Proposed developments in La Grange spark debate

Proposed developments in La Grange spark debate

LA GRANGE — A debate is raging in one Lenoir County town over the rezoning of two parcels of land for large multi-unit affordable housing developments.

On Monday, the La Grange planning commission will hold a meeting to discuss the issuance of a conditional use permit for a proposed subdivision on land that is already zoned for that use. The proposed Magnolia Run subdivision on N. Caswell St. in La Grange and proposals for two other multi-unit complexes on parcels that would have to be rezoned are dividing citizens and town leaders.

La Grange business owner Bruce Bannister is one of the residents who opposes rezoning, and he said he and others worry about the effect large developments could have on the town’s future. Bannister said residents are concerned about possible overcrowding of schools, possible impacts on property values, the impact on town water and sewer systems and potential drainage issues.

Bannister also pointed to the reputation of similar developments in neighboring towns and potential for an increased crime rate.

“I feel like it’s going to overwhelm the resources of the town. We all want to see La Grange grow, but this isn’t the right way,” he said.

La Grange Town Manager John Craft said he understands the concerns residents have over the proposals. The town council and the planning board still have to consider each application that comes to them for conditional use permits and re-zoning requests.

“The town did not seek these developers, we did not go out looking and ask for folks to come to do this. They came, and we’re required by law. ... If we have a request for rezoning, it has to come before the planning board and the council,” Craft said.

Town leadership is also limited in their options for denying requests. The income level of the potential residents cannot be a factor in the council’s decision.

“That’s a discrimination issue,” Craft said.. “Legally, that cannot be the basis of the council’s decision whether or not to rezone.”

Craft also said it is very unlikely all three of the proposed developments would actually come to fruition, and it is still possible, he said, none of them will actually be built. The requested re-zoning, Craft said, is in accordance with the town’s 2016 Land Use Plan, but the council will still consider the requests carefully, as well as any requests for conditional use permits should the projects reach that stage.

The planning meeting Monday night will be considering the conditional use permit for the Magnolia Run subdivision, and the planning commission will make a recommendation to the town council after the meeting. Craft said the council will consider that request as well as the rezoning requests at its April 1 meeting.

Bannister and other concerned citizens are hoping to have their voices heard at those meetings, and hope the town council will take their fears into consideration.

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