Proposed rezoning would add 170 apartments at Providence, Strawberry Hill

Officials with the Camden apartment complex group want to tear down the Camden Pinehurst community at 3904 Providence Road in favor of building a new complex with roughly 170 more apartments. But the increase in density has some concerned.

The development group submitted plans to Charlotte’s planning board recently asking for a change in zoning that would allow more apartment units on the 36 acres at Providence Road and Strawberry Hill Drive. There’s currently 407 apartment units in the project, though Camden would like to increase that to 580 in a new complex.

Sonja Sanders, with the city’s planning department, said city staff supports the plans so far, as Camden has promised to dedicate some land for a connection to the McMullen Creek Greenway and make other changes in exchange for approval of the zoning change. The land’s already zoned for an apartment complex, the new zoning just allows for roughly five more units per acre. The planning department hasn’t done its full analysis of the project yet, Sanders said.

The ultimate decision is up to Charlotte City Council, which will vote on the rezoning later this year. Council members are scheduled to hear from the developer and those for and against the project at a Feb. 18 meeting. They’ll also eventually get a recommendation from the planning board to approve or deny the rezoning.

So far, only a handful of city departments have weighed in on the merits of the project. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials have already raised one red flag, saying the project will only add to overcrowding problems at three schools already over capacity near the project.

The apartment complex feeds into Sharon Elementary School, Alexander Graham Middle School and Myers Park High School. According to estimates the city uses for such projects, the current complex size generates 61 students for area schools, while growing the project would increase the number of students to 82. The 21-student increase, roughly the size of a class, could be hurtful to the schools, officials said in their report on the project.

“We have the following comments that are critical to CMS’ support of this petition,” school officials wrote to the planning board. “Adequacy of existing school capacity in this area is a significant problem. We are particularly concerned about rezoning cases where school utilization exceeds 100 (percent) since the proposed development will exacerbate this situation. Approval of this petition will increase overcrowding and/or reliance upon mobile classrooms at the schools.”

With the increase in students, “utilization” of Sharon Elementary would increase to 150 percent without having to use mobile classrooms – 100 percent is considered “at capacity.” Alexander Graham Middle’s utilization would grow to 113 percent, and Myers Park High’s would grow to 108 percent.

The school system estimates it would take $1,826,000 to provide the additional school capacity needed for a new Camden Pinehurst, according to the report.

“CMS recommends the petitioner schedule a meeting with staff to discuss any opportunities that the petitioner/developer may propose to improve the adequacy of school capacity in the immediate area of the proposed development.”

Other departments will weigh in over the next few days, while the Charlotte Department of Transportation’s report on how many vehicles the project would add to area roads is not available yet. The Charlotte-Area Transit System has requested the developer add a waiting pad on Providence Road for a bus stop already in place there.

Officials with Camden, and local representatives for Camden, did not respond to requests for comment.

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