Fullwood townhomes cause angst with locals

A proposal to add 90 townhomes and a community building on Marion Drive off of Fullwood Lane has some Matthews residents up in arms, citing the disruption of the current vegetation on the site along with adding more cars to an already congested Fullwood Lane could be detrimental to the future of the town.

(Above) A graphic from a town memo shows the property where the townhomes would be built, located at the corner of Fullwood Lane and Marion Drive.

(Above) A graphic from a town memo shows the property where the townhomes would be built, located at the corner of Fullwood Lane and Marion Drive.

The site, which sits at the corner of Fullwood Lane and Marion Drive, currently features four single-family homes built before World War II, according to a town memo. The site consists of eight parcels totaling 16.41 acres. But the lots are now for sale, and one petitioner is asking town leaders to rezone the property to allow for a new development, called Eden Hall, building up to 90 townhomes, a 2,000-square-foot community clubhouse and walking trails.

The site would feature public street frontage of the townhomes and alleyway parking, as well as some street parking on Marion Drive, as well as improved sidewalks on the development side. Additionally, the site plan shows walking trails and private open spaces for each townhome, and some public park areas throughout the land.

“There has been a lot of development that creates a lot of opportunity for senior housing,” said Dale Stewart, a representative for the petitioner. “One of the reasons we think this site has great opportunity to this great demographic is that it’s not in (seclusion), but is actually very active. It presents an opportunity to respond to that senior living, ‘empty nester’ demographic.”

With that demographic, developers suggest traffic in peak hours won’t be a large issue, as many of their hopeful residents will be retired. Additionally, developers, town staff and critics of the plan, who have filed a formal protest against the project, all dispute the CMS estimate of an additional combined nine students at Matthews Elementary, Crestdale Middle and Butler High. According to Jay Camp, Matthews town planner on the project, the nearby Avington development, which is a similar project to Eden Hall, was estimated for 24 students by CMS, but currently has one student enrolled. Developers also think the estimate is high, though critics say the project estimates could be low depending on how many rooms are in the townhomes once they are built out. If the townhomes have three to four rooms each, critics believe Eden Hall could be a draw to young families with children.

A traffic study by the project’s engineer suggests an additional 51 morning trips to traffic on Fullwood Lane, and 60 evening trips when traffic is at its highest, Camp said. The study also suggests the development would add more than 630 vehicle trips a day.

Some residents of Avington spoke against the project at the public hearing on Monday, May 12, stating Fullwood Lane doesn’t need anymore large-scale developments.

“I’m not convinced the reward to Matthews of about $60,000 a year (in tax revenue) is worth the traffic,” Jennifer Ackerman, a five-year resident of Avington, said. “I’m not convinced this will be a retirement community. I think the planners are using Avington as an example for a lot of (their) assumptions. Without knowing the cost of the units, we cannot go with their assumption of three to eight kids impact.”

Other residents echoed Ackerman’s concerns, suggesting the amount of traffic the development would bring, as well as the disruption to Fullwood Lane’s vegetation, far outweigh the amenities of seeing the site built out.

“The elephant in the room here is traffic,” one Avington resident said. “We don’t need any more traffic on Fullwood…  This is not a place for another neighborhood. I don’t care about the quality, the tax revenue. What I care about is the quality of life in Matthews

Rezoning of the site would be conditional, meaning if zoning is approved, limitations will be set for the project such as the number of units, standards for architecture and other various details.

“This is a special corridor. It’s such a community asset,” one resident said addressing commissioners. “I think you’ve done a commendable job bringing some of these businesses into downtown Matthews, but you have to preserve what is special about it. Putting up more asphalt is not special.”

There are still a number of issues to work through, including if an amenity building would have separate access off Marion Drive, if the alleys in the project are large enough for emergency vehicles, if the intersection of Marion Drive and Fullwood Lane would be changed to a right-in/right-out intersection and how storm water drainage will be controlled to protect nearby wetlands.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the project at their June 9 meeting. Find more on the project at the Matthews website, www.matthewsnc.gov.

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