Colony plans withdrawn, resubmitted following protest petition

Rendering of a proposed apartment building on Colony Road, filed as part of the rezoning plan to redevelop the Colony apartments.
Rendering of a proposed apartment building on Colony Road, filed as part of the rezoning plan to redevelop the Colony apartments. BB+M Architecture

A plan to redevelop the Colony apartments in SouthPark with 1,100 new apartments, an office building, hotel and retail space has been withdrawn, after neighboring property owners filed a protest petition with the city.

But Synco Properties and Schlosser Development Corp. are refiling their rezoning proposal for the Colony site immediately. The reason: A new law passed this summer by the N.C. General Assembly eliminated protest petitions.

Under the old system, if enough neighbors signed a protest petition, nine “yes” votes were required from Charlotte City Council to approve the plan, instead of the usual simple majority of six.

The new redevelopment plan from Synco and Schlosser isn’t subject to a protest petition, and won’t have to clear that higher hurdle when City Council votes. A hearing on the plan is expected in December.

“It just made sense, since we were already on a timeline for December,” said Collin Brown, an attorney with K&L Gates who is representing the developer.

“We’re hopeful we’ll have 11 or 12 yes votes,” said Brown.

The 27-acre Colony apartment property is the largest pending redevelopment in SouthPark, which is seeing a wave of new building that will add thousands of new residential units and hundreds of thousands more square feet of office space. That’s made some uneasy about traffic and congestion in the area.

Cameron and DeeDee Harris had filed a protest petition against the development, along with other neighboring commercial property owners. The Harrises are developers, and Cameron Harris is the brother of Johnny Harris, CEO of Lincoln Harris and one of the most prominent developers in Charlotte.

The legislature voted this summer to ban protest petitions for all new development plans. Rezoning plans filed before the ban were still subject to protest petitions.

The development community had sought for years to ban protest petitions, which it said gave small numbers of neighbors too much power to slow or block plans. Neighborhood groups, however, said the protest petitions offered them their only chance to influence decisions about what to build near them.

Synco and Schlosser have agreed to some changes in response to neighbors’ input, Brown said. The height of a proposed hotel building has been reduced from 100 feet to 75 feet, and the building has been moved back from the corner of Colony and Sharon roads to the interior of the site. The number of hotel rooms has been reduced to 225, down from 300.

A proposed office building’s height has been lowered to 140 feet from 160 feet as well, said Brown, and the site will now save more mature trees.

“We’re hopeful that’s addressing the community’s concerns on height,” said Brown. The developers have also agreed to make improvements along Colony Road toward Runnymede Lane, such as adding landscaping to the median and painting crosswalks.

The new plans, filed Monday with the city, would still allow 1,100 new residential units, 250,000 square feet of office space and 300,000 square feet of retail space on the site of the Colony apartments. The 353-unit apartment complex dates to the mid-1970s, and Synco has said major repairs are needed if the Colony were to remain.

Around the Colony apartments, SouthPark is in the midst of a major building boom:

▪  Across from the Colony site, Sharon United Methodist Church plans to redevelop its 7.1-acre site to allow for hundreds of residences, a hotel and office, retail, a grocer and restaurant space.

▪ A few blocks away, Lincoln Harris is building a pair of 10-story office towers behind Piedmont Town Center.

▪ Developers Crescent Communities and Woodfield Investments are building two apartment complexes totaling hundreds of units.

While some neighbors are concerned about increasing traffic, Hilary Larsen, of the Barclay Downs Homeowners Association, said Synco and Schlosser have been open and forthcoming about their designs for the site, and the neighborhood has seen improvements in the plan since it was first filed.

Charlotte City Council member Kenny Smith, a Republican, represents the area. He said Synco and Schlosser have made a concerted effort to reach out to neighbors, and that the road network through their site should help people get through the area.

“We can’t increase the road network without some redevelopment,” said Smith. “SouthPark is about to go through a major renaissance.”

The height of the office building is still under negotiation, Smith said.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo

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