MATTHEWS – Developers of the proposed The Fountains apartment complex in Matthews may be one step closer to seeing their project come to fruition after receiving an endorsement from a potential critic at the Monday, Jan. 13, town board meeting.
A representative of the Bella Sera neighborhood – which has at least five homes that will back up to the Proffitt Dixon Partners project at the corner of Matthews Township Parkway and Northeast Parkway – told the Matthews Board of Commissioners that the community recently voted to support the apartment complex project. That comes after a few months of discussions and at least four meetings between representatives from Bella Sera and the developers to work through issues ranging from the tree save and buffer between the two neighborhoods to whether a walking trail around The Fountains, which could connect to the local greenway, would also connect to Bella Sera.
“We think they are going to be awfully good neighbors,” Bella Sera resident Larry Foster told commissioners on Monday night.
With that endorsement in hand, and the fact that the developer has “made great strides” toward meeting some town requirements, according to town senior planner Jay Camp, there are a few details for the developer to work through before commissioners vote on the project, possibly next month.
The complex would be built on roughly 15 acres that is currently zoned for a 108,000-square-foot shopping center. The majority of the property would be one- and two-bedroom apartment units, with some three-bedroom units, in addition to 8,000 square feet of nonresidential space – which could be used for retail such as a café or office space. Rent will range from the “high $800s” for one-bedroom units to $1,600 for three-bedroom units. There is no timetable for how long the developer will work to lease the nonresidential space before it could transition into apartment units.
Town leaders, including Commissioner Kress Query and Mayor Jim Taylor, want to know exactly what percentage of the buildings will be made from what materials – in keeping with the look and feel of the area. The developer pledged to come back with those numbers prior to the town’s vote.
“What was important to us architecturally is we wanted this to look like Matthews,” an architect for the developer said Monday night.
Commissioners also are interested in an area of green space that could be developed on the site, and Taylor ensured that the developer would be in charge of landscaping at the corner of Matthews Township Parkway and Northeast Parkway. The developer also will pay for a pedestrian crosswalk connecting the project to the Matthews Corner shopping center across Northeast Parkway, and will investigate adding an acceleration lane for people turning right out of the complex onto Matthews Township Parkway.
While the apartment complex would generate less traffic than if a shopping center was built on the 15 acres, the complex will generate students for area schools that are already overcrowded, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools information.
“Adequacy of existing school capacity in this area is a significant problem,” CMS wrote in a review of the project, using text similar to what the school system uses on many similar rezoning documents across the county. “We are particularly concerned about rezoning cases where school utilization exceeds 100 (percent) since the proposed development will exacerbate this situation. Approval of this petition will increase overcrowding and/or reliance upon mobile classrooms” at Crown Point Elementary, Mint Hill Middle and Butler High schools.
The CMS report estimates the project would add 84 students at Crown Point Elementary, increasing “utilization” of the school to 130 percent without using mobile units. A school with anything higher than 100 percent utilization could be termed overcrowded. The project would add 26 students to Mint Hill Middle, increasing the utilization to 133 percent; and add 35 students to Butler High, increasing the utilization to 109 percent.
No one spoke in opposition to the plan at Monday night’s meeting, and there is no mention of area residents asking about the school overcrowding concern in the developer’s notes from a community forum held about the complex in September.