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Apartment vote delayed, Developer will invite citizens to meet with him on site

The Farmville Town Council has postponed a vote on a conditional use permit requested by Farmville Associates LLC for a 120-unit apartment complex on South Main Street.

By consensus, the council agreed to take up the permit application possibly in July, after a community meeting between town residents and Russell Harper — principal of Farmville Associates — can be held in mid- to late June. An exact date was not agreed to during the council’s work session Wednesday morning.

Last week, the planning commission voted 5-2 to recommend the permit to allow for the proposed apartments between Walmart and the Greens South subdivision. The final decision on the permit lies with the council.

As part of its action, the commission recommended that an 8-foot privacy wall be erected and vegetation planted around the proposed apartment complex to provide a buffer from adjacent residential properties and that the council consider moving the project’s entrance back to the former Willa Wood property on South Main Street as stipulated in the original proposal.

The action came after the project developer said he wanted to use an existing right-of-way for the entrance, which would place it adjacent to Benchmark Community Bank, much closer to the intersection of South Main and Milnwood Road.

The proposed community meeting would involve residents of Cabell’s Court and the Greens South subdivision .

“There’s a lot of misinformation and still misunderstanding out there — the fact that it’s not a rezoning, it is a conditional use. …” Mayor David Whitus said during the Wednesday work session.

“Clearly, (for) the residents of the Green South, it would be wise for them to have some sort of a meeting with the developer to have all their questions and concerns answered. I mean, there’s a lot of questions,” Whitus said.

“I suggested it to the developer some time ago,” Town Manager Gerald Spates said. “He’s very interested in meeting with the residents and hosting some kind of little get-together.”

“I think it’s a good idea, too,” Ward E Representative J.J. “Jamie” Davis said. “…Maybe even at least be open to what they have to say and at least take it under consideration. Certainly, that way council will be able to know as well (in setting) restrictions.”

“I’ve had conversations with him,” said Ward A Representative Greg Cole, who represents the the area of the proposed development, “and we’d like to try to do something late on in June … We have a lot of positive feedback. So, I would like the council to consider delaying any action on this until July to give us time to have that community meeting over there and let the residents talk to the developer and make sure we have all of the conditions and we satisfy that part for those residents.”

Several council members said they would attend the meeting.

“I think they all have the same concerns of noise and lighting and to hear from the developer as to what he would do,” Cole said, “and really, I think, it would be good for the developer to say, ‘Here’s where it’s going,’ instead of looking at it on a map. He can actually show it.”

The meeting, Cole said, won’t pertain to the traffic concerns but rather to “quality of life.”

“The people I’ve talked to seem to understand … there’s going to be an apartment complex there,” Whitus said. “Now, let’s talk about the conditions … The zoning allows it. So, now, let’s figure out the best conditions. …”

Whitus said the project is not Section 8 housing. “I was asked that yesterday. There seems to be, again, a misconception … It is more for professionals.”

During the work session, At-Large Councilman Dan Dwyer, who is also a member of the planning commission, asked Town Attorney Gary Elder if a right-hand-turn-only condition is in the purview of the council to impose on the project. “…If council elected to do so, it could impose certain traffic requirements,” Elder said. He said the council would need to have what it believes as a “good reason to do that.” He said council members need to weigh the public comments versus the traffic study.

Last week, planning commission members discussed stipulating a “right turn only” sign at the exit and entrance to the project, drawing a response from Harper, who stated that he would not move forward with the project if such a sign was present.

During the work session, Dwyer said that when the commission delayed its May 11 meeting after a joint public hearing on the permit, “…we kind of contradicted our plan that we normally go with.” He said that delaying commission meetings shouldn’t be a reaction to a one-time project. “We need to have a policy: Either we delay all commission meetings, following the public hearing, or we leave it as it is. In a matter of transparency, it’s a good thing to be consistent.”

Dwyer suggested advertisement of any called meetings using local media outlets. “We were not transparent enough in letting the public know.”

Whitus explained that, because of the length of the hearing, the commission meeting would have pulled Spates and Dwyer from the council meeting, which would have delayed calling the body to order.

The council suggested an administrative move to advertise special and called meetings with local radio stations and online, and considered advertising the meetings in local newspapers.