South Charlotte

Builder asking for apartment approvals in Matthews

Garry Smith of BrookeChase Properties wants to build two boutique apartment buildings on half-acre lots in different locations, and has applied for proper zoning.

The Matthews Planning staff says the plans fit nicely with the Matthews Land Use Plan and the Matthews Downtown Plan.

Neighbors near the areas proposed for the apartments disagree.

Protest petitions have been filed on both requests, meaning that instead of a simple majority vote, 75 percent – six members of the seven-member Matthews Town Board – must approve the zoning.

Matthews commissioners held two public hearings Sept. 8 on the request to rezone a half-acre lot at 324 E. Matthews St. (adjoining the driveway at Matthews Town Hall) from R-20 to C-MF (innovative), and a lot at 344 Ames St. (at the corner of Ames and Park Center Drive near Ortho Carolina) from R-12 to C-MF (innovative).

The new C-MF – Concentrated Multi-Family – zoning is a part of the town’s recently adopted Unified Development Ordinance. The designation allows more flexibility in the layout of a project, looking at setbacks and screenings on a case-by-case basis instead of by applying blanket rules.

If the zoning is approved, the developer plans to build a 24-unit apartment building on each of the two lots. The one-bedroom units would range from 650-750 square feet.

Parking at the East Matthews Street location would offer 21 dedicated spaces, but plans call for shared parking with nearby businesses, and possibly Town Hall. The Ames Street location would build 30 new spaces but likely still rely on shared parking.

Urban Design Partners’ Chip Cannon, representing the developer, said the project would bring more “heads on beds” in downtown Matthews, something the town has sought.

Matthews Senior Planner Jay Camp says more residents downtown would make the area more vibrant and attract businesses.

Camp said Smith has a proven track record with his existing development on North Trade Street.

“His existing project has been a resounding success. It’s improved the general aesthetics of the town, even creating a new neighborhood: The NorthEnd. This project would be added to the NorthEnd,” Camp said.

“Since 2008, 10 new buildings, a total of over 150,000 square feet, have been constructed on the NorthEnd, near the end of North Trade Street,” said Camp. “That’s a lot for a town like Matthews to absorb in the downtown area. It includes Garry’s development with a mix of shops, restaurants and apartments, as well as Ortho Carolina and Morningstar Mini-Storage Headquarters.”

Camp said that the Charlotte Metro Credit Union soon will break ground on its new mixed-use project that will add offices, a wine bar, a small park and public art to the NorthEnd.

A number of property owners near both locations told commissioners that a project of that magnitude would ruin the neighborhoods.

They expressed concerns about decreased property values, increased traffic and noise, loss of trees due to development, increased stormwater runoff and parking problems.

Cecil Sumner, who lives near the Ames Street lot, says the sheer size of the project is incompatible with the single-family homes around it.

“It’s a three-story building, 35 feet high and 110 feet long, and it’s intrusive,” said Sumner. “You can make it fit by changing buffers and setbacks and shoe horning it in, but it’s too large a project to be built on a lot that small. In some cases, the building will only be 28 feet from a neighbor’s backyard. Plus, the way it’s designed, the small balconies will overlook three homes, the trees will be gone and there will be no privacy.”

The Matthews Planning Board will discuss the zoning requests at its Sept. 23 meeting, and the issue should come back to the Board of Commissioners for a possible decision Oct. 13.