Belmont City Council approved the development of an 809-home senior community and 13-acre retail center along Armstrong Ford Road Monday night.
After much discussion revolving around environmental aspects of the project, council members unanimously voted in favor of rezoning land for the South Fork Senior Community, a 462-acre development by Pulte Homes Inc. to be completed in three phases through 2029.
What has been approved
Del Webb, a brand under Pulte Homes that specializes in developing 55-and-up communities, has committed to building 809 homes, ranging from 1,700 square-feet up to 3,000 square-feet, just east of the South Fork River. Del Webb expects the community, which will include a future road connection to Nixon Road to South Point Road, will have little to no impact on nearby schools.
Lot sizes would range from 42 feet to 70 feet wide, with nearly half of the homes being 52-feet wide, according to Shelley DeHart, planning and zoning director for Belmont.
Value of homes would start in the mid-$300,000 range for the smaller lots and increase from there, said Belmont City Manager Adrian Miller, though property values can change in the coming years.
Del Webb’s 13-acre village center would be built on the north end of the development along Armstrong Ford Road. Ideally, the center would suit a 50,000-square-feet grocery store, a pharmacy, such as CVS Pharmacy, two fast-food restaurants, 30,000 square-feet of retail and restaurant space and 25,000 square-feet of medical office space, according to previous reports.
A major win for Belmont was getting Del Webb to agree to building a 0.73-mile portion of the South Fork Parkway, a four-lane divided boulevard – a project formerly conceptualized as the Belmont-Mount Holly Connector, which has yet to be picked up by the N.C. Department of Transportation.
The entire parkway would connect Armstrong Ford Road near the future village center and run three miles south, eventually connecting to South Point Road.
“We’re finally to the point where now they’re (NCDOT) looking at a little more detailed study of it, and it’s still not funded, and if it gets funded, it may be a decade or longer before it gets built,” said Miller, who helped arrange the proposed alignment for the original Belmont-Mount Holly Connector 14 years ago.
“We’d get what would end up being the first true multimodal boulevard in Belmont [and] not paid for by taxpayers.”
Del Webb also plans to build a 21-acre waterfront park and 2.7-mile greenway along the South Fork and donate the park to the city. The park, which would eventually be managed by the city, would welcome visitors from outside South Fork Senior Community.
Del Webb expects the first 400 homes to be completed in 2025 and the remaining homes and commercial center be completed in 2029.
Most of Monday’s discussion was centered on Del Webb’s potential impact on the South Fork, a river with impaired water quality.
Neil Brennan of the Lake Wylie Marine Commission and John Searby of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation asked City Council members to require Del Webb to install special turbidity monitors in two coves near the development.
Those monitors would measure any changes in the amount of sediment buildup in the water in areas near the development – a regular practice in Mecklenburg County, according to Brennan. In the event of catastrophic rainfall or weather, the monitors would alert officials to assess the sedimentation and coordinate any necessary cleanup.
Neither Gaston County nor Belmont requires water turbidity monitoring.
“We would like to see all the municipalities raise their standards to the highest level of protection to ensure that the lakes are enjoyable for generations to come. Belmont can be a much-needed example for Gaston County in this regard,” Searby said.
Bridget Grant, a consultant of Moore & Van Allen in Charlotte representing Pulte, was hesitant to agree to the monitoring because it’s difficult to set a baseline standard for sedimentation in the South Fork River, which hasn’t been monitored in its existence.
Grant eventually agreed to fund the two monitors. Del Webb had already agreed to include enhanced stormwater enhancements, including a 100-feet buffer between the development and the river and heavy-duty silt fencing to help catch extra runoff.
Del Webb originally planned to build an entrance to the neighborhood at the intersection of Eastwood Drive and Armstrong Ford Road. Based on existing powerlines and a home located on the corner of the intersection, the intersection would be skewed, and NCDOT engineers believe the entrance would pose driver safety hazards.
Del Webb briefly shifted its plans to the intersection of Cimarron Boulevard and Armstrong Ford Road, which is the entrance to Cramerton’s Timberlake residential community.
However, Del Webb and Belmont officials are again exploring ways to connect the South Fork Parkway to Eastwood Drive. Town of Cramerton has also shown interest in helping find a solution to NCDOT’s concern with the entrance at Eastwood Drive, according to Miller.
“We should have at least a year to work through all of those details,” Miller said.
Residents who live near the development have expressed concerned over future traffic impacts of the Del Webb community, its associated retail center and other pending housing projects, according to previous reports.
Kimley-Horn and Associates, which completed a traffic analysis for the project, identified seven intersections in need of improvements based on traffic in 2018 and 2019. Del Webb will fund the road improvements, which include adding right turn lanes from Nixon Road onto South Point Road, from Main Street onto South Central Avenue and from South Main Street to Eagle Road.
Other improvements would occur at Julia Avenue and South Main Street, Eagle Road and Eastwood Drive, Armstrong Park Road and Cimarron Boulevard and Armstrong Park Road and Eastwood Drive.
Del Webb would also add a traffic signal along Armstrong Ford Road at the entrance of South Fork Senior Community.
You can reach reporter Gavin Stewart at 704-869-1819 or on Twitter @GavinGazette.