BY DEBBIE PAGE
debbiepage.iredellfreenews@gmail.com

The Troutman Planning and Zoning Board voted unanimously to recommend denial of a conditional rezoning request for nearly 24 acres on South Eastway Drive near the Highway 21 intersection to facilitate the construction of the 165-unit Troutman Townes project.

The current town residential zoning allows three to four homes per acre; the conditional rezoning would raise the density to seven units per acre. The units would be a maximum of three stories ranging from 2,200 to 2,900 square feet.

Assistant Town Planner Andrew Ventresca recommended, in accordance with the Future Land Use Plan, that the site be reserved for medium-density use and recommended that the board deny the request.

At a community meeting on March 30, six residents voiced concerns about heavy traffic on South Eastway and Highway 21, sufficient buffers with neighboring rural preservation property, and the cost range of units.

Paul Pennell of Urban Design Partners said that after the community meeting the site plan was modified to add more space between the homes and the South Eastway Drive/Highway 21 travel corridors to enhance aesthetics. The main entrance was also moved further north on South Eastway to help alleviate traffic congestion at the intersection.

The new plan adds more duplexes and reduces the number of townhomes in the plan. It also raises green/open space to 11.15 acres (only 2.4 acres required by the UDO). The changes reduced the number of units from 185 units to 165.

Pennell said his company’s “passion” is to provide the first-time home owner with a product with great aesthetic appeal. “It’s their biggest investment and provides them economic mobility,” he said.

He did not give a target selling price since a builder has not been selected, but he noted the cost would be lower than comparable single-family homes.

Developers also noted that the Mill Village pump station is at capacity and near the end of its service. They are willing to commit to either installing a gravity system in concert with other area property owners or construct a new pump station that will service the area well into the future.

“We need the density of this proposal to support this infrastructure investment. No development can occur until this sewer situation is improved in either way,” Pennell said.

The townhome units currently feature a one-car garage, but some of the builders being considered for the project want to do a two-car garage, which would lower density by about one unit per building.

Pennell said they were presenting the most dense site plan, but the number of units will likely decline in the final plan worked out in the permitting process.

Board members expressed concerns about corporate buyers coming in to buy up the townhomes and then renting them, an increasing issue in communities across the country. Pennell said the builders that they work with do not sell to investors.

He noted that the HOA can restrict rentals to 20 to 30 percent of the community, as well as forbidding boats, RVs, and commercial vehicles.

Other board members expressed concerns about emergency vehicles gaining access to the back part of the development if the main road and only access was blocked by a tree or other obstacle. Pennell said they could add a gravel emergency access road to that section.

Several residents spoke out about traffic and inadequate roads that must be remedied before adding more development. The project’s Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA) estimated 1,350 trips per day, with 86 trips at morning peak and 102 at afternoon peak, in the half-mile radius studied.

The TIA recommended the addition of a 100-foot right-turn lane from Highway 21 to South Eastway Drive and one entrance and exit lane at the two development access points.

Councilman Paul Bryant noted the concept plan did not meet the Future Land Use Plan, that developers lacked builder information, and that “higher density developments need a lot of conditions and thought before approval.”

The rezoning request will go to the Town Council for a final decision either on May 12 or June 9 at 7 p.m.

Future Land Use Plan committee

Ventresca also asked board members to consider joining the Future Land Use Plan revision committee being formed by the Town Council to update the plan to reflect the rapid change and growth in the area.

The revision committee will be made up of selected Town Council and Planning and Zoning members, residents, and planning staff. The process will include multiple public input opportunities, with a finished product expected in the fall.

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