The board also asked Hair to delay a briefing on upcoming rezoning requests to November as well.
The Rocky Creek project is requesting rezoning of nearly 55 acres near the proposed warehouse to mixed-residential conditional zoning. The site, located on the southwest side of Highway 21 just north of Ostwalt-Amity Road/Barkdale Road intersection, is now zoned Iredell County residential agricultural.
The development plan includes 95 single-family homes, 169 townhomes, and a 1.85-acre commercial outparcel.
The Future Land Use Plan indicates this area should continue to develop in medium-density, single-family home residential land uses.
If approved, the TIA indicated that developers would be required to add turn lanes along Flower House Loop, Houston Road, South Main Street, Barkdale and Ostwalt Amity Roads.