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Nash County approves new subdivision in Green Pond

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NASHVILLE — The first phase of what its developer hopes will become a giant subdivision in the Green Pond area near Bailey got a green light from Nash County commissioners on Monday.

The board approved rezoning a roughly 25-acre tract of land from R-40 to RA-30 (single-family residential) that will allow developer Cecil Williams to develop a 50-lot subdivision of homes valued about $200,000.

The property, located on the south side of Stoney Hill Church Road between Juniper Road to the west and Chapman Road to the east, is one of five parcels totaling about 188 acres that Williams had originally proposed in May to be rezoned to R-20-CU (medium density residential conditional use).

He planned to develop a 250-home subdivision on the property but withdrew the application for technical reasons and came back in July with the request to rezone the smaller property to R-20. Williams later told commissioners in Bailey he still envisions eventually developing the entire property for 250 homes.

Commissioners in July tabled the request to give themselves and the planning department time to evaluate the effect of increasing residential growth on the county’s land use plan and to make any necessary adjustments. At the required public hearing in July, a stream of neighboring residents voiced strong objections to the rezoning and the project, noting its negative impact on what is now a rural agriculturally oriented area. A large group of residents silently looked during Monday’s vote, but the board chose not to have another hearing.

The board held a planning workshop session on Aug. 19 and on Sept. 23 approved three zoning changes, two of which affect the zoning request. One designated the area for suburban growth because of the availability of the county’s water system. The second change prohibits the practice of clustering lots smaller than 20,000 square feet.

Clustering allows a developer to create smaller lots than a zone designates by setting aside the remaining land in a common or public area and limiting the number of new lots to the same number as the original request. Clustering is used to help developers build subdivisions even on property not completely suitable for development.

Several county commissioners have expressed wariness of the clustering concept because of the smaller lots and more dense development it allows, and commissioners were concerned that a rezoned R-20 parcel could lead to 10,000 square-foot lots. The board action last month ensures that the smallest lot created by clustering is no smaller than the zoned 20,000 square feet.

Williams had requested the R-20 zone designation by saying he needed the 20,000 square-foot lots to make the project profitable. While the board decided to rezone the property to a R-30 zone larger than what Williams requested, he does retain the clustering option to use 20,000 square-foot lots, but no smaller.

Commissioner Sue Leggett asked planning director Adam Tyson if the county could prevent Williams from clustering lots in the R-30 zone, but Tyson said the county could not single out one property for such a prohibition in a general rezoning.

Board Chairman Robbie Davis assured her, “You’re not going to have additional homes, but it gives you the flexibility to utilize the land in a little different way.”

Tyson said the county board could choose to rezone the property R-20 or R-30 and Leggett moved to rezone it R-30 with 30,000 square-foot lots “to maintain the agricultural character of the community.” The board’s agreement was unanimous.

“We’re at a pivotal point in Nash County,” Davis said. “We’re in an era we’ve been anticipating for a long time.”

In other business, commissioners voted unanimously to amend the county’s Retail and Small Business Economic Development Incentive Grant to include all of Nash County.

Under the original guidelines, the grants — worth up to $20,000 for improvements, renovations or additions to businesses — were awarded through a point system only to projects within rural towns of populations less than 10,000 or unincorporated areas of the county.

Susan Phelps, the county’s rural economic developer, told commissioners that making the grants available to projects within the entire county would be consistent with the county’s decision this year to revive its own economic development program and leave the Carolinas Gateway Partnership.

“This tool allows for broader recruitment of new small businesses to the area and provide incentive to existing businesses for expansion,” she told the board.