Plans re-filed to build apartments at Jackalope Jacks site

Jackalope Jacks in Charlotte, NC on April 22, 2015.
Jackalope Jacks in Charlotte, NC on April 22, 2015.

For the second time in a little more than a month, a developer has withdrawn and refiled a rezoning plan with the city, skirting a potential protest petition that could have made it harder to gain approval.

Charlotte-based apartment developer Faison refiled slightly tweaked plans to build an apartment building in Elizabeth this week after withdrawing the plans last week.

Although there wasn’t an oustanding protest petition, some neighbors had expressed unease about the scale of the development on the 1.7-acre site at East 7th Street and North Caswell Road. The site is currently home to neighborhood bar Jackalope Jacks and a dog-friendly bar operated by the same owners called Hare of the Dog.

The refiled petition won’t face the possibility of a protest petition, because of a change in the law around rezoning requests. This summer, the N.C. General Assembly banned protest petitions, which neighboring property owners could previously file against plans they opposed. If neighbors filed a protest petition, a super-majority of nine City Council “yes” votes – vs. a simple majority of six – would be required in order to approve a rezoning.

Protest petitions gave neighborhood groups more leverage to force changes in a development, and made it harder for City Council to pass rezoning plans in the face of strong opposition. The real estate industry and developers opposed protest petitions, which they said dragged out the rezoning process, raised the cost of new buildings and gave a handful of property owners the power to hold a project hostage.

The end of the protest petition has left neighborhood groups with less power in the rezoning process.

“It’s totally devastating,” said Beth Haenni, a member of the Elizabeth Community Association’s real estate development and zoning working group. She said city staff has assured her group they will still take neighborhoods’ concerns into account. But that doesn’t compare to the negotiating power gained by forcing a super-majority council vote.

“It’s very disappointing that the legislature allowed this to happen,” said Haenni.

The neighborhood association had expected Faison to refile its plans after withdrawing them last week. “That was strategic,” said Haenni.

Faison filed its original plans in June, before the protest petition ban took effect. Those plans called for 200 apartment units and 15,000 square feet of retail, wrapped around a parking deck. Faison’s new plan calls for a slightly different mix: 150 apartments and 30,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, still wrapped around a parking deck.

Jackalope Jacks owner Rob Nixon has said the bars will remain open and operating at the site until construction begins, which could take years.

Faison executives declined to comment Friday.

Faison’s new plan is scheduled for a public hearing before City Council on Jan. 19. There, the developers will present plans and members of the public will have a chance to voice their opinion. City Council will vote on the proposal at a subsequent meeting, and a simple six-vote majority will be required for it to pass.

The plan that could replace Jackalope Jacks comes amid a major wave of apartment-building and infill development that’s sweeping neighborhoods close to uptown, such as Elizabeth, Plaza Midwood, South End and NoDa. The construction has driven worries about popular local businesses with character being pushed out, such as Common Market’s South End site and music venue the Chop Shop in NoDa.

SouthPark plans withdrawn, refiled

A similar situation with a rezoning plan happened last month in SouthPark.

Synco Properties and Schlosser Development Corp. filed ambitious plans to redevelop the Colony apartments at Sharon and Colony roads. They would tear down the 353-unit low-rise complex and replace it with 1,100 new apartments, an office building, hotel and retail space, creating a major mixed-use development occupying 27 acres.

But adjoining property owners, including prominent Charlotte developers DeeDee and Cameron Harris, filed a protest petition against the plan. In September, Synco and Schlosser withdrew their rezoning request, but refiled it soon after. The refiled petition isn’t subject to a protest petition, since it was filed after the ban.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo