A developer’s request to rezone land in order to build apartments was voted down by the Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday night as a crowd of more than 500 people gathered to voice their opposition.
Many wore T-shirts saying “no to rezoning” in red letters while others held signs and banners. The council chamber was filled to capacity, and residents crowded in to the lobby and stood in the parking lot, watching the proceeding on Facebook Live.
The vote to “disapprove” the rezoning request was 4-2.
The city council will vote on the request from SunScope at its Aug. 20 meeting.
“I think that what happened is awesome,” said Lindsey Neal, who helped organize the opposition.
“We haven’t won the battle yet, but we will be at the city council meeting,” said Neal Cooper, another opponent of the proposal.
Larry Clark, the chairman the Planning and Zoning Commission, said in an interview that the rezoning request was denied because the density was higher than the city’s strategic plan for the land. The plan lists the land use in the area as medium density, meaning townhomes could be built but not apartments.
“When the rubber hits the road, everybody was really objecting to the apartments,” Clark said. “Apartments are high density.”
Lauren Partovi, who represented SunScope, declined to comment on the vote but said during a presentation before the public hearing began that the mixed-use Hightower Commons development would have high-end apartments and townhomes that would include wide sidewalks and a dog park.
“Our goal is to create a mixed use concept with a small-town feel. We have been very sensitive to the to the single-family neighborhood,” she said.
At issue is a request from SunScope to rezone land to build high-end apartments that would attract millennials, but the vacant field abuts backyards, and neighbors worry that their quiet lifestyle will be destroyed.
The residents who spoke voiced their opposition to apartments.
“Watauga is a quiet little bedroom town in the middle of all of that noise,” said Lisa Paulsen, who said she moved to the city about a month ago.
Clark asked if anyone else wanted to speak, saying there were 180 people in the room that was filled to capacity.
People started shouting that they weren’t given a chance to sign up to speak. He pounded his gavel repeatedly to restore order and closed the public hearing at 8:21 p.m.
He then asked the commissioners to vote on the motion to deny the zoning request.