City, county officials monitoring Kentington Heights rezoning

Feb. 06, 2013 @ 07:31 PM

Elected officials say they’ll watch a rezoning application for the Kentington Heights subdivision to make sure it doesn’t impinge on neighbors or close off commercial-development options for any Kentington property owners it leaves out.

The application, filed Nov. 26, seeks commercial zoning from the City Council for about 33 acres of the subdivision, basically the half that’s closest to Fayetteville Road.

“My concern is how is that going to be handled if we’re developing half the area and not doing anything with the rest,” said County Commissioner Brenda Howerton, who’s chairing the Joint City/County Planning Committee. “What’s going to happen with the other property owners?”

A South Carolina developer, WRS Inc., wants to place an auto dealership on the site. It’s working with the Hendrick Automotive Group.

Local policy since 2002 has deemed Kentington Heights suitable for a turn to commercial development, but elected officials have held off on changing its zoning so they’d have some say-so over what goes there.

The subdivision is just south of The Streets of Southpoint mall. It began life as a housing development, but property owners have long complained of septic-tank problems that make the land unsuitable for homes.

Though city utilities are near, owners signaled that they’d prefer to reap the higher investment returns of commercial zoning instead of paying for water and sewer hookups.

Howerton’s question during a meeting Wednesday of the joint committee prompted City/County Planning Director Steve Medlin to assure members the lots not covered by the WRS would remain available for commercial development.

Because of the 2002 decision, the remaining owners are free to eventually file their own rezoning applications.

The WRS applications “should not harm” them, Medlin said.

Other officials noted that internal disputes in Kentington Heights have slowed the subdivision’s redevelopment, as there isn’t unity on the asking price for their land and other issues.

City officials have agreed to consider an application covering only part of the site.

“Some of the property owners felt like they were being held hostage, so they decided to go on with this,” said City Councilwoman Cora Cole-McFadden, the joint committee’s vice chairwoman.

But a WRS executive, Stacy Woodhouse, said the company is “currently in discussions” with the remaining owners and is still “trying to purchase the entire site.”

“We have run into a few that weren’t willing to sell yet,” even if they hadn’t closed the door on eventually signing a deal, Woodhouse told the committee.

Another committee member, County Commissioner Wendy Jacobs, urged Woodhouse to pass the word to WRS to “be sensitive to the surrounding residential areas” outside of Kentington Heights.

She noted that a southwest Durham auto dealership, Mark Jacobson Toyota, got embroiled in controversy soon after opening due to its nighttime lighting.

Jacobs also said the project entails a degree of “commercial creep down Fayetteville Road,” contrary to local policy that calls for a tapering-off of development south of Renaissance Parkway.