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More time needed to consider development

031917zoning

Cars drive on Charles Boulevard near Hyde Drive on Friday in front of an 85-acre farm where a mixed-residential development is proposed. The Greenville City Council will consider the matter on Monday.

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Greenville City Council should apply the breaks on Monday when it considers a large residential project proposed on Charles Boulevard.

The proposal to bring up to 180 single family units and 325 multifamily units to an 85-acre piece of farmland between Grace Church and Tucker Estates first became public just a month ago when it went before the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission.

The commission voted 8-1 to recommend it to the council for approval. The council is slated to consider the matter at is monthly meeting on Monday, but an important piece of information was omitted from Feb. 21 the discussion.

At no point during the exchange with Planning & Zoning commissioners did the developers’ representatives or city officials mention plans to make a subsequent request for a special-use permit to allow the construction of dormitory-style housing in a 26-acre portion of the project.

The first public disclosure of the possible student housing complex came with the release last week of the planning commission’s agenda, which contained the special-use request for a plan called “The Retreat.”

The planning commission is meeting on Tuesday, just a day after the council meets, and may approve the request if the council rezones the tract in question, one of five tracts that are part of the proposal.

Does Greenville need another dormitory-style housing development at this time? It will be interesting to see how the council votes considering its recent denial of a rezoning request that some members worried could lead to student housing near the intersection of Evans Street and Arlington Boulevard.

Four of six on council said they were concerned that a new project would create too many student beds, especially in light of several projects underway downtown and on 10th Street across from East Carolina university.

Older developments and ones on the outskirts of town meanwhile could struggle to maintain occupancy, which could lead to their decline and have a a detrimental effect on surrounding properties. The former North Campus Crossing, a 1,700 bed student-housing complex that opened north of the river in 2006, currently sits empty and in financial distress, for instance.

The Landing student complex sits across the street from the Charles proposal and The Bellamy Student Living complex sits just a mile to the south. Yet another request that could allow for student housing on nearby Bells Fork Road also is going before the Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday.

Tabling a decision on Monday also would give council and city residents time for a closer look at traffic flow on busy Charles Boulevard and connectivity questions with nearby neighborhoods, especially now that we know it could bring a 656-bed dormitory complex. How would the traffic impact a proposed access point on Charles at Hyde Drive and a second on Fire Tower Road? Would there be other access points on Charles in addition to the one at Hyde? Would there be greater cut-through traffic in Tucker Estates?

Among other topics worth consideration is runoff into Meeting House Branch, which borders the property and runs northeast to the Tar River through neighborhoods including Planters Walk, Cherry Oaks North, Camelot and Brook Valley. Currently farmland absorbs a good deal of rainfall at the site, but the addition of houses, buildings, roads and parking lots will greatly reduce permeable surfaces. Will that rush more water into the creek?

The planning commission approved this proposal in large measure because it complies nicely with the city’s long-range land use plant. Indeed, the plans are well suited for the character of that area.

But there is much to consider here, and the plans have been available to the public for only a few weeks. It wouldn’t hurt to put of a vote for a month to give us all time to digest the, raise concerns if we have them and see if they can be addressed.

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