Commissioners rebuff Turlington Road development

Published 10:01 pm Wednesday, July 8, 2020

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Citing concerns with traffic and impacts on properties and schools, the Planning Commission voted 5-3 against recommending rezoning property for a development that would bring 101 new homes on Turlington Road.

Commission Chairman Howard Benton, along with commissioners Oliver Creekmore, Kittrell Eberwine, John Rector and Mills Staylor, voted against recommending the rezoning. Commissioners Anita Hicks, Johnnie Edwards and Arthur Singleton voted to recommend it.

The property owner, Bobby Johnson of Turlington Road Associates, proposed putting a 101-home subdivision on more than 81 acres of mostly cultivated farmland. The property is currently zoned agricultural and, if approved, would be rezoned to residential low medium density.

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Surrounding the property are several single-family homes, farmland and the Calvary Baptist Missionary Church.

The Planning Department’s staff report on the proposed rezoning indicates that the project would generate 77 total morning trips and 103 afternoon and evening trips.

Of the three schools that would serve any students coming from the proposed development, two of them — Forest Glen Middle School and Lakeland High School — have sufficient capacity.

However, based on current enrollment, Kilby Shores Elementary School is over capacity before considering committed development, and though there is a replacement of the school proposed in the adopted 2019-2028 Capital Improvement Program and Plan, it would not happen until later in the 10-year plan, at the earliest.

The staff report indicates that it would generate 19 additional elementary students, and that the developer has proposed proffering $36,250 per student. Planning staff recommended approval of the rezoning, citing its consistency with the 2035 Comprehensive Plan and the unified development ordinance, its compatibility with surrounding uses and that adequate public facilities are in place to serve the development’s needs.

Whitney Saunders, representing Johnson at a public hearing Tuesday before the commission, said wetlands that buffer the north, south and west sides of the property, “serve as a buffer between the existing development, and what is to hopefully be placed on the property as the 101-lot subdivision.”

Saunders said the cluster development of the site would preserve the wetlands around the site and that it would have a 2.16 homes per acre development outside of the critical areas, while the proposed zoning would allow 2.9. homes per acre.

He held a meeting with a few nearby residents at his office last week, some of whom were among the six people who spoke against the rezoning. Answering a question from Edwards, Saunders said he believes the coronavirus pandemic likely held people back from coming to the meeting.

Kandy Lewis, who lives on Turlington Road, cited additional approved developments in the area and said there is already too much development.

“I do not believe that anyone that owns a home around this area agrees with this development,” Lewis said.

Lacey Gross, who also lives on Turlington Road, attended the meeting at Saunders’ office. That’s when she learned there was a 100-foot easement on her property. She bought the property, she said, through a land sales contract in 2000, and the easement was sold in 2010.

While she said she owned the property at that point, she did not come to have the deed to the property in her name until 2013. She saw nothing in her closing paperwork to indicate the easement.

Her concern is that the easement goes over her current drain fields that are attached to her septic system.

Gross, who used to work at Kilby Shores, is also concerned about the overcrowding at the school and believes the number of students coming to the school per the staff report is too low.

“I don’t see how 101 houses is only going to yield just 19 students to that school,” Gross said. “I have a feeling it’s going to be much more than that. It’s already terribly overcrowded as well as middle schools and high schools. … We know growth is coming, but the way this is looking to me is not feasible as it is.”