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Echo Farms Residents Worry Panel's Decision Could Negate Potential Rezoning

By Cece Nunn, posted Jan 13, 2017
A proposal to replace the Echo Farms golf course with homes is the subject of another city panel’s meeting next week, including a request that would support the developer's plans for the property.

The agenda for the Subdivision Review Board meeting at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday includes a preliminary plan approval and establishment of vested rights for the proposed Woodlands at Echo Farms.

The new Echo Farms community would replace the current golf course with 240 multi-family units, 171 single-family homes and 125 townhomes, according to the proposal by property owner Matrix Development Group. Echo Farms residents have mounted a campaign to halt the redevelopment, filing to seek an injunction in December and in October asking for a rezoning of the property from a category that allows apartments to a lower-density designation.

An attorney for the Echo Farms Residents Association has filed an appeal to the Board of Adjustment “asserting that the proposed development application is incomplete and ought not be heard at this upcoming SRB [Subdivision Review Board] ... ,” according to an update from Echo Farms Preservation, a group founded to oppose the redevelopment.

The attorney has requested that the appeal be heard at a March meeting of the Board of Adjustment, the update said.

The Echo Farms Preservation update also said that the vested rights request, if granted, would be particularly damaging to the aim of the residents’ rezoning request.

“Under the current MF-M [Multifamily Medium Density] zoning, this is the only city approval, apart from obtaining proper permits, that is needed before Echo Farms can be bulldozed. Worse yet, Matrix is specifically seeking ‘vested rights’ from the SRB. Vested rights would mean that, according to NC General Statutes, ‘Amendments in zoning ordinances shall not be applicable or enforceable without consent of the owner ... ’ In other words, even if we are granted a zoning change to R-15, it wouldn't apply,” the update explains.

Joe Taylor, CEO of Matrix Development Group, said in December that company officials were disappointed that the rezoning request could be filed in the first place.

“We think it is inappropriate that the city would accept such an application, and we think that this is a fundamental property rights issue," Taylor said. “We’re going to defend our rights.”

Taylor said Friday that he believes the allegation that Matrix's development application is incomplete "has no merit. It is complete. It's been stamped complete . . . I believe it should be approved and will be approved on Wednesday."

Matrix has requested that the Board of Adjustment decide whether the residents’ rezoning request should be allowed to move forward. Last week, the city’s Planning Commission voted to delay making a decision on the request until April.

As legal fees mount on both sides, the potential injunction can’t stop what might happen at the Subdivision Review Board meeting, explained the Echo Farms Preservation update.

“We have filed for an injunction, but not yet been granted an injunction. We are still moving forward on this, but unfortunately just filing the request does not immediately stop these other processes,” the update stated.

With a bigger-than-usual crowd expected to attend, the Subdivision Review Board meeting has been moved from a smaller conference room to City Council Chambers.

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