Council discusses proposal to build more homes around downtown village
If the village council’s plans move forward, Wesley Chapel will increase their residential density over the next few years.
At its Tuesday, Feb. 22, meeting, the council discussed the benefits and drawbacks of the density proposal as well as the demographics the increase is likely to attract. The density growth would begin in a core area surrounding downtown Wesley Chapel and possibly fan out should future funding allow.
Council members argued that a higher population density would allow the village to offer more services to its residents. Citizens have expressed the desire for more restaurants and stores nearby to make shopping and eating out more convenient.
“Unless we are able to increase residential density, we wouldn’t be able to provide these services,” council member Todd Hess said.
The proposal also aims to increase the connectivity of the area and cut down on automobile traffic. Sidewalks would be added so people living within the core area could walk to their destinations as opposed to driving.
The council is considering increasing the residential density to as high as one house per quarter acre of land in certain areas that are yet to be decided. That’s not to say all of the newly-built homes would have lots of this size.
Planning and zoning administrator Joshua Langden explained that an area could be designated to include a certain number of houses. In his proposal, some of the lots would be larger than others so residents who desired more land could acquire it.
“There’s a difference between lot size and residential density,” Langden said.
While some council members were onboard with the idea of higher density, others expressed some reservations. Member Kim Ormiston is concerned the proposal would neglect what village citizens desired for the community.
“One of the things I’ve campaigned for is keeping lower density,” Ormiston said. “I’ve seen an overwhelming response to keep our community rural. Our citizens have asked me to stand up for this.”
Citizens present at the meeting also were worried the proposal would cause the surrounding schools to become overcrowded, to which Hess explained the demographics the proposal will try to attract are older, retired citizens and young families who are just starting out and do not have school-aged children.
The proposal may strive to appeal to the older population by building a retirement community for individuals 55 and older who are not yet in need of day-to-day medical care.
Smaller, more affordable homes would strive to attract young families with one or two small children and possibly open the gateway for a new day care, which would benefit the community economically, officials said. However, Mayor Pro-tem Sondra Bradford wasn’t sure the idea would work.
“Most of the jobs in this area are in retail,” she explained. “So, I don’t see young people who want a connected, urban community moving here.”
Bradford went on to say she feels a retirement center for the elderly may work better for the type of community.
Citizens present were concerned the two demographics might clash if living in such close proximity to one another. One resident explained that, if she were moving to a retirement community, she would not want a handful of young kids running around and making noise near her home.
Others were worried new housing would make the area look worse and possibly attract crime to the community. Hess assured them builders would have rigorous architectural guidelines concerning the construction of the homes. He is not worried about an increase in crime.
Additional ideas that may make the agenda in the future include talks of adding a beltway to help direct traffic flow from Waxhaw-Indian Trail Road to Weddington Road. The council also talked about the possibility of building a nursing home along with the retirement community.
Ormistead explained to the council that the benefits of increasing the residential density would be seen immediately, but long-term effects needed to be considered.
“The question we need to ask is, ‘What impact will this have 20 years down the road?’” she said.
Mayor Brad Horvath said a density increase will occur to some extent, whether or not the council plans on it.
“We need to at least discuss this,” he said. “We don’t need to ignore it. We need to address it and take charge, not just let it happen.”