Planning Commission OK’s Cambridge Pointe

Attorney: Too Late to Alter Home Density

BLYTHEWOOD (Dec. 15, 2016) – The Planning Commission Monday night gave their OK to a preliminary plat for the Cambridge Pointe subdivision without requiring sidewalks and gave it a virtual pass on interconnectivity with adjacent neighborhoods as called for in Blythewood’s Master Plan.

While the former was a relief to the Cambridge Pointe development team, the latter was a relief to both developers and residents of the adjacent Oakhurst subdivision who packed the chambers at Doko Manor to voice their concerns over interconnectivity, home density and traffic.

But the Commission only had the authority, Chairman Bryan Franklin reminded the audience and fellow Commissioners, to address the sidewalk requirement and the proposed link-up between Cambridge Pointe and Oakhurst.

“Go before Town Council and talk with them about the density of houses if you’re concerned with that,” Franklin said after Commissioner Donald Brock, an Oakhurst resident, asked if the Commission had any say over the 89 homes planned for the approximately 41 acres off Boney Road. “They have to vote on the zoning changes. We only can do preliminary plats and do they meet the current zoning ordinance, and in this case they do. But we have the option to ask them to put sidewalks in and the connectivity.”

Cambridge Pointe initially received sketch plan approval, with modifications, on June 7. The plan called for an entrance road to the subdivision off Boney Road and an internal connection to Cross Ridge Road in Oakhurst. While the Town waited on developers to submit their preliminary plat, D.R. Horton approached the Town on Oct. 12 to discuss developing 90 acres of what is known as the Wilson Tract, which lies just to the east of Cambridge Pointe and north-northeast of Oakhurst, fronting Main Street/Wilson Blvd.

D.R. Horton’s project could comprise between 150 and 300 new homes, and, according to the Town, would require more than just a single entrance off Wilson Blvd., as well as neighborhood connectivity with Cambridge Pointe and Oakhurst. In order to accomplish that connectivity, Town staff told Cambridge Pointe developers to reserve lot 86 for a stream crossing into the Wilson Tract, built at D.R. Horton’s expense.

But excluding a home from lot 86 would mean Cambridge Pointe developers would be out $250,000, according to John Thomas of Sustainable Design Consultants, engineers for Cambridge Pointe.

“In a project with 89 lots, you do the math on how much that adds per lot,” Thomas told the Commission. “If you’re going to bridge a big stream like that, you’re probably looking at $500,000 or up, which I don’t think D.R. Horton is going to sit still for. They’re not going to pay that.”

Sidewalks were another issue for the Cambridge Pointe team, Thomas said.

“We met early on and talked about sidewalks in here and it was determined that there’s no sidewalks in Oakhurst to connect to, there’s no sidewalks on Boney Road to connect to,” Thomas said. “I’d like a reason for sidewalks in here.”

For the Commission to require sidewalks at this stage, Thomas said, would mean re-engineering the entire project, re-grading the site, re-designing the storm drainage system and then resubmitting a slew of permits. What developers had planned instead of sidewalks, Thomas said, was a network of walking trails throughout the Cambridge Pointe greenspace.

“Those are issues that should be resolved at the beginning of a project, not at the end of it, after everything has been engineered and submitted for permitting,” Thomas said. “That’s my biggest complaint.”

Town Administrator Gary Parker reminded the Commission that the Master Plan called for connectivity between adjacent neighborhoods – when feasible – in order to alleviate traffic on the main roads and to make Blythewood a more walkable, bicycle-friendly community. Without connectivity, he said, anyone living in Cambridge Pointe wanting to visit Oakhurst would have to exit Cambridge Pointe, travel down Boney Road to Oakhurst Road and enter the single Oakhurst entrance. Likewise, he said, if the Wilson Tract project came to fruition without connectivity, getting to people in Cambridge Pointe would mean dumping cars out on Wilson Blvd., sending them down Oakhurst Road and up Boney Road.

“Why not have a connection, expensive though it may be, that crosses that stream and can access Cambridge Pointe from the Wilson Tract?” Parker said, “Likewise, if you have that connection into Oakhurst from Cambridge Pointe, people can go from one subdivision into another subdivision without having to go on the main corridor, which is both safer, plus encourages walking and bicycling, and that’s the whole concept of the Master Plan.”

Bucky Drake of Drake Development Company, which is developing Cambridge Pointe, told the Commission and audience that their original plan did not call for connectivity with Oakhurst.

“We had to do it because it was required for us to go forward with a plan,” Drake said. “We would rather not have it.”

Oakhurst resident Ethel Johnson said she felt her neighborhood was being punished because Cambridge Pointe had been overdeveloped.

“If the development is too dense to support its own access,” Johnson said, “then why should we, the residents of Oakhurst, be burdened with accommodating a developer who is obviously overbuilding and overcrowding on this small area?”

As the Commission began deliberating the matter, several unidentified members of the audience shouted out calls for a traffic study for Cambridge Pointe.

“Anything less than 90 homes, you’re not required to do one,” Franklin replied. “That’s a Town ordinance. That’s another Town Council issue.”

Brock suggested rejecting the plan and sending the whole thing back to Sustainable Design Consultants for a do-over without any connectivity via automobile with either Oakhurst or the Wilson Tract.

“I would also recommend that the developers consider application for rezoning for R12 or higher to Town Council,” Brock added, “to lower the density in the neighborhood, to build nicer and better homes, up to Oakhurst standards.”

But Franklin said it was too late in the game to suggest such a drastic change since Cambridge Pointe currently met all of the Town’s existing ordinances.

“So there’s no recourse for that high-density development in that area that can’t support that traffic other than to say what? We reject that?” Commissioner Cynthia Shull, also an Oakhurst resident, asked.

Town attorney Jim Meggs confirmed that the only matters the Planning Commission were authorized to address were sidewalks and connectivity. Home density, he said, has long been set in the Town’s ordinances.

“A lot of the ships that folks have been unhappy about in recent times are ships that were built and launched off the launch pad some years ago, because the Master Plan was adopted years ago,” Meggs, turning to the crowd, said. “If you’re concerned about those ships and the possibility that more of them are hitting the water and sailing, you need to come to Town Council.”

Ultimately, the Commission approved the preliminary plat with no sidewalks and no road connections to Oakhurst or the Wilson Tract. The preliminary plat will provide for a multi-use trail system that will include a connection to Oakhurst for pedestrian and bicycle traffic.