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Round four: Rezoning effort goes before council again

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Cypress Creek townhomes may soon be surrounded by heavy traffic due to plans which would over-develop most of the surrounding the area and upsetting it's residents Friday, March 17, 2017.


Shannon Keith

Monday, March 20, 2017

A local developer and residents of a Greenville subdivision tonight will go before city officials for the fourth time to argue for or against the rezoning of a seven-acre-plus property off Evans Street.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. on the third floor of City Hall, 200 W. Fifth St., and includes a public comment period.

WGB Properties is requesting the City Council approve a request to rezone just less than eight acres along the northern right-of-way of Clifton Street and the eastern right-of-way of Evans Street. The real estate agency requested the property be rezoned from general commercial to office-residential (high-density/multi-family). The property has been zoned for general commercial since 1969.

This will be the second time the request has gone before the City Council and the fourth time it is going before a city panel.

In March 2016, the real estate agency received approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission to rezone the property despite the objections of residents of a neighboring subdivision.

Residents of the Cypress Creek subdivision — a townhome subdivision off of Clifton Street — went before the commission with concerns about negative effects additional housing would create. The homeowners said another housing project would take away from the secluded feel that the woods surrounding the subdivision provide and would create traffic problems coming out of Clifton Street, which intersects with Arlington Boulevard and Evans Street.

“When I try to pull out on Evans Street now, it takes me at least five minutes if there is one or two cars ahead of me,” Dagmar Herrmann-Estes, a resident of the Cypress Creek subdivision, said Friday afternoon. “What would happen if they put high-density housing right here?”

Herrmann-Estes said a traffic signal would not be able to be placed where the housing project is being proposed and would make getting in and out of Clifton Street “nearly impossible.”

“My husband and I would put our house on the market immediately if this happens,” she said. “The city needs to live up to its promise to preserve the integrity of the neighborhoods in Greenville.”

Other residents expressed concerns about what effect a housing development would have on what already is a drainage problem in the neighborhood. 

“We have a lot of problems with flooding at the bottom of Clifton Street as it is,” Mollye Otis, another resident of Cypress Creek, said. “Water runoff from an impermeable surface, like a parking lot, will only make this problem worse. I wish the city could come to some kind of agreement with WGB Properties to buy the property and preserve it.

“I think it is in the city’s best interest to invest in this property and protect the wetlands that are here,” she said.

In April, the Greenville City Council sided with Cypress Creek residents and voted 3-2 to deny the rezoning request.

Councilman At-Large Calvin Mercer and District 4 Councilman Rick Smiley voted to approve the request. Mayor Pro-Tem Kandie Smith, District 3 Councilman McLean Godley and District 5 Councilman P.J. Connelly voted against the rezoning. District 2 Councilwoman Rose Glover did not attend.

During the April meeting, Godley raised a concern that if the property was developed for student housing, it potentially could ”oversaturate” the student housing market.

“That would leave a lot of residences vacant,” he said.

Smiley disagreed, saying that that the city should support the property’s development.

“We constantly argue against sprawl and things moving farther away from the city’s center,” Smiley said during the meeting. ”This is the type of development we should be encouraging. ... It’s right on a bus line, and it’s right on a greenway.

“Traffic is going to happen, unless you allow people to live where they can walk,” he said. “We talk about building a walkable city, then we don’t let people build that?”

During the Feb. 21 meeting of Greenville’s Planning and Zoning Commission, WGB Properties submitted another rezoning request to the city, which was voted down by commission members.

Darsen Sowers, the chief financial officer for WGB Properties, said the real estate agency had no plans to construct student housing and was looking at potentially developing market rate housing on the property.

“This would actually reduce the traffic a lot more than what the current zoning would create,” Sowers said during the Feb. 21 meeting. “I know that people keep talking about the problems with this site ... I would like to come up with solutions that would make this property better than it is now.”

Sowers said there is a growing demand in Greenville for market-rate housing that would be targeted toward young professionals and retirees. A development on the property would be able to take advantage of the greenway that the city has constructed through a portion of the property.

“Under the current zoning, we could strip clear the property and put in a parking lot,” Sowers said. “But we don’t want to do that ... I care about the residents of Cypress Creek and we want to do something that will compliment what they have there.”

The commission during the meeting in February voted 5-3 to deny the rezoning request from WGB Properties. Sowers said he hopes the City Council will realize that an office-residential zoning for the property would be more beneficial to the city and residents of Cypress Creek.

“We think this zoning is more in line with the Horizon 2026 plan than the current zoning,” Sowers said. “It would actually create less traffic and would enhance what the residents of Cypress Creek have now. We certainly can build a commercial development at that site, but we would rather build a residential development that would flow into what is there now.”

Cypress Creek resident Kristie Anderson said she still is not sure that a residential development would be the best fit for her neighborhood. 

“We all know Bill (Blount) and know that he is a wonderful man,” Anderson said. “And he’s a businessman ... I get that. If I owned this property, I would be trying to do the same thing. However, I also have to look at this as a homeowner in Cypress Creek and how this might affect my property values.

“No one here is under the impression that this property will never be developed,” she said. “That’s not realistic. We just want the property to be developed within its current zoning and in a way that doesn’t hurt our property values.” 

Also at tonight’s meeting, the City Council will consider amending a city ordinance that would allow alcohol to be sold and consumed on the Town Common in connection with special events like the annual PirateFest, Sunday in the Park concert series and other sponsored events.

City staff said that they have received repeated requests from local residents as well as organizations that sponsor events in the 25-acre park. Staff has developed a list of standards and guidelines about the issue, which they will present to the City Council tonight.

The City Council last discussed this issue in 2014, when it voted 4-2 to remove the Town Common from the alcohol policy for city parks and facilities.

Staff is recommending that the City Council temporarily adopt the new ordinance to allow it to go into effect during the 11th annual PirateFest event on April 7-8. PirateFest would be used as a test case for the new policy. After PirateFest, an evaluation of the policy would be conducted and presented to the City Council for consideration.

Contact Shannon Keith at skeith@reflector.com and 329-9575.