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A major subdivision proposed in Black Mountain was approved by the planning board on April 22.

Preliminary plans, depicting 40 single-family homes in a development at 542 Padgettown Road, were reviewed by the board during its regular monthly meeting. The board voted unanimously to approve the project following a few testy exchanges between a board member and developers.

The board first reviewed the sketch plan for the 9.3-acre project, situated between Padgettown and Avena Roads, in March. The staff summary of the Padgettown Road Subdivision, as it is named in the application, stated that the proposal met necessary requirements for the area, which is zoned Urban Residential-8.

Density requirements allow for 72 lots on the site, while the plan proposes 40. 

The plan was introduced to the planning board after going through a Technical Review Committee, which determined it complied with development standards. 

"That meeting takes place in front of all of the department heads," said zoning administrator Jennifer Tipton of the Technical Review Committee. "During that process (developers) learn about water availability, what standards the roads need to meet for fire access, how many entrances and exits they need and requirements for turnarounds and other basic information."

The plan submitted by BP Black Mountain 1 LLC, the company that filed the application for a major subdivision at the end of February, depicts a main entrance off of Padgettown Road and a point of access at Belle Grove Road, which connects to Avena Road. 

The access to Belle Grove Road, which developers could utilize for construction purposes and as an alternative entrance for emergency response, was an area of concern for area residents during the March meeting. 

In the April meeting, developers submitted a legal interpretation regarding access to the private road. 

"Even though Bell Grove Road does not connect to Avena Road on the property owned by BP Black Mountain 1, LLC, the combination of continuous use in excess of 20 years and the fact that the BP Black Mountain property does, in fact, connect to Avena Road, assures" access for the developers, the letter stated. 

Developers "have done everything we've asked them to do," planning board chair Peter Vazquez stated at the April meeting. 

Planning board member Lisa Milton, however, expressed concerns about the condition of the road and the culvert on Bell Grove Road, where construction crews would be accessing the site. 

"I went over and looked, and with the width and terrain of it, I wasn't sure," she said. "I went back and brought my dad along, because he's operated heavy equipment his whole life. I asked him what he thought, in terms of pulling cranes and units across it. It was his opinion that he wouldn't pull the equipment across there."

Her concerns over whether the road was adequate for regular use of construction equipment led her to feel that it was "a little disconcerting" that developers didn't present that up front. 

"That was disclosed in the very first meeting with the town," said Mark Brooks, of Brooks Engineering Associates, the firm responsible for developing the plan. 

"Well, not with the board," Milton responded. 

"This is our second meeting with the board," developer Todd Chambers said to Milton. "This is our chance to offer that information. We'd only had an opportunity to share that with staff to this point."

Brooks believed developers were being "accused of deception that didn't happen."

Planning board member Mike Raines told the developers that the board was not accusing them of deception.

"I think you need to talk to the adjoining property owners," Raines said. "That gets you a lot farther around here than going through the board."

The developers stated that they didn't initially intend to use the access on Bell Grove Road. 

"The town required it for emergency access," Brooks said. "We would've been fine coming in through Padgettown Road. On recommendation of staff, we used this access for emergency response."

Brooks went on to say developers have been "up front about everything."

"We've simply followed the normal proceedings for every other subdivision that's come before us in this town," he said. "We submitted plans that have all of the information required and we've done so in good faith. We haven't given any veiled answers. All of our answers have been straight-forward and honest."

The secondary entrance is a "very big concern," according to Vazquez, but he downplayed any malfeasance on the part of the developers.

"There's a bit more here than a clear-cut question of everyone checking all the boxes. I think there are issues that come up as we review things," he said. "I'd like the opportunity to get more information on this before we pass this along."

A secondary point of entrance is required by fire code, Tipton said. 

"Any one- or two-family-dwelling developments exceeding 30 units shall be provided with separate and approved fire apparatus access roads," she said. 

"But the fire code and them wanting to use the access for construction equipment are two separate issues," Vazquez replied. 

"Correct, but what they use as a construction entrance is up to them, we just require that they have two access points," Tipton said. 

Brooks said he doesn't see a benefit of having a construction entrance other than the one on Padgettown Road, but added that he believed the road over the culvert was adequate for use as one. 

Raines made the motion to approve the preliminary plat. 

"I think they've addressed all the issues," he said. "I say we approve it."

The board voted 5-0 (Jesse Gardner and Jennifer Willet were absent) to approve the plan. With the approval, developers will now submit construction documents and apply for permits as they prepare for a final plat. 

"Once they're ready for that we'll make sure either all of their infrastructure is in, or they put up a bond, then the final plat will come back for review by staff," Tipton said. "Staff will make sure nothing big has changed, and once they're either bonded or have the infrastructure in, the plat will be recorded."

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