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Historic vote rezones property for high-density housing


Historic vote rezones property for high-density housing

Town Center exempt from city’s one residence per one acre
By CAROL STUART
Brentwood Home Page
The City Commission voted 6-1 in a historic decision Thursday to rezone 7.03 acres of property adjacent to busy Brentwood Place shopping center, making way for Brentwood’s first high-density residential community. Mayor Paul Webb was the only vote against the rezoning for the proposed site of a four-story, mixed-use project to include 393 residential units and retail space.

Town Center exempt from city’s one residence per one acre

By CAROL STUART
Brentwood Home Page
The City Commission voted 6-1 in a historic decision Thursday to rezone 7.03 acres of property adjacent to busy Brentwood Place shopping center, making way for Brentwood’s first high-density residential community.

Mayor Paul Webb was the only vote against the rezoning for the proposed site of a four-story, mixed-use project to include 393 residential units and retail space.

Some believe the Northwest Mutual-owned project, being constructed by Bristol Development Group, will jump start the Town Center vision of a place to live-shop-work to a reality. Opponents, however, see the first step of changing the commercial property to the C-4 zone as a negative step against the quality of life in Brentwood.

The city, chartered in 1969, has always adhered to the principle of one acre per residence — although revisions have been made to the policy along the way.

Parmenter

“I’m really proud of our commissioners. This was a tough decision,” said Cindi Parmenter of the Brentwood Cool Springs Chamber of Commerce. “They’ve toed the line in the past about rezoning residential property commercial, but they had a chance with this one to really maximize this commercial property and they did so.

“It’s really a good move for the future of Brentwood.”

With the rezoning passed, Northwest Bristol Development Group are expected to bring real plans to the city’s planning commission for a site plan and approval, apparently on Monday. Webb said he wouldn’t be surprised if construction wasn’t started by 60 days.

“We were not surprised. We expected they would pass it,” said Shirley Putnam, a Brentwood resident opposing the change. “… Most people in Brentwood don’t even know this is taking place.”

Putnam said when she started making phone calls three weeks ago, only two people had heard of the issue. Robert Dorrell, a college student about to return to Wake Forest, had helped pass out flyers and then had to change them when the city moved the date to a special-called meeting so all commissioners could be present.

Putnam said the grass roots effort will now follow the project through the planning commission steps.

Condos? Or apartments?

After hearing passionate comments both pro and con from about a fourth of the 100 or so people attending the meeting, six of the seven commissioners made statements before the vote was taken. Almost all mentioned the public was split on the vote, with Regina Smithson saying even her family was divided for and against.

Proponents of the proposed Town Center development say it would provide high-end housing options currently not available in Brentwood that are affordable and in demand space-wise for young professionals and empty-nesters. Residents in opposition say although these proposed units are deeded separately and will be built to codes as condos, they are apartments instead since they will be leased and likened the size of a number of the units to motel rooms.

“Our society is changing,” said new commisisoner Rod Freeman, who has young adult children. “We have an opportunity in this community to help manage that change, that growth.”

Crossley

He noted that Parmenter called them “renters by choice.” Freeman also emphasized that this is a commercial zone, not a residential one.

Rob Francour, a property investor for Northwest Mutual, said the company plans to own the units as an investment for its policy holders for 7-10 years, rather than sell them. The company, which has cash ready for the project, has owned one of its properties even for 23 years.

“I think this commission has taken an extremely historic vote, and it’s going to take all the due diligence it’s taken to prepare it so far, to continue it on and make sure it meets Brentwood’s standards,” commissioner Betsy Crossley said.

“It isn’t over; it’s just beginning. So we’re trying to work with everybody and I think the public will have much input on what’s going on with it. And I welcome it.”

City looking to build on vision

Commissioners Rhea Little and Ann Dunn both brought up the 20/20 plan from 2000 which the city — drawing upon residents’ desires — had envisioned a vibrant downtown district with shops, restaurants, offices and living space. Voters in the May campaign had also talked about optional living spaces and a lifestyle district, comissioners say.

Little

“The Town Center is unique,” Little said. “… The residential section needs to stay one-acre density.”

He said the ordinance to create the district had been in place four years before the economic and real estate collapse of 2008 — and still only three buildings had been built.

Little also noted that almost 60 percent of the revenue comes from the city’s commercial properties, but commercial comprises less than 5 percent of the land space. The city, meanwhile, has 10 percent set aside in green space.

Additionally, Little — citing opponents’ previous concerns about crime — said that “evil is in the heart of a person, not their abode.” He mentioned a Brenthaven house arson for insurance money and a Carondolet murder of a mother-in-law.

Little also looked into “party” disturbance calls to Brentwood Police this year — and read out names of several current neighborhoods involved in 27 incidents over the past 30 weeks.

He also looked up and compared the amount of tax money the project is estimated to draw for the city and county — $520,000 — and compared that to Brentwood Country Club subdivision including the club ($641,000), Country Club Estates ($119,300) and Meadowlake ($497,000).

Lot rezoned from C-2 Commercial-Retail to C-4 Commercial-Town Center

Dunn also noted it had been 11 years since the Town Center had been conceptualized and talked about.

“I’ve been a proponent, a champion of the one-acre density,” she said of her 20 years on the commission. “There is a difference in commercial zoning and residential zoning.”

Dunn said getting tax revenues from commercial property also protects neighborhoods by keeping them from paying higher taxes. She also said the commission had been careful in making decisions in the past and would continue to do so.

“There are not going to be developments up and down Franklin Road,” she said.

Francour also emphasized that the investment company prefers a project which doesn’t have competition — and thinks this is a unique opportunity in Brentwood.

From history to the future

Commissioner Regina Smithson, offended over re-election threats for how she would vote, said she never voted based on the amount of tax revenues or there would be developments on the Cal Turner, Flagpole and other properties.

Smithson said she thought it was the right project and the right time for the Town Center.

Several of the commissioners talked about the high socio-economic status of the residents targeted for the development as well.

Webb

Webb said he was voting against rezoning the property because he thought the residential units in the proposed development — which has yet to go through site-plan approval — were “too small and too many.” He said he conceived more of two-story buildings spread out, with residential space above storefronts — not the 58 units per acre density.

Crossley, meanwhile read through a list of historic times and decisions in the city’s history, starting with intelligence officers in the 1940s tracking U-boats on the East Coast from the WSM Tower. She noted that a phone call from Lipscomb Elementary to the tower across the street was long distance in the 1950s, and then Interstate-65 came along in the 1960s.

When the city incorporated within the decade, there was opposition because people would have to pay taxes, support the infrastructure and there would be more growth, she said.

Crossley also noted that the one-acre zoning was adjusted in 1972 (after the Brentwood Country Club development) to allow for the total acreage of a development to average over the number of residences to one acre. More than 150 different subdivisions now in the city were built under the residential zoning adjustment, Crossley said.

Crossley also noted the massive Maryland Farms office park was then built on a previous horse farm property. After reeling off each of those historic decisions, she asked if the commission had made the right one. Crossley also pointed out the city has had a balanced budget and no property tax hike in 21 years due to those decisions.

“I think it’s a turning point in the development of the Town Center,” Parmenter said after the meeting. “We can talk about what we want it to be all day long, but until somebody invests some money and builds it according to the plan — which is exactly what this is — then you don’t know what’s going to happen. So this is the beginning.”

Webb, however, said he wonders what will happen when the next C-4 parcel owner comes forward with a similar plan without rezoning required.

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