Controversial Cotswold plan wins City Council’s approval

The Scottish Rite temple site on Randolph Road, which will be redeveloped into senior apartments.
The Scottish Rite temple site on Randolph Road, which will be redeveloped into senior apartments.

A contentious plan to build more than 150 new apartments on Randolph Road has won City Council’s approval, but the vote shows that worries about density are resonating with some members.

Greystar, a Charleston-based apartment development firm, plans to build 158 new apartments at the site of the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple, on Randolph at Rutledge Avenue. Called “Overture Cotswold,” residents will be restricted to people age 55 or older.

Charlotte City Council held a vote on the rezoning request, which had been delayed, at their regular business meeting last week. Neighbors had strongly opposed the development, which they said will be too dense for the area and set up the Randolph Road corridor for more high-intensity apartment uses.

Greystar had originally planned up to 230 apartments on the site, but reduced the number try to placate neighbors. The developer also moved the buildings further away from neighboring single-family houses, reduced the maximum building heights from 60 to 40 or 50 feet, widened buffers and landscaping between the apartments and houses and agreed to screen them the neighborhood with trees.

That was enough to win over a majority of council members, who approved the plan in a 7-4 vote.

“The density has troubled me,” said Claire Fallon, a Democrat. But she said the design (“For a change, something doesn’t look like barracks,”) and the fact that the building would consist of much-needed housing for seniors convinced her the plan is for the best.

Others weren’t convinced. Kenny Smith, a Republican, voted against the plan along with Democrats Vi Lyles, Julie Eiselt and Patsy Kinsey. He said the 26 units-per-acre in the plan is just too dense for the area, and that he couldn’t support going above 22 units-per-acre, which would yield 132 apartments on the 6-acre site.

“I truly appreciate the progress made by the developer, but progress in and of itself is not enough to move me to a ‘yes’ vote,” said Smith.

Ed Driggs, City Council’s other Republican member, split with Smith and voted in favor of the proposal.

“I think we all had a hard time with this,” said Driggs. “It doesn’t feel, to me, like an unreasonable intrusion” into the surrounding neighborhood.

Driggs said City Council should have more concrete standards about how much density they will approve in certain areas, rather than handling each proposal on an ad hoc basis as they now do.

“We don’t have reference standards,” said Driggs. “I think we ought to have a better environment for communicating where we’re going to come out on some of these things.”

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo