Approve apartments, with strict conditions

Published 8:22 am Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A ll signs point to the Farmville Town Council voting Wednesday on a conditional use permit that would allow Farmville Associates LLC to build a 100-unit apartment complex on South Main Street, despite our strong preference that the council delay the voting to allow for a full traffic study.

We support the approval of the permit for the apartment complex, but only with specific conditions that are necessary for the safety of its tenants, its neighbors and visitors who’ll interact with it.

Despite what a traffic engineer recommended last week, the South Main Street entrance to the apartments should use property owned by the developer’s firm, not land the town owns. Though this will move the intersection closer to the busy Milnwood Road intersection, it follows a principle that’s of paramount importance to us — sticking to one’s word.

Town Manager Gerald Spates — using town letterhead — wrote Willa Wood, the former owner of the now town-owned land, telling her that the land would not be used for an access road. When the town originally bought the land, Spates told Wood that it was needed for a retention pond.

To break that bond would not be good for the town in any way, shape or form, and, in many ways, would be a disgraceful act by the town council and one that would haunt it for many years to come when negotiating property purchases. Simply put, no prospective seller would trust a word that town officials say regarding intended use of property.

Two additional entrances to the apartments using existing South Main intersections with protected turns are also a must, such as those proposed at Tractor Supply and at the Walmart Shopping Center. Rather than simply state his intentions, developer Russell Harper should be required to secure permission for those access routes before construction begins.

At the apartments’ primary South Main exit, a right-turn-only stipulation should be part of the permit approval. This, along with the planned improvements at the intersection at Milnwood, will greatly enhance safety in that area.

Ten adjacent acres — proposed by Harper as a public recreational area — must be proffered to the town, as proposed. The council also must hold Farmville Associates to its promise to add additional vegetative buffers between the complex and homes in nearby Cabell’s Court.

There’s no question that the apartments can be built on the property Harper owns; the land is zoned for such a use. But there’s also no question that council members must use the permitting process to make this the safest project possible and take heed of their constituents’ concerns.