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East Lincoln residents question proposed active adult development

Eastern Lincoln County residents filled the fellowship hall at Unity Presbyterian Church on Thursday night to hear a presentation on a proposed 1,650 active-adult development that’s planned for 600 acres across from East Lincoln High School.
Developer Walter Fields, consultant on the project and the author of the East Lincoln small area plan, gave an overview of the project proposed by home builder Pulte Homes-Del Webb.
“The property in question is made up of different zoning classifications,” said Fields. “The front of the property is transitional, residential while the back is zoned industrial. Our development plan would combine those two classifications to come up with a residential plan.”
He added that the project has been in the works for “many months.”
“Pulte is my client,” said Fields. “They began looking at the property and what would be a good residential use for the 600 acres.”
Fields said that the proposed development, which would be age-restricted to people 55 and over, may be the largest development proposed in the county.
“This development will have open space of 25-30 percent which is typical of a Del Webb community,” said Fields.
One major concern raised was that of high-density housing.
According to Kirby LaForce, vice president of land acquisition for Pulte Homes-Del Webb, the proposed development isn’t high-density, even though there will be 2.75 homes per acre.
“Folks who had a large yard at their previous house now want open space and recreation,” said LaForce. “What our customers want now is a tight-knit community.”
A question about jobs created via the development was asked by Denver business owner Mark Cotter of Four Season Marine Supply.
“Are the jobs coming from the Denver area or from Pulte,” he asked.
While LaForce reiterated the figure of 1.5 to 2.5 jobs created per retiree family in the development, he provided no guarantees that local firms would be hired for sub-contract work.
“Pulte would be the general contractor,” said LaForce. “We could hire firms within Lincoln County or from outside.”
Questions regarding homeowner’s association dues were also raised.
“While the information very preliminary, I’m estimating they’ll be in the range of $150-$250 per month,” said LaForce. He added that the property manager would hire a groundskeeper for all of the yard work and landscaping maintenance at the development.
LaForce further projected that the project would take up to ten years for build-out once the grand opening of the development was held.
“I’m estimating either in the fourth quarter of 2007 or the first quarter of 2008,” he said.
He added that within six months of the first closing on the first home in the community, the 18,000 – 20,000-square-feet recreation complex would have to be open and operational.
“We have to deliver the recreation upfront,” said LaForce.
Before deciding on eastern Lincoln County and the Clark property, LaForce said his company looked at other areas for the development including in Gaston and Catawba counties.
Denver resident Connie Zmijewski went to Del Webb’s Web site and discovered that some of the homes had brick fronting while others did not.
“What’s been determined for this development,” she asked.
LaForce said that there haven’t been any final determinations on that issue.
“I did spend a half-day in your area, and some modifications may be made,” he said.
Zmijewski responded by asking LaForce to “give Denver a good development.”
East Lincoln Betterment Association member Liz Craig inquired about the traffic study that LaForce touted during the presentation.
“We have a meeting scheduled with planning staff the second week in February,” said LaForce. “The traffic study has to be done prior to that meeting.”
Concerns were also raised about the main entrance to the development, which according to LaForce, will be located off N.C. 73. The secondary entrance will be located on Little Egypt Road.
“Once we have that traffic study, we’ll study the state’s recommendations,” said LaForce.
He added that developers plan on sitting down with Lincoln County school officials regarding ongoing construction at East Lincoln High School and the future construction of the proposed development.
In an interview conducted after the meeting, Craig continued to voice concerns about the increase in traffic the development would cause.
“I hope that the state and developer can reach a solution because traffic is a major concern especially across the street at ELHS,” she said. “It’s a two-lane road with no turn lanes and you have a whole school of student drivers. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out there’s an enormous amount of traffic flowing out onto N.C. 73.”
In a Jan. 25 Lincoln-Times News article, it was revealed that residents of the proposed active adult community would make 3-6 car trips per day, as opposed to the average single family in Lincoln who make 10-13 car trips per day.
Marta Carlson, owner of Paradise Gardens Garden Center on N.C. 16, inquired about why Del Webb picked Lincoln County and where residents were going to come from.
LaForce used a community under construction, Sun City Carolina Lakes in Lancaster County, South Carolina, as an example of the makeup of the proposed 2,970 residents – 1.8 residents per home times 1,650 proposed units – that will call eastern Lincoln County home in the future.
“Seventy percent will come from the Carolinas,” said LaForce. “The other 30 percent will come from elsewhere.”
A public hearing on the Pulte development is scheduled to come before county commissioners at 7 p.m. on Monday night Apr. 3.

by Jon Mayhew

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