The Fayetteville City Council rejected a contentious rezoning petition Tuesday night that would’ve cleared the way for a proposal to build the first phase of a new subdivision near Stonebridge Meadows Golf Club in southeast Fayetteville.
Aldermen voted 6-2 against the rezoning, with the only support coming from council members Adella Gray and John La Tour. The new zoning would have allowed a maximum of 34 houses to be built on the wooded hillside southeast of the golf course. The action comes after both the Planning Commission and city planning staff recommended denial of the rezoning on the grounds that it is not consistent with land use planning objectives, policies, or plans.
Developers Mike Lambeth and Clay Carlton of Buffington Homes planned to eventually develop their entire 137-acre land as part of a project called Falling Waters. The plan was similar to a previous version of the project which was approved in 2005 and included 258 residential lots. That project was never started, and after the development rights expired in 2010, the City Council rezoned the land to R-A, Residential-Agricultural.
The new plan called for several phases of construction, beginning with 30 homes on a street that would connect to Cherry Hill and Pumpkin Ridge drives to the north. Later phases would include more homes with an eventual connection to Dead Horse Mountain Road to the west, according to Robert Rhoads, an attorney representing the developers.
Nineteen residents spoke against the rezoning Tuesday, and cited fears that the envisioned development would cause traffic problems, destroy the natural scenery, and increase flooding issues that are already a problem in the existing neighborhood to the north.
After more than two hours of public comment, City Council members weighed in.
Alderman La Tour was in favor of the rezoning and said his stance is simple – he wants to protect private property rights. “I don’t want to tell property owners what they can and can’t do with their land,” said La Tour. He said if the neighbors want to preserve the natural landscape in the area, they should buy the land themselves and leave it undeveloped.
Alderwoman Sarah Marsh said the envisioned development isn’t consistent with the goals of the city’s longterm master plan which discourage suburban sprawl. She said while Fayetteville does need more housing, a wooded hillside on the edge of town is not an appropriate location for a large development. “There is really no way I can support the rezoning of this land,” said Marsh. “I see no compelling reason to go against the judgement of our city planners.”
Alderman Mark Kinion said that the city’s master plan shows that the area is compatible with development, just not the type that is currently envisioned by the developers. “We’re not trying to prevent development, we’re trying to encourage the right type of development,” said Kinion. He said concerns like stormwater runoff and the possible effects the development could have on the local watershed led to his decision to vote against the rezoning. “In the future we don’t want the citizens of our community to be placed in a position where they’re going to have to clean up a mess that could’ve been prevented,” said Kinion.
Alderman Justin Tennant said there are reasons to approve the rezoning, but not enough to overturn the Planning Commission and city staff. Tennant said traffic will be a major problem in this area without a direct connection to Dead Horse Mountain Road, which the developers said isn’t economically feasible at this time. “There are four and half reasons to vote for this, but there are five and a half reasons to vote against it,” said Tennant.
Alderwoman Gray said because the developers were given the green light for a similar project 10 years ago, it’s not fair to change the rules now. She said Fayetteville already has a reputation for being difficult on developers. “Making a decision to not let these developers develop this land is not going to help that reputation,” said Gray.
Alderman Matthew Petty said the decision to approve a similar project 10 years ago has expired and is no longer relevant, especially considering the city’s master plans have since been updated. “I don’t’ think it’s our job to bail out developers,” said Petty. He said developers know there are risks when purchasing land with the intent of future development. “Sometimes it doesn’t pay out,” he said.