Council Balks at PDD Plan

Cobblestone Makeover Meets Opposition

BLYTHEWOOD – Developer DR Horton’s proposed zoning amendment to Cobblestone Park’s Planned Development District (PDD) continues to be a heated topic at Town Council. Last week, the Planning Commission unanimously approved recommending the amendment to Council, but at their monthly work session on Tuesday, some Council members who live in Cobblestone Park suggested they might have reservations about approving the amendment as recommended.

That recommendation reduces the total number of dwelling units from the previously approved 1,250 to 1,142. It also includes placing five model homes at the site of the old tennis courts at the entrance to the subdivision off Blythewood Road. But the proposal increases the number of single family homes in the Primrose section by 144 over the existing 380, by constructing them on what originally had been planned as the 9-hole golf course.

Councilmen Tom Utroska and Bob Mangone said two issues residents have with the proposal are the increased traffic at the entrance to Cobblestone Park that would result from an additional 600-700 homes over the next 10 years as the development builds out. They also expressed concern that the model homes that Horton proposes near the gated entrance to the subdivision will be cheaper homes that will depress prices of the more expensive homes in Cobblestone Park. Utroska said the model home traffic will be immediate and non-resident traffic that will further add to the traffic load pouring onto Blythewood Road. He would like to see a traffic study done, but the builder is not required to do one. Town Administrator Gary Parker suggested that since the development was being expanded, the Town might have a better chance of requiring the traffic study.

Mangone spoke more strongly against the proposal, saying, in its present form, he would not vote for the amendment.

“There’s an angst (by residents) that buyers will see the cheap model homes and there will be no reason to look at the more expensive ones,” Mangone said.

While he said the builder suggested the model homes could be hidden by landscaping, “The worry is that as people turn the corner on to Links Crossing, they will see all these different houses and they will say ‘how cheap that looks’,” Mangone said.

To solve the problem, he suggested more of a setback on the model home lots and more extensive landscape buffering to further mask the appearance the homes. Mangone also said he wants DR Horton to commit to price points on the model homes.

“If you’re going to put $300,000+ homes here, that’s fine,” Mangone said. “But if you tell me you’re going to put the starter models here, and have five different models going up, then that’s not so good.”

Councilman Bob Massa, who is not a resident of Cobblestone, said he was concerned that the area where the model homes are being built is high and will be prone to storm water runoff. He said that will turn out to be a problem for the Town.

If the Council does not approve the amendment, Horton is already approved to build 312 multifamily units and 800 single family homes. Under the proposal, Horton would build 1,030 single family homes and limit multifamily homes to 112 for a total allowable residences of 1,142.

First reading of the proposed zoning amendment is scheduled for the November Council meeting.

Landscape Maintenance

Council continues to grapple with the need to provide landscape maintenance for the plantings on the I-77 interchange as well as the plantings in the median at the County line near mile marker 29. Last summer, Mayor J. Michael Ross recommended that the Town provide landscape maintenance on an as-needed basis instead of regularly scheduled maintenance. As a result, Parker told the Mayor that there have been a number of complaints about the appearance of the interchange plantings.

“Not just the grass and mowing, but the appearance of the flower beds and the nature of the weeds coming up,” Parker told Council.

As a result, Parker has taken phone quotes for landscape maintenance on the two areas and included the four quotes received in the workshop agenda packet and suggested the Council look over them and come to some conclusions. Ross admitted that he now sees the need for landscaping maintenance as urgent.

“I think we’ve come to a time that we’ve got to do something about landscaping maintenance,” Ross said. “We have done nothing – mulch, pine straw – nothing, and some of those (grassy) corners are now completely vacant. We need to do something immediately this fall. We’ve neglected our landscaping. We need to do something now and then look down the road for long term solutions.”

Parker said the item would be on the Oct. 27 meeting for action.

Budget Amendment

Town Council also amended the fiscal year 2015 budget for a variety of reasons, but primarily, according to Parker, because some expenditures are over budget. To eliminate this, expenditures were increased by $220,651. To balance those expenses, revenue was upped in several areas, primarily by taking $128,051 from the Town’s fund balance. Parker said $30,000 of that appropriation was used to raise the revenue of the Insurance Tax Collection revenue.

Under Hospitality Tax revenue, Parker said $500 was added in interest income and $44,300 was taken from the fund balance, bringing the new total to $316,800. The Town had budgeted $10,000 for the Chamber of Commerce this year, but Parker said tourism dollars cannot be used to fund the Chamber, so that $10,000 was moved to Community Promotions.

Adding Man Hours at Town Hall

Citing increased phone and foot traffic at Town Hall for information about The Manor rentals, Parker suggested increasing the hours of two part-time employees, Margaret Kelly and Hazel Kelly, for a total of 7 more hours per week. Parker said this would allow the front offices to be manned until 3 p.m. each day. The total cost for the additional hours would be $9,360 annually. Parker said this cost would be covered by a balance in salaries in the general fund.

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