The Hickory City Council approved a rezoning Tuesday that could pave the way for more than 500 new homes on Catawba Valley Boulevard SE across from Grandview Middle School.
Meritage Homes, an Arizona-based company with other projects in North Carolina, sought the rezoning from low-density residential to medium-density residential for 135 acres of property.
With the rezoning approved, up to 542 new homes could be built on the site, double what was previously allowed under the low-density residential category.
Andrew Grant, an engineer and land planner associated with the project, said plans have not been finalized but the community would likely include fewer homes than the maximum number permitted.
Meritage Homes representative Reid Owen said it was difficult to predict how much the homes would sell for but his current estimate is around $300,000. He expects the homes will range in size from 1,500 to 2,500 square feet.
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While no one spoke in opposition to the project at the meeting, Planning Director Brian Frazier said some nearby residents had raised concerns about storm water and traffic at the Hickory Regional Planning Commission.
Grant said he spoke with a few residents about preserving their privacy and that he believed the existing buffers in the area would be sufficient to address that concern.
He added the developers would have to work with the North Carolina Department of Transportation on a traffic impact analysis.
The vote to approve the rezoning was 6-1. Councilman David Williams opposed the rezoning while Mayor Hank Guess, Councilman Tony Wood, Councilwoman Charlotte Williams, Councilman Danny Seaver, Councilman David Zagaroli and Councilwoman Jill Patton all voted in favor.
Williams’ vote was based on concerns raised to him by Clinton Tabernacle AME Zion Church. Williams said the church was worried about the proximity and buffering around the new houses.
Meritage’s Owen conceded: “It could be close.”
Grant said that while it was too early to make any commitments, the developers are willing to speak with church leaders. “We want to be good neighbors and part of this community as well, so absolutely willing to have conversations with them as we progress.”
The rezoned property is part of Hickory’s extra-territorial jurisdiction, land outside the city’s limits where the city exercises zoning authority.
“As such, the applicant could either apply for annexation now or wait to gauge the market such as looking at the cost of building materials, mortgage interest rates, etc,” Frazier said. “They must annex prior to being connected to (Hickory utilities) and prior to the issuance of any certificates of occupancy.”