Rezoning the land at the corner of Weaver Dairy Road Extension and Homestead Road to make way for the mixed-use development of Bridgepoint came up for vote at last night’s Town Council meeting. Jack Smyre, the planning consultant representing the developer, presented revisions that addressed the concerns voiced by council and the public at the public hearing last month, in particular the impact of commercial space in the midst of heretofore residential neighborhoods. Smyre showed a detailed analysis of the number of residential units needed in a 2-mile radius for commercial establishments to succeed. Then he performed a “stress test” – cutting out all residences to the east of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The number of existing homes remaining still met the recommendations for business success.
But residents of a section of Northwoods (a neighborhood west of MLK Jr. and north of Weaver Dairy Road Extension) opposed adding commercial space, fearing the impact of additional traffic that might be drawn to Northwoods. Council member Laurin Easthom, who disclosed that she lived in that area, pulled out all the stops in her objections to the proposed commercial development. Weaver Dairy Road Extension is a neighborhood road, she said. (Other council members who regularly travel along Weaver Dairy Road Extension disagreed.) Could council wait for the Schools Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance to weigh in first? (No, Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said, because council could make so many changes before approval that it would look nothing like what SAPFO approved.) How would lighting, such as in the parking lot or from neon signs on stores, affect nearby Vineyard Square residents? (LUMO will keep it in check, said town planning director J.B. Culpepper.) Could council see a sketch of what the project exterior would look like? (That will be presented after the special use permit is approved, and then to the Community Design Commission first for approval.) There is no large development expected along Homestead, Easthom said. (That’s because council shot down a large development recently proposed across the street from Bridgepoint.)
Smyre contended that the businesses would not need to draw in additional vehicular traffic because they would be supported by people already in the nearby neighborhoods. Are you saying, Easthom grilled, that a restaurant built there would not draw in any people from outside the area?
Smyre kept his cool. Not to the point it would have a significant impact on traffic, he said.
In the end, the council voted 6-2 to approve the rezoning and the application for an SUP. Council members Easthom and Gene Pease voted against both measures.
– Nancy Oates