Developer retooling part of LionsGate

ajames@newsobserver.comDecember 23, 2013 

— Change is coming to LionsGate subdivision, and one couple isn’t happy.

The Town Council last week approved a revised master plan for 52.58 acres along Amelia Church Road. Developer Fred Smith had planned to put apartments over storefronts there; now, because of changing demand, he plans to build townhouses on the land.

One couple protested the change in plans, but Smith told the council his plans would not disturb neighbors.

Gil and Kelly Gonsalves spoke on behalf of their daughter, who lives on Tuscarora Lane. When their daughter moved in, the couple said, she was told that 100-foot buffers – 50 feet on either side – protected creeks in the subdivision.

But Smith sought – and won – the town’s permission to encroach on the buffers.

In an email, Town Manager Steve Biggs said that for reasons no one can recall, the town’s buffers are stricter than the state’s.

Under the state rules, the first 30 feet of the 50-foot buffer must be kept in a natural state. A developer can grade the remaining 20 feet but must cover it in grass. Clayton’s much-stricter rules require all of the 50-foot buffer to remain in its natural state.

“We think this is an error in how it was written as no staff or council person has memory of why we would have chosen to be more stringent than the state standard,” Biggs said.

At the time Smith submitted his first master plan for LionsGate, Clayton was following the state’s buffer rules. It later made its rules more strict. Last week, Smith was asking for permission to follow the rules as they were written when he began developing LionsGate.

Still, that didn’t sit well with the Gonsalveses. “He came because he doesn’t want the rules to be changed on him, but we don’t want the rules changed on us,” Kelly Gonsalves said.

Councilman Michael Grannis asked Smith if he would plant trees in the buffer.

Smith said that would be impractical. While apartments over storefronts wouldn’t need yards, townhouses would, he said. “The depth of the lots require that it be yard,” he said.

The Gonsalveses worried too about traffic. Instead of 29 apartments, Smith plans 52 townhouses. Instead of two entrances, one each from Shotwell and Amelia Roads, he plans just one, on Amelia Road.

James: 919-553-7234

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