Extensive commentary as Albemarle City Council continues hearing on annexation

Published 4:39 pm Tuesday, August 22, 2023

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With two council members absent, Albemarle City Council voted 5-0 to continue to Sept. 5 its public hearing on annexation of an 86-acre parcel along City Lake Drive, which has been petitioned
by Southern Terra, Inc., representing the E.H. King heirs, owners of the tract.

Area residents and property owners speaking at the public hearing expressed concerns over the ramifications that development of the area would have on stormwater management and flooding, traffic volume, area wildlife and housing density.

Following a summary of the project application by Planning and Development Services Director Kevin Robinson, a presentation on the project was given by former Stanly County Planning and Zoning Director Michael Sandy, representing the developer and owner.

Sandy stated that public input from a recent neighborhood meeting had yielded information the developers would use provided annexation and rezoning of the tract were to proceed, noting tree and green space preservation, streamside management, traffic planning and inclusion of greenways among the items discussed.

“The King heirs have owned properties in Albemarle for 125 years, several of which are a tribute to recent revitalization in the city,” said Sandy, noting that the group wishes to “continue cooperation” with the city in future development.

“We will do all that is required by law, and will exceed the minimum requirements,” he later added.

Public comment primarily addressed concerns over the end results development would bring to the area.

Helen Simonson of Charlotte expressed concerns over how the project might affect compliance with the federal Clean Water Act, as well as effects it might have on area wetlands.

“Two types of groundwater-fed wetlands (vernal pools and Carolina bays) are common in the Piedmont,” said Simonson, adding that state law regulates development in and around them.

Simonson also noted that new guidance on interpretation of the Clean Water Act is due to be released on Sept. 1.

Paige Emerson, who grew up and currently lives on City Lake Drive, expressed alarm over five potential adverse effects, including flooding, stormwater management, road safety, erosion and runoff from new construction, and the lack of vegetative buffers along property lines.

“In 2018 and 2020, floodwaters from City Lake overflowed City Lake Drive,” she said, “so stormwater is a huge concern.”

“I don’t think we are ready to develop this parcel,” Emerson added.

Blakely Drive resident Kevin Farmer noted flooding at the north end of his property has been a common occurrence.

“It’s only going to get worse with development,” he said, adding that he had only recently purchased his 6.6-acre property, and currently raises chicken and pigs on the tract, with plans to add livestock.

Farmer suggested that should the annexation be approved, the area should be designated R-15 (Conservation Residential) instead of the proposed R-10 (General Residential) zoning, although he expressed total opposition to the proposed annexation.

“I’m 100 percent against it,” he said. “We need to do our due diligence.”

Laura Krug of Valley Drive also expressed concern over the project’s environmental impact, referencing the book “Nature’s Best Hope” by Dr. Douglas Tallamy.

“We need to keep our ecosystems healthy,” said Krug, noting that City Lake Park and the area are part of a key ecosystem.

“Development will have a negative impact,” she said.

Carla Weyrick, who had spoken at Council’s Aug. 7 meeting, reiterated a number of concerns she had expressed earlier, including flooding frequency over the past 10 years, increased area of such flooding, outdated FEMA flood maps and lack of vegetative buffers.

“Slow down and think through ordinances,” said Weyrick, noting that “while you have every right to annex, you should consider those who already live there.”

“So all you’re asking for is annexation?” asked Councilman Chris Bramlett to Sandy.

“Yes,” he replied, explaining that rezoning would have to follow if and when property changed hands from county to city.

Tommy Crosby of Southern Terra expressed his desire to work with the city.

“I’m aware of every concern, but until City Council puts this situation together, we will have no direction,” he said. “City Council holds the key, and we are asking the city to guide us.”

Bramlett moved, with a second from Mayor Pro-Tem Martha Sue Hall, to continue the hearing to Sept. 5, noting that two councilmen (Dexter Townsend and David Hunt) were not in attendance at the meeting. The motion was approved unanimously.

Two subsequent public hearings culminated in two rezonings, one on Henry Jay Drive and one on Ash Street, both from R-8 (Neighborhood Residential District) to R-6 (Urban Residential District). Both were approved unanimously.