Development concerns aired during Albemarle hearing

During its discussion on preliminary approval of a 92-unit subdivision on Mountain Creek Road, Albemarle City Council members expressed concern with the recent escalation of development requests and subdivision approvals within the city limits.

Councilman Bill Aldridge asked the total number of home sites that have been approved within the city limits.

“I can give you a rough number,” Mayor Ronnie Michael said. “We’ve crossed the 4,000 mark with one big subdivision and a lot of fill-ins being built, but I will say that this is basically the first one on the north side of town…and we should be spreading them out.”

Aldridge, who has expressed concern before on the pace of development, said “if two developers start moving dirt at the same time, in my opinion we don’t have the schools, police or fire infrastructure to support it.”

Michael said “if they started moving dirt today, you would realistically have a couple of years to make your decisions.”

Assistant City Manager Darren Rhodes reminded the council that the city would soon begin its comprehensive land use plan that will look at infrastructure and planning for growth.

“We’ve got all these that have been approved,” added Councilman Benton Dry, but what will be the build out (timeline)? Will it be five, six, 10 years?”

“Of the 4,000 approved homes, how many of these are being developed locally?” asked Councilman Chris Bramlett. “How many of these developers are from outside the city and county?”

“Most are from outside,” replied Michael. “Ultimately, the economy and interest rates are what will determine how quickly these actually are built.”

“We could end up looking pretty bad if we’ve got eight or 10 major subdivisions only one-third built out,” added Bramlett, “but I don’t want to punish these people (Primos Partners, developers of the proposed Mountain Creek Road subdivision). But, we need to slow down after this.”
Michael mentioned that a couple more developers will appear before the council in the next few meetings.

“Does Council want to consider a building moratorium, or something like that? … I think the ones that are already in the process, we need to go through with,” he added. “But if you want to do something after that, let’s do it so that Kevin (Robinson, planning and development services director) will know before somebody else comes to him.”

Councilman Dexter Townsend expressed concern with how potential developers may interpret the council’s comments.

“I think this kind of sends a bad message, even with this discussion, as though we may not have our ducks in a row,” he said. “If we get somebody to bite on the Albemarle Business Center right now, and they review our council meetings and hear us talking about ‘we are not sure if we’ve got (sufficient) infrastructure,’ then they’re not coming here.”

“We are in good shape with water and sewer infrastructure,” Michael replied. “It’s just a matter of what the council wants to do on (police and fire) manpower,” indicating future budget planning.

Public Utilities Director Jay Voyles reminded council members that while more than 4,000 units had been approved in a number of major subdivisions, a number of others have not yet begun construction.

“What may provide the council some level of comfort is that in our ordinance, we do have a two-year statute of limitations. So, if we approve a development say three or four years ago and (the developer) has not made any substantial progress, then they have to come back to council to get re-approved.

Although the issue creates headaches, Bramlett noted that it is preferable to the alternative.

“I’d like to add that this is a great problem to have,” he said.

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