SPRING LAKE — Voting to adhere to its vision for Main Street to be a thriving commercial corridor, the Spring Lake Board of Aldermen on Monday night rejected a plan for a 72-unit apartment complex in the district.
The vote was unanimous to deny a rezoning request, which would go against a recently adopted land-use plan for mixed-use development and the Main Street Overlay District plan, adopted in 2014, that was intended to attract businesses to the Main Street area.
Alderwoman Sona Cooper asked if the developers would consider adding retail or commercial spaces on the first floor to comply with the land-use plans but was told by a representative that the developers build only residential units. Pivotal, which is based in West Chester, Ohio, has similar residential developments in 16 states.
Richard Fox, a local attorney and real estate broker with Grant-Murray Real Estate, spoke in favor of the rezoning request as did Lorenzo McLean, who owns the property. Fox is representing McLean in the proposed land deal.
McLean, who now lives in Maryland, said the town should consider approving the housing units to increase the population of Spring Lake.
Former board member Fredericka Sutherland spoke in opposition to the plan, saying the board needed to stand by the Main Street plan.
“The Spring Lake Main Street Overlay District plan was put in place for a reason,” said Sutherland.
Several board members also spoke about the need for business and retail spaces on Main Street.
“Our Main Street Overlay District is very specific about the usage in that particular area. The bottom floor should be retail space, coffee shops and eateries with residential up top. This is a small area with these specific rules and guidelines,” said Mayor Kia Anthony.
Alderman Marvin Lackman agreed.
“Spring Lake has worked hard to utilize our land use plan and to develop our town so we can make things better,” Lackman said. “While this project appears to be good, good isn’t good enough. We need something that is going to draw someone in here. We have housing developments that are being built in Spring Lake, and we need to balance retail and commercial as well.”
Alderwoman Cooper said town officials worked for several months on the land use plan, adding that while she appreciates the proposed residential development, now is not the time for it.
“We put a lot of work into our plan, and we need to follow the guide that we put forth,” said Cooper.
Alderman Raul Palacios said the type of development being proposed could be looked at the future but that the current land use and Main Street plans should be given a chance to work.
“The time will come where we do entertain changes; however, the board, the town and the citizens had a lot of input in the new land use plan. It has only been in the last year that the board approved the land use plan. For transparency’s sake, either this board or a new board can decide to make these changes. But for me, today is not that day,” said Palacios.
Anthony said she wanted to echo those sentiments and added that the town had a record amount of input from the public about the land use plan.
“The community weighed in heavily over several months. We are not just planning for right now. We are planning for the longevity of Spring Lake. We will not make plans based on short-term opportunities. We plan on this town existing forever, and we are looking at our long-range goals,” said Anthony.
The board also heard a rezoning request from Rolisha Cain, who wants to build a house on a 0.24-acre property. Cain asked that the zoning be changed from office and institutional) to R6 residential. The property is in an area zoned for high-density development.
Cain bought the property two years ago to open a church but was told that she would need a wrap-around driveway, according to a town ordinance. She said the property is too small so she changed her plan and wants to build a house so she would not lose her investment.
Floyd Graham, owner of the Elizabeth Street Mortuary that is located in front of the property, spoke in opposition to the rezoning request. He cited issues with water drainage and flooding. Graham also said he plans to expand his funeral home business closer to the proposed residential tract.
The voted 3-2 to approve R6A residential rezoning for the property. Voting in favor were Mayor Pro Tem Robin Chadwick, Alderwoman Adrian Thompson and Cooper. Voting against were Lackman and Palacios.
Two more public hearings were held on proposed ordinances addressing donation boxes and restricting commercial or industrial vehicles on residential roads.
Cooper said the donation box ordinance is an effort to reduce blight and keep property owners accountable.
No one spoke for or against either ordinance during public hearings.
Lackman said he had heard from several residents who want to see donation boxes removed from town limits.
“This is a good start, but if this doesn’t work, residents want to see this come back and see the donation boxes gone,” said Lackman.
Cooper said that when she brought the donation box ordinance to the staff she was told that there are laws that prevent getting rid of them completely, which is why permitting and parameters are now being considered.
The next proposed ordinance addresses parking, repairing or maintaining commercial or recreational vehicles on public streets.
Sutherland asked during a public hearing if it applies to commercial vehicles on private property.
Interim Town Manager Jason Williams, who is also the Spring Lake fire chief, said it applies to public streets and that the town is trying to clear roads for emergency vehicles.
“If it’s on private property, we don’t have a problem. It’s when a commercial vehicle is on a public street making it hard for police, fire and emergency vehicles to get through. We also don’t want it on your property where it blocks a sidewalk,” said Williams.
Both ordinances were passed unanimously.
In other news, the board heard a presentation about a work-based learning program at Fayetteville Technical Community College that places students in jobs related to their major and career goals. Students will have at least 48 credit hours of their major courses completed so they can meet employers’ expectations. Students can take classes in automotive service, plumbing, heating and air conditioning, wood-frame construction, welding and property management. It is a fast-tracked program that lasts six to nine weeks with 95 hours of instruction.
The board also went into closed session to address issues of attorney-client privilege and personnel. After 35 minutes, the aldermen returned to open session announcing no action.
The next board meeting will be at 6 p.m. April 24 in the Grady Howard Conference Room of Town Hall.