88 apartments approved for North College Road

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Project plans for North College Apartments. Courtesy of Cindee Wolf.
Project plans for North College Apartments. Courtesy of Cindee Wolf.

Developers have been given the go-ahead to build 88 apartment units on North College Road just south of Laney High School.

On Monday afternoon, New Hanover County Commissioners approved their request to rezone the area from B-2 Highway Business and R-15 Residential to R-10, a slightly denser residential zone than R-15. They also approved an accompanying special use permit for the specific development.

The proposal calls for 88 units in four buildings (three that are three stories, one that is two stories) to be built on 8.05 acres of land located in the 2600 block of North College Road.

According to Cindee Wolf of Design Solutions, who represents owner Barry Amos of College Road Development Partners LLC, their request was essentially “downzoning.” Though R-10, which requires a 10,000-square-foot lot per single-family unit, is denser than R-15, which requires a 15,000-square-foot lot, Wolf said this development would be lower than could potentially go there.

“It’s zoned for highway business, which is potentially very intense,” Wolf said. “The number of units we have here is only slightly above what would be permitted in R-15, which is 82.”

In 2012, a mixed-use development containing 120 residential units in addition to retail space was proposed but not approved. Since then, a Dollar General and Taco Bell have been erected on adjacent land. There were traffic concerns for that previous development, and the North Carolina Department of Transportation made suggestions during the traffic impact analysis done for that project. Some of those, such as widening that part of North College Road, adding a center turn lane and putting a traffic light at the intersection of College and Long Ridge Drive have since been completed. Right-in only turns were also installed at a driveway that leads to the Taco Bell and at Danny Pence Drive, which leads onto the campus of Laney High School.

Traffic was again a big issue Monday for the smaller development, as Commissioner Rob Zapple brought up concerns about both pedestrian and vehicle traffic, particularly with regard to students and parents of Laney High School and the adjacent Trask Middle School.

“That’s over 2600 students we’re talking about,” Zapple said, noting the lack of sidewalks in that area, particularly between the campuses and the Taco Bell, which many students patronize.

When they approved the project at their March meeting, the county’s planning board added the condition that a multi-use path be constructed along the property on North College Road. The path built by developers will eventually connect to a larger greenway built by the county.

Two residents of Long Ridge Drive, which lies behind the property, spoke out against the project during the public hearing, citing the same concerns of traffic and safety.

Keith Hales said he’s concerned about added noise in addition to that coming from the high school.

“On Friday nights, I can tell you what song the band is playing. I can tell you when someone scores a touchdown. I can tell you when they win the game,” Hales said, adding he was concerned about noises from the pool and clubhouse area of the proposed development. “What we’re asking for is consideration of our community.”

Dennis Trite, who’s lived in the area for 42 years, said the intersection of Long Ridge Drive and College is already accident-prone with the current level of traffic.

“In one week’s time, we had six accidents on that corner,” Trite said. “Safety-wise, this intersection doesn’t need any more buildings or any more projects.”

In response, Wolf said the traffic pattern itself would not be altered as the development would use the same driveway that currently services the Taco Bell and no new ones would be built. Planners from the county as well as officials from the NCDOT said the current setup is sufficient for the proposal.

“While there has been concern brought up about traffic, staff does feel this development fits the property,” said Brad Schuler, the county’s current planner.

Both the rezoning request and the special use permit were approved unanimously by 5 – 0 votes.