Albemarle approves City Lake Drive rezoning, annexation

Published 9:41 am Wednesday, November 8, 2023

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Three public hearings were conducted by Albemarle City Council on Monday night regarding development of a 100-acre, 186-unit parcel on City Lake Drive, after which the board voted to approve a development agreement and annexation of the property.

Following the third public hearing, Council initially rejected zoning of the annexed parcel under the recommended R-10 designation. However, after discussion the board reconsidered its earlier action and passed the zoning on a subsequent vote.

Director of Planning and Development Services Kevin Robinson first summarized the development agreement, noting that the parcel had already been approved and conditionally rezoned by Stanly County.

“The developers have the rights to develop the property accordingly at present within the county’s jurisdiction, however, they have determined they are able to more efficiently develop this property with more access to city sewer than is presently afforded them in the county,” Robinson said.

Differences in development requirements between the City of Albemarle and Stanly County were addressed in the proposed agreement.

“There are some criteria of our zoning and subdivision ordinance that were not required by Stanly County and vice versa. We have worked with the developer to come to what staff believe are acceptable conditions we will require to be included in their development prior to them beginning,” Robinson said.

Among a number of conditions addressed in the agreement were matters such as yard trees, stormwater retention ponds, street lighting, sidewalks, landscaping standards and establishment of a homeowners’ association.

Lindsey Fulk of Clubhouse Road expressed concerns that the development could exacerbate flooding in the area, which has affected her family in the past.

“My grandmother’s car was swept away in a past flood, and a cousin drowned in another one,” she said.

Carla Weyrick, who had spoken against the annexation at previous hearings, cited increased traffic as a concern, in addition to planning and infrastructure.

“The current land use plan is outdated,” said Weyrick, who also cited lack of a master development plan as reason to reconsider annexation.

Weyrick also questioned whether the city’s infrastructure could handle the increased demand annexation and subsequent development of the parcel would create.

“The city should finish the Albemarle Business Park project first,” she said.

Steve Laton of Hatley Farm Road echoed Weyrick’s concerns with traffic.

“The traffic increase in the area will be significant,” said Laton, who said turning off N.C. Highway 73 “is a problem now, and this will make it worse.”

Millingport Volunteer Fire Department Chief Phil Burris said that annexation of the parcel could cost his department as much as $65,000 in lost revenue.

“I’m not against the development,” said Burris, “but I am against the city annexing the property.”

Burris said the department has planned a substation to be located “around a mile and a half” from the parcel, and that should the annexation be approved, emergency responders from MVFD would be required to go through the proposed subdivision when responding to calls along Poplin’s Grove Church Road.

Mayor Pro-Tem Martha Sue Hall reminded those attending that the development had already been approved by the county, and that should the city decline the development agreement and subsequent annexation and rezoning, the project would still take place.

“It’s going to occur,” she said, “whether under the city or the county.”

On a motion and a second by Councilmen Chris Whitley and Benton Dry, respectively, the motion to accept the development agreement passed unanimously.

A public hearing on annexation of the property followed, with Weyrick expressing her concerns on flooding in the area.

“Who will take care of the residents?” she asked, adding that flood risk would raise insurance rates for those in the area and necessitate that they purchase flood insurance.

Kyle Depretorio of BRD Development assured Weyrick that development would not increase flooding events or severity.

“We are sympathetic to drainage issues,” he said, adding, “planned retention ponds will slow drainage and will improve, not exacerbate, the situation.”

A motion by Whitley with a second by Dry to approve annexation of the property followed and passed by a 5-2 margin, with Councilmen David Hunt and Bill Aldridge opposed.

With rezoning of the property next on the agenda, Weyrick delivered concerns with the proposed R-10 designation.

“We need lower density housing,” she said, asking that Council consider a different zoning designation.

“We have too much of the same product,” Weyrick reiterated. “People will pay for it; they want more space.”
Robinson noted that most residential development in

Albemarle is R-10, but cautioned that a change at this point could create hardships.

“We haven’t done numbers (for less dense zoning),” he said, adding that “it could throw off the calculations” done by the developer.

A motion was then brought to the floor by Whitley, with a second by Bramlett, to approve rezoning of the annexed area to R-10, but upon vote, the motion failed. Aldridge, Dry, Hunt and Hall voted in opposition to the motion, with Bramlett, Whitley and Townsend in favor.

“Is it possible to revisit this and come back to us?” Dry asked Depretorio. “I know you’ve been going on this for a long time, and I think some good points are being made…I’d like to get your perspective on that as the developer.”

“I get it that there are challenges,” replied Depretorio, who added that the proposed lot sizes for the development are actually larger (60-foot wide) than the minimum requirement for R-10.

“You’re going to have more space between the homes,” he said. “I get that some people want bigger homes and acre lots, but some people don’t.”

He also noted that BRD had utilized data from various consulting firms to reach the decision on proposed lot size.

“We spent a tremendous amount of money (to various consultants) to determine where people want to be, and what they can afford,” he added.

Mayor Ronnie Michael then asked City Attorney Britt Burch for a legal opinion on the situation.

“If we annex something, we have to give it some kind of a zoning, correct?” he asked, to which Birch replied in the affirmative.

“Also, for Council’s consideration, the development agreement is contingent upon an R-10 designation,” Burch replied. “So, if you’re going to change it, that also changes the language in the agreement(s).”

“So, based on that zoning of R-10 not passing, then basically the development agreement is null and void as well since it specifies R-10?” asked Hall.

“With the provisions regarding density, we’ll have to do another calculation of what that looks like,” replied Burch.
Hall then proposed a reconsideration of the earlier vote. Whitley moved, with a second by Dry, that such a vote be taken. Upon voting, the motion to rezone the parcel R-10 passed by a 5-2 count, with Aldridge and Hunt dissenting.

In other matters, the council:

● Received updates on Food Truck Friday from Parks and Recreation Director Lisa Kiser, and on the upcoming Albemarle Christmas Parade from the event committee.

● Approved a change order for Phase 3 of the city’s Sanitary Sewer Rehab Project.

● Approved a 29 lot cluster subdivision on Johnson Street following an administrative hearing

● Approved a Memorandum of Understanding between Stanly County Schools and Albemarle Parks and Recreation to provide after-school programming for grades 6-8 at the E.E. Waddell Community Center.

● Conducted a closed session to discuss economic development and real estate.

The next meeting of Albemarle City Council will take place on Nov. 20 at 6:30 p.m.

Toby Thorpe is a freelance writer for The Stanly News & Press.