Albemarle again denies Smith Douglas Homes’ annexation request for property off City Lake Drive

For the second time in less than a year, the Albemarle City Council voted against annexing roughly 86 acres on City Lake Drive after hearing flood-related concerns from members of the public.

The request had previously been denied during a council meeting last October.

The specific location of the property, which is a vacant parcel, is south of City Lake Drive and north of Sapphire Lane. It is zoned County Residential Agriculture, but the developer, Smith Douglas Homes, applied for the new zoning district to be City R-10, General Residential, if the property were to be annexed. The zoning change would offer additional single-family housing for city residents.

The acres, which are owned by E. H. King Heirs, are close to Long Lake and Long Creek, and have already resulted in flooding during intense rain storms in recent years.

Smith Douglas Homes has proposed to develop this site with between 170 to 190 single family units, according to the planning staff analysis, resulting in around 170 to 230 new families.

“This will add between 411 and 556 new residents to Albemarle,” planning director Kevin Robinson told council, noting it would be a two to three percent increase to the existing population.

Development of the property would also have produced between $340,000 and $460,000 in annual revenue to the city, Robinson said.

After the annexation was denied last October, Smith Douglas Homes implemented a hydrology study of the area, which revealed that seven detention basins could be erected post-construction to reduce runoff by channeling it into the basics so it’s no longer impacting the surrounding properties.

While property owners have seen an increase in runoff due to much of the trees being removed, Smith Douglas Homes “is committed to reducing that back down to pre-development rates,” said Andrew Grant, a civil engineer with BGE of Charlotte.

Grant said Smith Douglas is looking to add less than one car per minute to City Lake Drive during peak rush hour conditions.

Despite assurances from the developer that steps had been taken to alleviate citizens’ concerns, residents who spoke before council still were concerned about flooding.

Realtor Carla Weyrick, whose parents live on City Lake Drive, said her family home routinely has experienced flooding over the years, with the basins and culverts already at capacity.

With increased development within the city combined with a stormwater system that is being worked on but not yet complete, “I’m a little concerned about the overflow of water and how much pressure that’s going to put on our city utility departments,” Weyrick said. “I think we’re already at capacity.”

She mentioned several days in recent years when significant rainfall contributed to heavy flooding and played video showing water overwhelming the road. She told council a woman and her two children had to be rescued in August 2018 by Bobcat Road and City Lake Drive due to the deluge.

“It’s going to put people in harm’s way,” Weyrick said about the flooding.

Helen Simonson, a professional wetland scientist, cited a study published earlier this year by N.C. State University in the Environmental Research Letters, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

The study found “the highest flood damage probabilities tended to be in areas of low elevation, in close proximity to streams, with extreme precipitation, and with high urban road density,” she told council.

“Doesn’t that sound just like City Lake Drive?” she asked.

Following much discussion from the public and the developer, Mayor Pro-Tem Martha Sue Hall, like she did last time, made a motion to deny the annexation request, which was seconded by Councilman Bill Aldridge.

The council approved the motion 5-1, with only Councilman Chris Whitley opposing it. Councilman Benton Dry was not present.