On Tuesday, the planning commission recommended approval for a rezoning case at the intersection of Buffaloe Road and New Hope Road. The recommended approval comes as city staff are fine-tuning the Buffaloe-New Hope small area plan, which is being used as a guiding vision for development at the intersection.
The case — Z-12-15 — concerns a 15.7 acre property at the southeast quadrant of the intersection. The rezoning would increase retail and office intensities. The square footage of the proposed structures is capped at 71,000. City staff found the request to be consistent with the comprehensive plan, which calls for increased density around major thoroughfares.
Lacy Reaves from Smith Anderson Law Firm represented the applicant. He explained to planning commission members that he had come to the table with knowledge of the 2013 rezoning case at the intersection that was denied. That case had resulted in a series of meetings between the neighborhood residents and city staff to draft the Buffaloe-New Hope small area plan.
Influence of the Buffaloe-New Hope Small Area Plan
Vivian Ekstrom, an employee in the city’s planning department, told commissioners that Z-12-15 was consistent with many of the policies outlined in the Buffaloe-New Hope small area plan. The plan calls for developments with no more than three stories in height, the mitigation of light and noise impacts, and making the intersection more pedestrian-friendly.
Reaves said retail development was being contemplated on the site, specifically a “specialty grocery store,” which could turn into a small Wal-Mart development. After meetings with neighborhood residents, he added conditions that would limit the height of the building to 30 feet and to limit the hours of operation from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Unlike the 2013 rezoning case, which was met with widespread opposition, Z-12-15, when presented to the Northeast citizens advisory council, received a 42-12 vote of approval.
Speaking to elements of the small area plan, Reaves said the 15.7 acre property will have walkability. Individuals from Kimley-Horn & Associates said the traffic would increase 9-10 percent at the intersection. A crosswalk was being considered for the intersection, but the request would have to be submitted to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, as it owns the roads.
Public Hearing: The Need for Pedestrian Safety and the Danger of Stormwater Runoff
Neighborhood residents Lillian Thompson and Michelle MacIntosh spoke in favor for the rezoning at the planning commission public hearing. They both emphasized the need to make the intersection more pedestrian and bicyclist safe, and increase walkability in the area as well.
Neighborhood resident Ed Harris was the lone voice of opposition at the hearing. He spoke about the ditch on the left side of the property and the stormwater runoff that occurs. He added that he believed 11 grocery stores had opened and closed in the area and asked if there was a need for another one.
Reaves said the developer would mitigate the stormwater runoff and noted again that the developer would be working to increase walkability.
“This development will provide sidewalks along the entire right of way of the major streets.” He added, “We believe this is a case that deserves approval.”
Planning commission members agreed.