Rezoning for a development in Sherrills Ford was approved by the Catawba County Board of Commissioners over the objections of several local residents and against the advice of the planning board.
The proposal approved by the board of commissioners will allow for a 1,744-home development by Prestige Corporate Development to be built on 872 acres between Mollys Backbone Road and Hopewell Church Road. The proposal to rezone the properties from lower-density zoning to a Planned Development Conditional District to allow for more homes to be built was rejected by the Catawba County Planning Board in early December after 12 people spoke against the project. The planning board only advises the county commissioners; the commissioners have final say.
More than 40 people turned out to Monday’s regular board of commissioners meeting. Eight spoke against the project. Many said they didn’t mind development but felt the density — about two homes per acre — was too high. The approved rezoning allows for several hundred acres of land that cannot be built on under a conservation easement to count toward the total acreage of the development. The proposal shows the homes will be built on about half the land, leaving 458 acres undeveloped, according to the design submitted by the developer.
The first public speaker, Ron Natalie, founder of the Save Sherrills Ford organization that has been vocal in its dissent of the development, said the land should not count toward the density of the project.
“I have mixed feelings about this proposal,” he said. “The idea is sound, the vision is sound … but the density is way beyond the spirit of the (Sherrills Ford Small Area) Plan.”
The Sherrills Ford Small Area, first developed in 2003 and revised in 2007, calls for high-density developments to be along major corridors, like N.C. Hwy. 150, Commissioner Kitty Barnes said. The plan also allows for two or three homes per acre in areas where there are public utilities — water and sewer — available, and the developer plans to use those and invest in the public water and sewer systems, she said.
The plan for the development was a sprawling web of houses and town homes, but in approving the rezoning, the commissioners required the entire development to be only single-family homes, not multi-family, because it is out of line with the small area plan, Barnes said.
The master plan for the Laurelbrook development, as it is named, sets aside an area for active adult senior living. This portion will be limited to people 55 and older. The rest of the development will be traditional neighborhoods with areas for parks, community centers, playgrounds, trails and other amenities.
The development will have two miles of trails that will be open to the public. There will be a parking lot at the edge of the development for the public to access the trails, Prestige President Steven Bailey said at Monday’s meeting. The commissioners also made it a requirement in the zoning approval.
Under the agreement between the county and the developers, the development would have a maximum of 1,744 residential units. The agreement laid out a timeline in which 436 units would be built or started within five years, 872 units in 10 years, 1,308 in 15 years and 1,744 in 20 years.
The developer also would be responsible for any transportation needs from the traffic impact of the development as required by the N.C. Department of Transportation. The developer is also required to maintain walking and driving bridges on the property until the last house is sold, after which the homeowners association will be responsible. Prestige is required to put $250,000 in escrow within four years of starting construction for the homeowners association to use in the case of bridge repair.
Several nearby residents worried that the development would overload nearby schools with the increase in students. Commissioner Sherry Butler said the county has a close eye on school capacity and is not worried about the development’s impact.
The commissioners approved the rezoning contingent on several things: the developer could not put town homes on the property, garage doors would be built in different styles within the development, the developer would work with Catawba Lands Conservancy to preserve more land on the property, there would be broadband connection in the development and the developer will put down $250,000 toward future bridge repairs.