Habitat Hopeful on Revised Aberdeen Plan
Habitat for Humanity of the N.C. Sandhills hopes patience and cooperation will pay off when it takes a new rezoning recommendation before the Aberdeen Town Board in November.
At its Thursday evening meeting, the Aberdeen Planning Board approved a new recommendation for rezoning 12.83 acres of property owned by Habitat between Bronwyn Street and Midway Road from a R-20 residential zone to a R-15 residential zone.
The proposed project, called Midway Gardens, would allow Habitat to build 25 houses on 15,000-square-foot lots as a part of revitalization efforts in the aging Midway community. Habitat originally received a recommendation from the Planning Board for rezoning to an R-10 residential zone in September. The R-10 residential proposal would have allowed 31 houses on 10,000-square-foot lots.
Residents from the Bronwyn community expressed concerns over the higher-density development plan and asked Habitat to decrease the number of houses in the project.
Members of the Town Board also expressed reservations about rezoning for higher density.
After discussion with Habitat executive director Elizabeth Cox at the Town Board's work session Oct. 1, both parties decided rezoning the area as a R-15 residential zone would be a better transition between the Midway and Bronwyn communities and serve as a rezoning compromise.
"Going from R-10 to R-15 costs us more money, but it is a very good compromise," Cox said. "To build a good neighborhood is more important than to build more houses."
'Most Beautiful Ever'
Though the Planning Board did not consider aesthetic details of the project's plan at the meeting, Cox added that the architects donating their time to the project, Alan Stagaard and Tessie Chao of Southern Pines, have presented a visually pleasing design.
"It will be the most beautiful community we've ever done," Cox said.
Maurice Holland Sr., president of the Midway Community Association, expressed Midway's growing optimism and support for the new rezoning proposal at the meeting.
"The R-15 has been very well received," Holland said. "It has the community looking optimistic about the possibility, because it's more than they had hoped for."
Habitat for Humanity will hold a meeting for residents of the Bronwyn and Midway communities at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 19, at its offices located on N.C. 5 in Aberdeen.
Cox will present the revised plans under the R-15 residential zone to the residents with hopes that the plan will foster strong support from both communities.
"We want to create a neighborhood, a community, that everyone's happy with," Cox said.
The Town Board will review the Planning Board's recommendation for rezoning at its meeting Nov. 9.
Walking a Fine Line
The Planning Board also discussed a text amendment request to allow entertainment uses in the back of a building subject to specified conditions in Aberdeen's Downtown Residential Overlay District (DROD). The request was submitted by Janet Kenworthy of The Rooster's Wife.
Kenworthy hopes to hold live musical performances in the back of a retail space downtown. To preserve the nature of commercial use in the district and to remain in compliance with current zoning requirements, Kenworthy will sell merchandise associated with The Rooster's Wife performances in the front of the space.
Previous performances held by The Rooster's Wife have been open-air events that are allowed within the district.
The board is being careful to walk a fine line between allowing the performances, which many members see as an attribute to Aberdeen, and restricting other forms of assembly that may not be conducive to the climate of the district, which is a mixed-use area of residences and businesses.
The Federal RLUIPA Act is a statute passed in 2000 that prevents municipalities from excluding religious assembly in areas where it allows other forms of assembly, such as gatherings for entertainment purposes, in zoning.
Board member Sarah Ahmad recused herself from the board to read a written statement as a concerned citizen and asked the board to establish a clear definition of "entertainment" for the text amendment.
Board member Johnny Ransdell countered that the board should discuss specific criteria that address the concerns associated with assembly, such as noise and safety.
After discussion, the board concluded that it could not approve recommendation for the amendment based on its current wording, specifically the use of the word "entertainment," and that it needs more time to define its criteria for the amendment.
Among other business at the meeting, the board discussed plans for its Christmas Social, which will be held Dec. 17.
The board will meet again at 6 p.m. on Nov. 12 at Aberdeen Town Hall.
Hannah Sharpe can be reached at (910)693-2485.
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