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Boone Town Council Goes Against Planning Commission Recommendation; Denies Student Housing Complex

Published Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 12:04 pm

By Paul T. Choate

The Boone Town Council voted unanimously to deny a rezoning request for the proposed Clawson/Greene complex at the Aug. 21 meeting. Photo by Paul T. Choate

Aug. 22, 2012. Despite a 5-3 recommendation from the Planning Commission to approve a rezoning request for the proposed Clawson and Greene Multi-Family Development, the Boone Town Council voted unanimously to deny the request at the regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 21.

Wayne Clawson, Joy Clawson, Dana Clawson and Anna Greene – the owners of approximately 22.38 acres of property (which includes the Clawson Mobile Home Park) located at and near 170 Clawson St., 140 and 141 Marich Lane – were hoping to have areas that are currently RR-3 Multiple Family Residential and MH Manufacture Home Park rezoned to R-3 Multiple Family. The property owners had contracted with Greensboro-based Mega Builders to purchase the property and construct the complex if rezoning had been approved.

The proposed student housing apartment complex would have contained 266 units with 546 bedrooms located in 10 buildings. According to Wayne Clawson, regardless of the Town Council’s ruling the Clawson Mobile Home Park will be closing on Oct. 4 of this year. Park residents were notified in April that they would be required to vacate the park in six months. Mega Builders was willing to provide $4,000 to park residents to support relocation expenses if the project went forward.

The requested rezoning has been up in the air since the Aug. 6 quarterly public hearing, where the applicants and residents living near the proposed development spoke out. The issue came up again at the Aug. 13 Planning Commission meeting.

Residents of Wickham Square had been very vocal in opposition to the project, citing concerns regarding traffic, noise and disturbance of vacant land to make parking lots.

Public comment was opened on the matter for a final time prior to the vote. The residents of Wickham Square who opposed the project chose not to speak out, but referenced a letter sent to council members earlier in the week outlining their reasons for opposing the project.

Charles Clement makes his final arguments to the Town Council during public comments. Photo by Paul T. Choate

Charles Clement, an attorney representing the Clawson and Greene families and Mega Builders, stressed that the vote needed to be fair. He said he suspected many members of the council had motions ready that they had written prior to even arriving at the Council Chambers. He also singled out Councilwoman Jamie Leigh, although not stating her name, for possibly having a vested interest in denying the rezoning request.

“If you live so close to the property, or you are so biased because of where you live, that you cannot be objective, you should not vote here tonight and I am urging you not to,” said Clement. “Now if that shoe fits – and I suspect it does – then I’ll leave it up to you to put it on.”

“Let me just clarify a few things,” said Councilwoman Leigh, “I live about a third of a mile from where this development will take place [on Perkins Street]. I have no reason to believe that I would be financially impacted by this development or anything else that happens on that piece of property. I had not made up my mind before this afternoon. I was entirely objective … For me, the shoe does not fit.”

Councilman Rennie Brantz also questioned how this project would improve the “quality of life” for residents of Boone. Clement argued for the revenue the development would bring in and the benefits of having students consolidated in one area instead of “having them spread all over town.”

After public comment was closed, Councilwoman Lynne Mason noted how much student housing is already available, adding, “It’s extremely hard for someone who needs non-student housing to find anything.”

There have already been rumblings that the student housing market is becoming saturated in Boone. 

Based on the applicants argument that the Meadow Hill apartment complex is already near the proposed project, Leigh contested, “To compare Meadow Hill and Wickham Square and a new student complex of the enormity that you are saying, it’s really apples, oranges and even bananas.”

Proposed area for the development. Click to enlarge.

“This project is entirely too dense to support in this neighborhood,” said Councilman Andy Ball. “There is compatibility when you look on paper … [But] I could not envision 10 buildings with balconies and this many parking spaces in this area regardless of how many sidewalks or adjustments we make.”

Mason introduced the motion to deny, outlining her beliefs that the plan was not consistent with the Town of Boone’s 2030 Land Use Plan or the town’s Comprehensive Plan.

“[The project] does not enhance a high quality of life, it compromises the viability of adjacent residential areas, it is not compatible with adjacent nearby uses … and it takes away an affordable housing option without offering any affordable housing alternative,” said Mason.

The motion was quickly seconded and passed unanimously.

Had the plan gone forward, it would have been the second new student housing project in the works, along with the huge 109-building, 894-bed Capstone Collegiate Communities Cottages of Boone currently being constructed on Poplar Grove South.

It is now in question what will be done with the property once the Clawson Mobile Home Park closes in October.

For related articles, see hcpress.com/news/rezoning-request-for-clawsongreene-complex-moves-on-to-town-council-with-planning-commission-recommendation.html and hcpress.com/news/new-clawsongreene-mega-complex-planned-for-august-of-2014-near-intersection-of-421-194-pending-re-zoning-request.html.

Other matters

The Hospitality House and the First Baptist Church had requested sites at 302 and 316 W. King St. to be rezoned from B-2 Neighborhood Business to B-1 Central Business. The council voted 3-2, with Mayor Loretta Clawson breaking a 2-2 tie, to deny the request. The majority voters stated they did not feel the rezoning would be consistent with the town’s plan.

Gary Wyatt on behalf of Lowe’s Home Center Inc. and Joe Bagett on behalf of Innkeepers of Boone Inc./Shore Resort Management LLC requested that a portion of the parking area at Lowe’s be rezoned from Conditional Use General Business to B‐3 General Business because all the current parking was unnecessary. If it was rezoned it would allow Lowe’s to more easily sell a portion of the parking area in the future for a new business. The council voted unanimously to approve the rezoning request.

In an amended agenda item, the council voted unanimously to allow town staff to begin the application process for CLG status in regards to looking into doing historical surveys on structures in the corporate limits built before 1960. There were approximately 950 structures that fall into this category, though it is likely that not all will be surveyed.

The council unanimously approved Boone Fire Department Captain Mike Teague’s request to apply for a grant for replacement of all communications equipment except the main repeater. Teague said, if the fire department received the grant, the state would pay 90 percent of the costs to replace the equipment.

The council unanimously voted to allow municipal reimbursement for the Bicycle Planning Grant. According to Public Works Director Blake Brown, the federal government will provide up to $45,000 with the Town of Boone picking up around $19,000. The council also approved Brown’s requests for members of the Alternative Transportation Subcommittee to also serve on the Bicycle Planning Grant Steering Committee, as well as allowing Brown to add six to seven new members to the committee.

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