321 project clears several hurdles
by Anna Oakes
The Boone Board of Adjustment on April 3 spent six hours deliberating about the project, which would demolish the two hotels and replace them with a 587-bedroom student apartment complex, a 5,000-square-foot lounge, a gym, a 200-seat restaurant, 2,400 square feet of retail space and a parking garage.
Project representatives -- including developer Jeff Wakeman, attorney Jim Deal, engineer Mike Trew and environmental consultant Justin Church -- said they need the UDO variances because of the high costs and significant challenges of developing the property.
Boone Creek currently flows out in the open over half of the 4.4-acre project site and then is funneled through a pipe along the other half of the property. The pipe can clog or become overwhelmed with water during significant rain events. Standard at Boone developers plan to relocate and daylight the section of Boone Creek that cuts through the property.
The reps said the project would improve a blighted property, that it fits within the vision of the Boone 2030 Land Use Master Plan, that it would add to the town's tax base and that that it would reduce the amount of impervious surface on the site by nearly an acre.
"We feel that it just has an enormous amount of benefits to everyone involved," Wakeman said.
The board voted to approve seven of the applicant's requested variances, including temporary and permanent encroachments into the 25-foot buffer zone for Boone Creek; an increase in the maximum building footprint; a reduction in the required percentage of commercial street level gross floor area; an exemption from building the residential component of the street level floor to commercial standards; encroachments of portions of buildings in the secondary height setback; allowing two driveways on a protected thoroughfare; and a reduction in the required space between the two driveways.
But the board denied a request for a variance to increase the building height for a multi-family building on Faculty Street, with members stating they did not believe the applicant demonstrated the hardship necessary to be granted the variance.
Board member Virginia Roseman said she was concerned about the impact of the building on the Wintergreen Lane neighborhood.
"I love the outside look of this project, but I do have to think of the neighborhood," Roseman said. "I just feel there could be some small alterations that could quickly put this through."
Wakeman said Friday that the developers are reviewing their proposal to assess whether or not the project can comply with the UDO height requirements for the multi-family building.
"We're open to modifying the design we have proposed, but the overall density is a requirement for us to be able to invest the money necessary to produce a first-class development on this property," he said. "As the present owner said last night, the cost of fixing the physical issues with the property as it exists today is equal to or exceeds the value of the property."
The project faces additional bureaucratic hurdles, including a water service request of 97,879 gallons per day and a conditional district rezoning request to be considered by the Boone Town Council.