Charles Boulevard student complex clears final hurdle

The Retreat student housing complex will be the first of five residential and office developments slated for the 85-acre farm above adjacent to Charles Boulevard north of Fire Tower Road.

Developers can begin detailed planning and construction preparations for a 656-bedroom student apartment complex on Charles Boulevard now that they have received final approval for preliminary site plans.

On Tuesday night, the Greenville Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved plats for The Retreat, ending an almost 10-month battle by the developer to aquire necessary approvals and permits from the board.

Controversy around the project arose after the commission denied a special-use permit for the development in May. The developer, Georgia-based LCD Acquisitions, also known as Landmark Development, challenged the commission’s decision during a hearing in Pitt County Superior Court on Jan. 22. Following the hearing, the commission was ordered by a Superior Court judge to issue the permit.

The court’s ruling nullified the commission’s denial, which was based on anticipated traffic hazards. The court ruled no credible evidence of that claim was presented.

The apartment complex is only one of five tracts Landmark plans to develop on 85 acres of farmland adjacent to Charles just north of Fire Tower Road. The other tracts have been rezoned to accommodate townhomes and single-family housing, as well as 8.2 acres of office space near the existing Tucker Professional Center.

Plans for the other tracts will go before the commission at a later date.

Board members had few questions about the plats presented to them, focused mainly on how the complex will address increased traffic activity in the area.

Early plans call for two separate driveways connecting to Charles Boulevard, which the developer hopes will decrease traffic congestion. Commissioners also asked about plans to partner with East Carolina University to use its bus system to transport students to campus like many other complexes throughout the city. Mike Baldwin, representing the developer, said the complex was actually required by the court ruling to partner with ECU.

Other new developments in the plans include a small footbridge connecting The Retreat to Grace Church to the south, which Baldwin said has been cooperating with developers.

The plats were reviewed and approved by city staff before being brought to the commission. No spoke during a public hearing on the request to approve the plats except Baldwin.

Following the hearing, Michael Overton moved to approve the plats, and Margaret Reid seconded the motion, before the final vote.

Also at the meeting:

• A controversial request by Michael Roberson of Solar Creations in Winterville to rezone 4.289 acres near Brookhaven Acres Subdivision was withdrawn. Roberson asked in February to change the zoning from residential-agricultural to unoffensive industrial, but nearby homeowners opposed the request. The land was located between North Memorial Drive and Briley Road and 100 feet west of Brookhaven.

• The commission unanimously approved a request by Happy Trail Farms to rezone 55.957 acres between West Arlington Boulevard and Spring Forest Apartments and Condominiums and along the Norfolk Southern Railroad. The developer asked for zoning to be changed from medical-office and residential-agricultural to medical, heavy commercial a 12.243-acres plot; to medical, general commercial for a 22.041-acre plot; and to medical-residential for a 21.673-acre plot. According to Baldwin, who was representing Woody Whichard, the owner of the property, future site plans envision a mixed-use development of residential and commercial catering to the nearby medical district. The rezoning is subject to approval by the City Council.

Contact Seth Gulledge at Sgulledge@reflector.com and 329-9579. Follow him on Twitter @GulledgeSeth

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