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City OKs 300 multi-family units surrounding post office annex

The Hendersonville City Council on Friday authorized rezoning that will allow the development of almost 300 apartments and townhomes on land surrounding the post office annex on Lakewood Road.


Watauga Partners LLC sought a rezoning to build 291 multi-family residential units on a U-shaped 29.1-acre parcel of land surrounding the postal annex. Council members Jerry Smith and Lyndsey Simpson voted no on the rezoning request while Jennifer Hensley, Jeff Miller and Mayor Barbara Volk voted yes on Thursday night. The 3-2 vote fell short of a supermajority needed for approval of the development request, forcing the council to schedule a second vote the next day. In a five-minute meeting, the council ratified the earlier vote.

Council members raised no objections overall to the plan — even the two members voting no agreed that the project would provide needed housing —but traffic was a concern.

Ralph Hammond Green, Ken Fitch and a neighboring homeowner, Chris Staton, all raised questions about the traffic impact of adding such a large community to Lakewood Road, a narrow, two-lane road that many shoppers use as a back way to Sam’s Club and Walmart. The northern entrance to the community, Hammond Green said, sits on a “blind curve on a hill.”

Council member’s comments focused on traffic issues, specifically the possibility of a hazard at the north entrance. The developers said detailed professional studies had been conducted and the engineers did not find problems with their design.
“I can appreciate what the studies say, but when people over and over come to us and tell us the facts on the ground are it’s a dangerous road,” Smith responded. “It’s hard to make a judgment with regard to how it will look when it is said and done, when we don’t have drawings.”

The developers offered to taper the two entrances to make them more accessible and even limit the north entrance to emergency use, if it was deemed too dangerous. They assured council, however, that they take care of traffic and safety issues, just not typically at the rezoning stage. NCDOT engineers will evaluate traffic issues when the developer applies for driveway permits, they said.

Hensley supported two entrances,
“It is important for such a large community,” she said.
Given that Lakewood Road is a state road, Miller said the city could request the taper, although ultimately design standards are spelled out by the NCDOT.

Smith said among all the concerns related to traffic, he wanted to see an image showing how the suggest changes would solve the issues. Among all the “ifs,” Council member Lyndsey Simpson said she also could not vote to authorize the project until more concrete plans were presented to deal with traffic concerns.

Volk, who again turned out to be the swing vote on a development plan, said, “I’m not sure how much a picture would change my mind one way or the other.”