Under a new amendment to the Gardendale development agreement, the city would get a roughly 7-acre tract adjacent to the development where new public safety facilities could be built.
The amendment passed a first reading 4-0 at a Jan. 14 city council meeting. Mayor Bob Runde abstained from the vote because he recently bought the 6.91-acre property included in the amendment and worked with developer Drake Capital on the plan.
"For the last two years we've been developing a lot of property down there with Stonecrest and Serenity Point and Gardendale, and I've been concerned that there has been no fire infrastructure included," Runde said. "So I bought, with my own money, a 6.9-acre parcel on Gardendale Road and set up a deal with Drake to buy it for what I paid for it and donate it back to the city. So I'm recusing myself."
Under the plan, Drake will buy the property from Runde, and donate it to the city. In return, the city will apply for federal grant money to pay for construction of sidewalks and walking trails throughout the Lake Ridge (formerly Gardendale) development. The city will be applying for Congestion Mitigation for Air Quality grants from the U.S. government.
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Those funds, available to the city because it is included in the Charlotte area, which has been classified a non-attainment zone because of air pollution, can only be used on projects that are deemed to improve air quality. Walking trails and sidewalks, which encourage people to walk rather than drive, are approved uses under the CMAQ program, according to City Attorney Bob McCleave.
Drake will be responsible for matching 20 percent of the CMAQ funds to complete the sidewalks and trails. If the city is not granted the CMAQ money, there are stipulations in the agreement to offset the costs Drake would incur to purchase the property from Runde and build the sidewalks and trails.
The new amendment, the third so far to the Gardendale development agreement, will shift certain timelines included in the original agreement. The trails and a series of five "pocket parks" will not have to be built until Drake sells 50 percent of the homes in the sections of the development those trails and parks will serve.
Also, the installation of sidewalks will be delayed until certificates of occupancy have been issued for the homes they serve. That change comes from the realization that installing the sidewalks prior to the homes being ready could result in damage to the sidewalks because construction equipment would need access to the homes until they are completed.
Although there is nothing in the agreement requiring the newly donated property be used for fire or police, the land would be controlled by the city and what it ultimately becomes is up to city council.
"It's not like the council has not tried to obtain public safety land in that area," Councilman Larry Harper said. "Every seven acres is a pretty good chunk of land to have access to."
The 6.9-acre property on Gardendale Road is not adjacent to Lake Ridge and cannot be annexed into the city at this time. But, Runde said, it is big enough to accommodate a fire department substation, a police department substation, a rescue squad station, public works facility and a water tower.
"One day, I assume we'll work out a way to annex it in," he said.
Runde bought the property in August and has a $230,000 mortgage on it. If the city moves to develop it prior to determining a way to annex the land, it will have to comply with York County zoning restrictions.