Hampton Green residents see red over new retirement community plans
It was standing room only at the Monday, Aug. 13 Matthews commissioners meeting, as dozens of Matthews citizens faced off against representatives from ACTS Retirement-Life Communities.
Residents from the Hampton Green neighborhood wore green and stickers in solidarity and residents filled the seats and lined the walls on the opposite side of the room from ACTS representatives.
ACTS is asking the town for a change of conditions in rezoning for their community which was planned for 44 acres at the intersection of Fullwood Drive and South Trade Street.
The project was approved in 2008, but wasn’t built because of the recession. ACTS is now ready to proceed with building the community after a few strategic changes.
The new rezoning includes: decreasing the number of units to be built per acre from 13 to 10; moving the greenway path from going through the property to going around the property, connecting to the Four Mile Creek Greenway; adding pedestrian lighting, additional sidewalks and not constructing the extension of Talbot Court to Fullwood Drive. Instead of constructing the Talbot Court extension, ACTS proposed donating the 4-acre land parcel to the town. Representatives noted the donation would be “at great cost” to the company, as ACTS valued the property at about $1 million.
The new proposal calls for 300 independent living units including single-family residences, duplexes and apartments, as well as a 140 assisted or skilled nursing bed facility. The plan also calls for a swimming pool and a clubhouse.
The project, which would be built in phases over four to eight years, caused significant concern among residents who worried about the dangers of construction equipment, traffic, construction pollution and the safety of children from nearby neighborhoods and those attending the nearby Elizabeth Lane Elementary, Matthews Elementary and Covenant Day schools.
But residents Monday seemed most upset that ACTS proposed not constructing the Talbot Court extension, which would ease the challenge of exiting and entering the Hampton Green neighborhood off South Trade Street.
Dick Keith said he’s lived in Hampton Green for eight years.
“We were surprised with the rezoning,” he said. “ … Everyone anticipated that the Talbot extension was going to be done and then suddenly it got quiet. We never heard any more about the negotiations until just recently.”
Keith said it was an issue of integrity.
“We could have had a deal,” he said. “This is Matthews. This is a town of integrity. We try to deal together. We had a deal that would have worked to the benefit of both communities.”
Keith said ACTS did not make an effort to reach out to the community about the issue, citing a meeting ACTS held with 25 landowners in the area as not inclusive enough.
“It wasn’t communicating with the community itself,” Keith said. “We have a very active group and we missed a chance to participate.”
Town Commissioner Paul Bailey called ACTS’ donation of the 4-acre parcel “kicking the can down the road,” rather than addressing the Talbot Court extension as agreed upon in the 2008 rezoning.
Hampton Green resident Danielle Burnham said that her concern rested with the promise ACTS made the residents in 2008.
“In 2008 when you made this promise to the Hampton Green residents, we took it that it was made in good faith that you understand that there is an exchange that comes when you develop in a community, you have to give back,” she said. “We were fighting for our children, for the safety of our children and when you presented this plan, other options that we could have fought for, we were willing to walk away from because you made this promise.”
Town commissioners peppered ACTS representatives with questions about the Talbot Court extension, the community’s potential traffic impact, changes to the architectural style of the buildings and the gated aspect of the community.
While ACTS representatives said they would still be willing to move forward with the Talbot Court extension, it was also noted that research by ACTS did not support the extension as “the solution” to the problem, but merely “a solution” that might not be as effective as initially thought.
ACTS representative Bob Romano, asked commissioners, “What can be reasonably expected of us to resolve a problem we did not cause?”
Romano claimed that the addition of the ACTS development did not create the situation at Hampton Green.
“It’s unfortunate that you have that, but there’s not a whole lot that our community can do to help that situation,” he said.
Jonathan Guy, a traffic consultant from ACTS, said the extension would provide additional connectivity, but would not necessarily fix the problem.
ACTS maintained that the extension would be a fix for the neighborhood, but according to their studies, it would not be the ideal fix. ACTS research did not suggest an alternative or a better solution for the problem.
Jeffrey Rathfon, senior vice president for real estate development with ACTS, said the extension wasn’t a significant issue for the company.
“It doesn’t matter to us if it’s there or not there,” Rathfon said. “Our original plan was that we would provide that. There’s a home that has to be purchased in order to do that. That’s an economic burden to do that at this point. My consultants don’t want me to tell you, but we could do that. It’s a matter of the will of the town. That’s not the deal-breaker for me.”
Rathfon continued to say that it would be a simpler solution for ACTS to hand over responsibility to the town through the donated 4-acres of land.
“It’s simpler and easier for us to give that land to the town,” Rathfon said. “It seemed more expedient to give the town the land and let the town decide what they wanted to do. It doesn’t affect my development one way or the other.”
The property ACTS plans to construct its new community on has two entrances—one on Fullwood Drive and one on South Trade Street. Both entrances would be gated.
ACTS proposes to have these entranceways remain. The 2008 plan was approved to have Country Place Drive realigned across from the entrance on South Trade Street, and a traffic light would be installed if necessary.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation is conducting a study to determine if the traffic light is warranted, and town staff also is looking at the possibility of whether or not a roundabout would be feasible at the intersection.
ACTS is not seeking any changes to Fullwood Drive or South Trade Street.