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Friendly Ave. rezoning request denied


Hundreds of Friendly Avenue residents filling the chambers and overflow area applauded the Greensboro Zoning and Planning Commission board’s decision to deny developer Glen Drew’s rezoning request on Monday night. The rezoning request was denied in an 8 to 1 vote, with Commissioner Erica Glass voting to approve it.

The proposal requested that the city rezone the area from R-3 (residential) to a Planned Unit Development. A planned unit development, or PUD, is a community of single-family homes, and sometimes condos or townhomes, where every homeowner belongs to a homeowners’ association (HOA). A PUD typically includes a mix of housing for homeowners with different price points along with convenient access to workplaces, shopping, education, and recreation, which commission members said was one factor in voting down the rezoning request.

“This is not close enough to an activity center. That’s what I would have liked to see when there’s an increase in density,” said Zoning Commissioner Zac Engle, who added that he also disagreed with the perimeter setbacks set forth in the plan.

The plan called for 20-foot perimeter setbacks along the sides of the property from the nearest structure and 35-foot setbacks from the property line to the road, which was also a source of contention for the residents. Since the plan’s initial introduction in June, a coalition of neighbors against the rezoning created a website, planted hundreds of lawn signs, and packed meeting halls with the hopes of impacting the city’s decision.

The developer’s legal representation Bo Rodenbough and Jamey Lowdermilk with Brooks Pierce Law Firm argued the proponent’s side and shared the proposed development plans with the zoning board. Hutchinson Court is a planned unit development for 22 attached, luxury townhomes on three adjoining lots that have now been combined into a single 4.40-acre tract on Friendly Avenue, west of the Friendly Shopping Center. The former use of the property held three single-family homes.

“This is a thoughtfully designed zoning request that does meet the requirements of the Comprehensive Plan by staff for the framework in creating great spaces and great places. It does increase the accessibility of a slightly higher, gently increased density for the people of Greensboro. It both addresses the need for additional and more accessible housing for Greensboro, and we have made significant concessions to the neighbors,” said Rodenbough.

Marsh Prouse, legal representation for the neighborhood asserted that the plan is inconsistent with goals in the Comprehensive 2040 plan to ‘complement their surroundings’ or to ‘protect or enhance the unique character of each neighborhood’ regarding development.

“This is really a historic turnout for a zoning request. Four hundred people came out here tonight to protect the stability of their neighborhood,” said Prouse.

Three community members spoke during the allotted 10-minute opponent time, arguing that the gently increased density does not match the current aesthetics of the single-family home communities, increased traffic, and the destruction of the neighborhood’s vegetation.

“Insertion of a 4.4 acre planned unit development in this section of West Friendly disrupts the density of the neighborhood and it is completely out of context with the consistent R-3 zoning that surrounds it,” said Steve Freyaldenhoven, a local architect.

Residents also pointed out that current zoning would allow for 13 single-family homes on the 4.4 acres, however, the developer wants to build 22 townhomes.

“We have asked, but Mr. Drew has repeatedly refused to decrease the density of his proposed twin homes to be consistent with the current R-3 zoning characteristics of the neighborhood,” said Nikki Cohut, an Old Starmount Forest resident.

While both sides made references to The Village at Windsor Park, Commissioner Mary Skenes noted that was not a fair comparison considering there was no cluster home statute in effect in 1986 when that community was built, it also consists of single-family detached homes not attached homes, nor is it visible from Friendly Avenue.

“My feeling is that is inconsistent with what Friendly Avenue is. There are only 3 PUDs that have been zoned in that area, and all three are near Friendly Shopping Center. It was designed to be an area where you work, shop and live. That is not what we have here with this request,” she said.

The developer has advertised the proposed Hutchinson Court as a community that will “blend into the neighborhood, attracting empty-nesters and young professionals,” with rental rates starting at $3,000. Commissioner Warche Downing noted that the development cannot be considered affordable housing at that amount.

“This is not affordable housing. We cannot conflate those definitions, so that is off the table,” he said.

Zoning Commission Chair Sandra O’Conner added, “While the plan proposed is just a characterization and not a final plan, I think there are some shortfalls in it that I cannot support this plan. We do need to be mindful of growth and we do need to find ways to adjust. We’re talking about accessory dwelling units in various traditional neighborhoods, and we’re looking at new ways to approach living, but I just don’t think this meets the goal for me.”

The developer now has 10 days to appeal the decision to the Greensboro City Council, where there will be a public hearing at its December 19 meeting. The council will make the final decision.