Albemarle Council rejects, then reconsiders subdivision request

Published 10:23 am Tuesday, January 23, 2024

After residents of Lafayette Drive and Bellamy Circle voiced opposition to a proposed subdivision at the terminus of Mockingbird Road, Albemarle City Council initially voted 4-3 to reject the developer’s request.

But, following a closed session which had been scheduled prior to the meeting, council members voted 4-3 to reconsider the motion and place it back on the agenda for the board’s Feb. 5 meeting.

Because the tract was zoned some 40 years prior, and because the developer’s plans are consistent with the existing zoning, no public hearing is required, and, by ordinance, the council may only reject the proposal if it determines it is in violation of such ordinance.
Three residents spoke on the matter as unannounced delegations, following two others who had spoken at the council’s previous January meeting on the same subject.

Jack Penrod of Bellamy Circle expressed concern at the Jan. 8 meeting that the city’s infrastructure is insufficient to handle runoff that would result from developing the area, and that increased traffic in the area would create hazardous conditions. At the Jan. 22 meeting, he spoke of a personal experience which had led him to move to Albemarle 4.5 years ago.

“We were escaping a mess in San Antonio, Texas,” said Penrod, noting that “around 10,000 homes were built over three years, without the infrastructure to handle it…I’m concerned now that I’ve heard that 10 dinky little homes are going to be built in our neighborhood by some out of state developer.”

Penrod noted that a house had been built behind his residence recently.

“They had the lot and they built themselves a house, and that’s fine. But that’s not the same as someone coming out and building a bunch of dinky little houses in a nice development,” he said, adding that he had personally seen similar overdevelopment in Boerne, Texas in the 1990s.

“They still haven’t recovered from it,” Penrod said, noting that taxes had to be raised to install necessary infrastructure.

“I wish I could have come up with a violation (of the city’s planning ordinance)” he continued, repeating his earlier concerns that he suspects runoff from the development to create problems.
Penrod stated that although access to the proposed development would be from Mockingbird Road, “it’s really in our neighborhood, between Lafayette and Bellamy, and it’s so close to the homes there that it’s going to be a problem for us.”

He also felt the small homes proposed would not last.

“I suspect it’s the same kind of homes they built there when they built all the little tiny homes and 10 years later, they’re worn out.”
Ann Cooper, also of Bellamy Circle, noted that efforts had been made in the community to encourage residents to come and speak out on the issue.

“We’ve handed out 52 flyers this week,” she said. “We’ve lived there 32 years, we really enjoy the neighborhood, and we don’t want to see it deteriorate.

“I know you say this is a 40-year-old ruling,” she continued, “but you’ve been elected to serve the city and we would appreciate it if you would just hear us out…I think the majority of our neighborhood is not in favor of this.”

Cavin Holbrook of Lafayette Drive questioned why the matter has to come to a vote by council.

“If this is an administrative matter, why are we even here discussing this tonight?” he asked.

“That was a ruling by a prior council many years ago,” responded Mayor Ronnie Michael, “and this council may address this as we’re doing the land use plan, getting ready to change that, so that they may not have to have it come here. The planning and zoning board may be the final step from now on…. It will be up to Council as to what they want to do as we rework the land use plan.”

A motion to deny approval was made by Councilman Bill Aldridge, who stated “insufficient infrastructure” as justification for the motion. The move was seconded by Councilman Chris Bramlett, and passed by a 4-3 vote during regular session. Aldridge, Bramlett and Councilmen Benton Dry and David Hunt voted in favor of the motion.

Following the open agenda, council entered closed session to discuss personnel matters and consult with the city attorney. Upon returning to open session afterwards, Michael asked for a clarification on the vote.

“When we made the motion on the Mockingbird Road (issue), there was a little confusion. I want to make that official and make sure we are correct in that,” he said, asking for a show of hands to clarify who had voted for and against.

Once again, Aldridge, Bramlett, Dry and Hunt indicated their favor of the motion, with the remaining three (Mayor Pro-Tem Martha Sue Hall and Councilmen Dexter Townsend and Chris Whitley) in opposition. Dry then moved that the earlier vote be reconsidered and placed on the agenda for the first meeting in February, with a second by Whitley.

Upon vote, the motion to reconsider passed by a 4-3 vote, with Aldridge, Bramlett and Hunt opposed.

City Council will next meet at 4 p.m. Jan. 30 at the E.E. Waddell Community Center for a planning session. The next regular meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 5 at City Hall.