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BR may get boutique hotel

From hotels to multi-family units, real estate was a hot topic in last Tuesday night’s Bermuda Run Town Council meeting.

First, Mayor Ken Rethmeier announced that the town had entered into an agreement to work with Development Finance Initiative after negotiating an option placed on a three-acre tract next to WinMock barn for a possible hotel.

“We engaged working with DFI as part of the extension of our updated Comprehensive Plan to look towards an area in the town that’s a good place for a boutique hotel because we are in need of more hotel beds,” Rethmeier said. “DFI came to us and had an excellent presentation. We have entered into option on a piece of property near WinMock working with the Hillsdale Group and to explore and see and what kinds of organizations we might want to entertain having come here to develop it.”

DFI, which is a subsidiary of the UNC School of Government, partners with local governments to attract private investment for transformative projects by providing specialized finance and development options.

Rory Dowling, a senior project manager, gave a presentation on the process with a timeline calling for developing a plan and building program by late summer or fall, and identifying a private partner by winter 2018-19.

“We have a robust list of hotel developers we think will have interest in this project,” said Dowling, who added that DTI has completed 75 engagements across the state and is active in 25 to 30 communities.

Town Manager Lee Rollins said that the property is on the north side of WinMock on Kinderton Boulevard.

“The option is three acres, but that’s a little fluid because the Hillsdale Group has given us flexibility until we get the market analysis,” he said. “DFI goes out with proposals to developers. We’re just the conduit to the Hillsdale Group bridging the gap.”

Rollins said that there is a 60-foot height limit, which would limit the hotel to three or four stories.

“Based on some feedback we’ve gotten from the private sector, we’re looking at 90 to 100 rooms,” he said. “That’s all the more reason for DFI to do that analysis for us to contract out that due diligence and find out what the market looks like.”

Rethmeier mentioned the Wake Forest Baptist Davie Medical Center, the expansion of BB&T Sports Park and the Carolina Athletic Performance facility, the 120,000 square-foot mega sports complex that is set to begin construction, as major reasons for pursuing a hotel, but then provided another possible item to the mix.

“I learned today that the developers of the sports complex are in the very early talking negotiations with the U.S. Gymnastics Association looking at potentially bringing their effort to set up a place here in the Town of Bermuda Run,” Rethmeier said. “That would be game-changer for all of us.”

The biggest item on the agenda, which produced a full house at town hall, was a public hearing on proposed text amendments with restrictions on multi-family residential drawing most of the comments.

Only one person, Planning Board Chair Christy Schafer, spoke in favor of the changes, while six individuals voiced comments in opposition. After the public hearing, the council voted unanimously to defer a decision to the next meeting to give more time to consider all the information presented.

Before that happened, Erin Burris, town planner and zoning administrator, said that the town had received an application for apartments within Kinderton at Bermuda Run for 224 units.

“We received the application fee and preliminary site plan for that,” Burris said. “That proposed development would not be affected by any text amendment if you choose to go through with that.”

She added that the Smith Creek Apartments under construction at the end of Shady Lane with 80 units and Hillsdale West Drive Apartments, also with 80 units, would not be affected.

“So there are 384 units in various stages of approval or construction that this would not affect,” Burris said.

The text amendments in Section 3 and Section 9 regarding multi-family residential provided the primary topic of conversation.

Burris said that currently, multi-family residential is a use permitted with conditions in every single zoning district in the town’s jurisdiction and the ordinance currently allows each zoning district to be a maximum of 10 percent to 20 percent multi-family residential.

Burris said this particular proposed amendment would remove multi-family residential as a permitted use in the Open Space (OS) district, require a special-use permit in the Residential Mixed (RM) and Club Residential (CR) districts and be limited to upper floors of mixed use buildings in the Village Mixed-Use (VM), Commercial Mixed (CM), General Business (GB), and Town Center (TC) zoning districts. Stand-alone multi-family residential buildings would not be permitted in the VM, CM, GB and TC districts.

The opposition was made up primarily of commercial developers and Realtors and was led off by Barry Burge, a Winston-Salem attorney who also represented several others in attendance who donated their time to him.

“What I see tonight is NIMBY, which is not in my back yard,” Burge said. “This is something that is not going to work. You’re discouraging affordable housing – the folks may not be able to live inside the fence as they say but the people that make Bermuda Run operate. When you do that, you are in violation of the federal fair housing act.”

Marcia Barney, a Realtor in the community, said that passing these text amendments would be “the nail in the coffin for the development of the town of Bermuda Run.

“The average age in Bermuda Run is 60,” she said. “The desirable age would be 35. In order to attract the 25- to 44-age group, the town needs more multi-use development and rental units since a lot of them are not married, don’t have kids, and they want dog parks instead of playgrounds. Demand drives zoning. Zoning doesn’t drive demand. If you have permitted uses that demographics don’t support, development will not occur.”

Rick Bell, a local commercial real estate broker, said he had copies of letters from property owners and developers with an overwhelming majority opposed.

“We have killed growth in this county,” he said. “We need some diversity. We don’t need more restrictions.”

Schafer, who helped craft the initial Comprehensive Plan and then the update last year, said that the text amendments are “what we believe is a true reflection” of that plan and encourages managed growth and development.

She said that a recent survey showed patio homes were identified as the top housing need, followed by single-family townhomes, and that stand alone apartments ranked lowest of desired housing.

“You’re faced with pressures from commercial developers and Realtors for stand alone apartments,” Schafer told council members. “Listen to your largest group of your stakeholders – your citizens.”

In their vote to defer, council members said they appreciated the input and would look at everything presented before making a final decision.

“I hear both sides,” said council member Jerry West. “More important is where do we go from here. It’s not in our best interests once we reach a point of what we’re going to do to say there are winners and losers. Let’s don’t do that because the stakes are too great from where we are and where we want to be to play that Mickey Mouse game.”

In another business, the council:

• Approved an audit contract with Eddie Carrick, CPA, PC to prepare financial statements for $1,000 and the town audit for $5,500, which was the same amount as last year.

• Rollins said the first free concert in the Sounds on the Square Concert Series would be Triad Harmony Express, a barbershop harmony group, on Saturday, April 28 at 7 p.m. at the gazebo area just past Town Hall.

• Heard from Mitchell Whitener, a candidate for Davie County sheriff, regarding his credentials for the position during the public comments portion of the meeting.

• Heard a proclamation from Rethmeier declaring April as Child Abuse Prevention Month. The request was made on behalf of the The Dragonfly House Children’s Advocacy Center in Mocksville to the Town of Bermuda Run and other municipalities and local governments in Davie County.