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Debating change

Cross Roads approves zoning change for planned development

For the Cross Roads Market Square project, the second time was the charm.

At their joint Monday night meeting, the Cross Roads Planning and Zoning Commission and the Town Council approved changing the zoning of the 33-acre property owned by local developer Fred Nichols from agricultural to planned development.

“The projected buildout sales tax revenue of $900,000–I can’t remember the exact number–and then also the potential for the hotel tax opens up so many different avenues,” Mayor Bob Gorton said Tuesday. “If the town doesn’t expand its sales tax base, it’s inevitable that we will have to go to an ad valorem tax.”

Gorton supports the development, he said.

“I was elected to represent the town and the town’s best interest,” he said. “I can honestly say that I felt it would have been in the best interest of the town for this project to be approved.”

The proposal looked nearly identical to the one voted down on Aug. 19 in a 3-2 vote, but the second proposal included a Public Improvement District that will go to public safety. Council member Duke Roberson’s vote changed from the first vote to the second.

“I understood the finances of what he was doing and what we had done with our budgetary process, and it’s all about finances,” he said after the meeting.

Included in the development proposal is several retail and restaurant options, a hotel, a family-friendly entertainment venue, a three-story apartment complex and an acre-plus dog park.

Proponents and opponents alike stood before the council and the standing-room-only crowd, sharing their concerns, questions and stances with the council before its vote.

Seven spoke in favor of the proposed development, including two business owners whose businesses will butt up to the planned development.

“Our infrastructure at that location and that area is terrible,” said Stuart Tilley, a supervising partner of the Cross Roads Sonic.

Having the opportunity to hook up to a sewer system instead of using an on-site septic system will make a huge difference for the restaurant, Tilley said, and he said he believes it will benefit the town as a whole.

A former council member also spoke of his support for the project, saying it was “the highest and best use” for the space, especially factoring in the possibility of sewer connectivity for the area and surrounding businesses.

“Sewer is very, very expensive to install,” Peter Carrothers said, adding that Cross Roads and the Mustang Special Utility District will not be able to fund such a project on their own.

Sylvia Phillips, who lives in Cross Roads and specializes in commercial real estate, talked about the 380 Agreement for the Walmart in town.

“So, every dollar generated over there is a 65-cent tax dollar,” she said. “This project will be paying 100% tax dollars to the city.”

Getting a developer to go into a space like the one rezoned Monday can be problematic, she also said, based on her work with developers and people in site selection.

“Not one of them have ever come to me and said, ‘Here’s our criteria; here’s what we’re looking for in Cross Roads,’” she said. “‘Tell us where we can find a tract of land that has not a 90 feet of frontage and no sewer.’”

Long-time resident Kathryn Langley, whose family has lived in Cross Roads for 50 years, not only said she felt the development was well-thought out, she also asked the crowd to keep any comments factual and respectful.

“Don’t be accusing other people of saying stuff and scheming and bribing,” Langley said. “Come on, folks. We’re not the Hatfields and McCoys. Let’s try to communicate in adult fashion.”

Fifteen residents attempted to sway the commission and the council to either table the zoning request or to deny it outright.

The first to speak was Randy Wallace, who said the way the related development agreement was discussed in executive session was “a terrible precedent for” Cross Roads and that the market around Cross Roads has enough apartments without the ones proposed for the town.

“There is no need for apartments in Cross Roads,” Wallace said. “And they do not belong in this rural community of single-family homes.”

Rhonda Castleberry felt the apartments in the development will be “a drain on our resources,” and said she felt the entire acreage should be used for commercial purposes.

Pam Lawrence expressed frustration that the only change was adding the PID and agreed with Castleberry’s evaluation of the apartment complex’s impact.

“I was really so hoping that the developer would hear the citizens who are not interested in having apartments in Cross Roads and that they would want to bring back something different in that section other than apartments, and that did not happen,” she added.

Her concern, a fire at the complex would be difficult to stop, was addressed by Charles Ames, the owner of the proposed apartments.

Each unit will contain a self-contained fire-suppression system, he told the council and the crowd.

In addition, the Aubrey Fire Department, which serves Cross Roads, has equipment to handle a three-story apartment complex such as the Palladium Aubrey Apartments on Highmeadow Drive just off of U.S. 377.

Several of the speakers pointed out council member Bobby Phillips’ absence, saying it was a reason to delay a decision on the rezoning because he had been a no vote in August.

In addition to those who spoke during the meeting, 71 people provided either a written comment or their signature to indicate how they felt about the idea of the Cross Roads Market Square.

There were 16 emails opposed to the development, 11 emails in favor and “a digital document containing 44 individuals in favor of” the Cross Roads Market Square, Gorton said at the conclusion of the public hearing.

The list of names came from residents in The Village, Roberson said, which is his neighborhood.

After the P&Z members unanimously approved the zoning change and the council also voted yes in a 3-1 vote, with Mayor Pro Tem Dave Meek voting no, Nichols said he was excited to make progress on the development and to finalize the partners with whom he has letters of intent.

“We’re ready to start,” he said. “We really want to hit the ground running.”

The next step in the process will be Nichols submitting a more detailed planned development proposal to the town and to formalize the partnerships with the businesses that have agreed to be part of the Cross Roads Market Square.

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