Greenfield apartments on track for approval as industrial neighbors to drop objections

kjahner@newsobserver.comMarch 28, 2014 

— The hearing Wednesday over the once-disputed plans to build an apartment complex at North Greenfield Parkway felt like a trial. But the matter seemed settled; the apartments will likely be built.

Greenfield industrial landowners Golden Gate Foods and Gregory Poole Equipment Company dropped formal objections to the 248-unit apartment complex after negotiations led to some site plan changes which allayed their concerns.

The hearing, which will conclude April 7 at the regular town council meeting, is expected to be a formality intended to require developer DHM Design to provide evidence of its claims and put its promises on public record.

“They had the burden to put on their evidence and show compatibility,” said attorney M. Gray Styers, Jr., who represented Gregory Poole Equipment Company. “And to the extent that we had agreed to some provisions, such as the turn lanes, school bus entrance, not having a crosswalk: we wanted to make sure their evidence was consistent with what we agreed to.”

Golden State Foods, which owns a large factory at the northwestern end of the parkway, had expressed the most vocal concerns. But to start the meeting Alan Peterson, a lawyer representing Golden State Foods, announced that formal opposition had been withdrawn – though he also said the company did not necessarily support the project.

Peterson asked few cross-examination questions of the witnesses presenting the developer’s case, including a builder, a traffic consultant, a commercial investment consultant and members of a landscaping architecture firm.

Instead the developer’s attorney Lacy Reaves asked most of the questions to provide evidence that the property complied with the town’s 10 criteria for reviewing a special use permit. Among those are protecting neighboring property value and not endangering public safety.

Golden State Foods in particular had voiced concern about trucks frequently driving by the site, which is bordered by Greenfield Parkway to the north, U.S. 70 to the south, and the onramp between the two on the east. (Butterball’s corporate headquarters is on the west.)

In response, plans now include a right-turn lane into the complex, a school bus stop inside the complex so a bus doesn’t have to stop on the street and a fence running along Greenfield Parkway between the two entrances to prevent children from wandering into the street. Also, a flashing signal would activate when a car pulled through either exit so trucks heading east on Greenfield Parkway would know to be alert.

“It’s above and beyond what anyone would expect from a safety perspective,” testified N.C. State civil engineering professor Joseph Hummer. “It’s almost as good as it gets.”

Adding to the safety element, Greenfield has a grassy median for most of the length of the complex. And Hummer noted the most dangerous movement would be turning left out of the complex. That would be impossible to do at one entrance and “almost zero” residents would turn toward the parkway’s dead-end at Golden Gate Foods from the other.

A traffic study showed about 400 trucks, or about 25 percent of the vehicles, passed the site on the weekdays. Montell Irvin of traffic consultant Ramey Kemp said the apartments would not create traffic issues.

Another concern of landowners had been a decrease of property value. Golden State Foods assistant general manager Gregg Tarleton had said at a previous meeting that the company wouldn’t have located there had apartments been there at the time.

Property values

But Reaves called commercial investment consultant Jeff Siebold who said his studies concluded that such mixed use development – which fit the towns plans for the area– would not hurt property value. He said it might even help, though it was hard to conclusively rule out other factors in value improvement in examples studied.

Noise concerns had also been raised by Garner’s Planning Commission, which had approved the project but with dissension. But with a required 50-foot wooded buffer facing U.S. 70, hundreds more feet from woods to the nearest building and buffers larger than required on all other parts of the property, builder Ronald Gibson said noise would not be a problem.

The building materials would also absorb noise he said.

Golden State Foods objected to one change: A reduction of speed limit that would have moved it from 35 to 25 miles per hour.

The town’s last such hearing involving a disputed development pitted a Domino’s Pizza factory against Eagle Rock Concrete, which the pizza delivery giant said as a neighbor would pollute the air and its pizza. Domino’s succeeded in blocking the plant, but the process had been angry and sloppy to the point that the town adjusted much of the town’s rulebook governing this type of procedure to include more formal, courts-like procedings.

“I believe it is a better project, better proposed development because of this process,” Reeves said.

Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland

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