Davidson’s Planning Board on Monday declined to endorse two zoning changes in the area off I-77 Exit 30. Board members voted 7-3 against supporting a proposed master plan for the Davidson Retirement Residence on Peninsula Drive, saying parking was inadequate. And they declined to recommend MSC Industrial Direct’s request for a large interior-lit sign on its headquarters off the interstate.
The votes, which are advisory only, came at the board’s monthly meeting at Town Hall. Both zoning requests now go to the Davidson Town Board, which has the final say.
Hawthorn Retirement Group of Vancouver, Wash., is asking for a conditional rezoning to allow a four-story retirement residence on 4.25 acres at the end of Peninsula Drive, on Lake Cornelius. The building would have 125,000 square feet and about 124 suites, along with a minimum of 85 parking spaces.
Davidson’s parking standards call for a minimum of 124 spaces on the site – 1 space per unit. Hawthorn and its architect, Lenity Architecture of Salem, Oregon, say seniors who live in similar retirement residences elsewhere typically do not need as many parking spaces. They also provided a traffic study with a similar conclusion.
Hawthorn said it could provide up to 100 spaces, by adding a few more spaces and by counting nearby on-street parking, which is permitted under town rules. And the company offered to meet several other conditions:
- Hawthorn would set aside 12.5 percent of the units to satisfy the town’s affordable housing ordinance, even though the site is not required to do so.
- The company has offered to put public art on the site, likely in a roundabout proposed for Peninsula Drive.
- The developers would contribute to improvements at nearby Parham Park.
Planning board chair John Chesser also noted that the $12 million project would be a significant economic investment in town.
But planning board members on Monday weren’t buying the company’s argument on parking.
Board member Brunson Russum said the 85 spaces works out to 0.69 spaces per unit, which is well below the town’s minimum of 1 space per unit. And he said nationally, independent senior living facilities typically have about 1.5 spaces per unit.
“This doesn’t even take into account the staff,” he said.
One board member suggested that the company consider building fewer units, so it would have enough parking on site.
Planning board member Susan Dailey said the company had not substantially changed its plans since a previous review in August. “I’m disappointed,” she said. “I like the concept. … As I look at it now, it looks like the site was the wrong site, given the concerns about parking.”
The board voted 7-3 not to recommend the retirement residence project. Members John Kennedy, Beth Cashion, and Mickey Pettus were in the minority.
The board also voted against MSC’s request to have a 60-square-foot interior-illuminate sign facing I-77. Signs lighted from the inside are not permitted in Davidson, though some developers have won exemptions, including the nearby Homewood Suites Hotel.
But the Planning Board voted 8-2 on Monday against making another exception. Several members said they didn’t want to set a precedent by continuing to grant waivers of the town’s rules.
The planning staff had said it “would support” an internally-illuminated sign on the building’s I-77 side as well as other proposed ground-mounted signs, as long as they’re not internally lit, and are not larger than other signs at nearby Homewood Suites and Harbour Place.
The board had no problems with ground-mounted signs.
Melville, N.Y.-based MSC is building a $31 million headquarters off I-77 Exit 30 in Davidson, where it eventually could have 400 employees.
RELATED COVERAGE AND DOCUMENTS
Jan. 28, 2013, DavidsonNews.net, “Planning board to review retirement residence, Delburg St. infill.”
Jan. 28, 2013, Davidson Planning Board agenda
Davidson planning staff analysis and recommendation on MSC signs
Here’s the town website page with background on the MSC project
Davidson Retirement Residence staff analysis, site plan and other information on the town website.