HOLLY SPRINGS — A plot of land once proposed as the site of high-end apartments on Gresham Mill Parkway and the topic of a lawsuit filed against the city of Holly Springs was proposed for rezoning at the Holly Springs Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Thursday night.
Commission members voted 4-0 to unanimously recommend approval of an application submitted by the city of Holly Springs to rezone more than 37 acres on Gresham Mill Parkway from Light Industrial to General Commercial.
The property, which is now owned by Cherokee County, is surrounded by I-575, the Falls of Cherokee community, a proposed Wellstar medical complex, the Cherokee County Aquatic Center and Northside Hospital Cherokee, the city stated in its application. The proposed zoning would be more appropriate given the surrounding properties than Light Industrial.
“This property is the site of the Cherokee County Aquatics Center, there's a portion…on the east side that is still undeveloped and was the property that had recently come before you for the Alliance apartments,” Nancy Moon said at the meeting. “That application was denied by city council. This is a city initiated application to rezone this property to GC General Commercial, all of the surrounding property along Gresham Mill Road is zoned GC and the city feels that this would be more compatible for existing zoning and the developments that are already planned for that property with the Wellstar property, RacTrac, it would be more compatible with that zoning category.”
City staff recommended approval of the rezoning with a list of conditions, Moon said.
“A majority of these conditions are things that we put on GC properties anyway with regards to coordination of the open space and landscaping with the city to follow Holly Springs Parkway overlay district, architectural styling and guidelines as well, environmentally sensitive lighting,” she said. “Any improvements based on development would be subject to the determination of the city engineer.”
Debra Frieden, a Falls of Cherokee resident, told commission members during public comment she was in support of the rezoning request. She also suggested they ask the county to keep some of the land to build a park which would cater to patients at the Northside cancer center and people waiting for appointments at the Wellstar medical buildings.
“We have a lot of development in this area and we really like the idea of the Holly Springs overlay and everybody working with us to keep this area beautiful,” she said. “I just wanted to express my support.”
Mayor Steve Miller was present at the meeting to answer any questions residents had about the rezoning request.
He said if the county decided to sell the property, it would be a closed bid sale and any Light Industrial use wouldn’t need prior approval from council members to build. Miller said the city advocated for the rezoning to preserve the integrity of the Sixes Road district.
“I believe Light Industrial belongs in an industrial park,” he said. “Again, I just want to protect the integrity of that area, the citizens, the county and Holly Springs.”
The only Light Industrial use in the area aside from the undeveloped land on Gresham Mill Road is the aquatic center, Miller said.
“If someone were to purchase from the county and wanted to put something that falls into LI category, there’s nothing the city can do to prevent that,” he said.
Despite a recent lawsuit filed against the city after an application to build a 320-unit high-end multi-family apartment complex on the property was unanimously denied by city council in August, Miller said this rezoning decision was not in response to litigation.
“Alliance wanted to rezone it one down to high density multi-family, so this is actually one step above what Alliance wanted to rezone it to, but it’s not a response to it,” he said.
Alliance Realty Partners LLC filed a complaint in Cherokee County Superior Court Sept. 15 after council members rejected the applicant’s request to rezone more than 20 acres of land on Gresham Mill Parkway.
The proposed apartments would provide housing for employees at the new Wellstar medical offices planned for the area and the new Northside Hospital Cherokee, Alliance argued.
In the complaint, Alliance argues the property in question is currently zoned Light Industrial and the request was to rezone the property to High Density Multi-Family Residential, which is “a less intense use than those allowed under the LI zoning category.”
The proposed project met all requirements of the HDMFR zoning except for one setback, which Alliance also sought a variance for, according to court documents.
The company also submitted a traffic study after many residents raised concerns about and storm water analysis with its application.
Despite recommendations from the Holly Springs Planning and Zoning Commission and city staff to approve the applications, council members denied the requests at their Aug. 28 meeting after Attorney Parks Huff, who represented Alliance during the application process, requested council members to table the application.
Alliance called the decision “arbitrary, capricious, irrational (and) a manifest abuse of discretion,” in the complaint.
The denial is final, and there are no other options within the Holly Springs application process to review, modify or reverse the decision, which is why Alliance claimed it filed the suit in court.
The current zoning has “significantly diminished” the value of the property, Alliance claimed in the complaint, and imposes “a significant hardship upon (Alliance) without any benefit to the public.”
In addition, Alliance also accused the city of denying the project “in an attempt to force (Alliance) to redevelop a nearby mobile home development instead.”
Alliance asked the court to declare the current zoning of the property and the denial of its applications as unconstitutional. The company requested the court to remand the rezoning request and order Miller and council members to approve their zoning of the property.
Alliance also asked for other relief if the court deemed it appropriate, according to court documents.
At previous city council meetings, Holly Springs residents spoke out against the apartments, most citing traffic, overcrowded schools and crimes as their concerns.
Miller said after the planning commission meeting Thursday night he stood by council’s decision.
“The city thinks what we did was in the right and not approving the rezoning of the property for the apartments, so we’re proceeding like we’ve done the right thing,” he said.
The rezoning request will appear before city council members for review and a vote before the property is officially rezoned.