Lenoir approves apartments for senior citizens

Apr. 17, 2013 @ 08:00 AM

A group of Lenoir residents upset that plans to turn slightly more than six acres in their neighborhood into an apartment complex for senior citizens would create traffic hazards and raise property taxes did not find relief on Tuesday. The City Council unanimously approved the development.

The housing project calls for a three-story building designed for as many as 50 senior citizens at the intersection of Brookdale Place and Abington Road, around which opposition has mounted in recent months among homeowners concerned the building will tarnish the character of the largely residential neighborhood.

“Why don’t you look to build something like that in your backyard, rather than ours?” said Brent Gragg, turning to the three housing development officials at the public hearing. “We got a beautiful neighborhood. … We want to keep it that way.”

Roy Helm, president of Wesley Community Development Corp., said such a project is needed for the growing population of senior citizens in a county where, according to a 2011 study by the state Housing Finance Agency, housing for that demographic is nearly at capacity.

He assured the apartment complex, meant for tenants more than 55 years old, will have little impact on the neighborhood.

“Senior citizens are generally a lot more quiet than other residents,” said Helm, whose nonprofit is a part of the Western North Conference of the United Methodist Church, said.

Stephen Owen of Stimmel and Associates, an architecture firm in Winston-Salem advising the developer, sought to ease concern, calling the project a “far better alternative” to other kinds of development that would be allowed by the property’s existing zoning, including a tattoo parlor or night club.

But because building the senior apartments would require a conditional use permit, nearby homeowner Ron Hendrix said it was a “loophole-way of putting something that really doesn’t fit what the property is owned for.”

He said the presence of the three-story building, which would stretch some 260 feet, would “stick out like a sore thumb” as a “massive and unappealing” structure in a neighborhood made up mostly of single-family homes.

Developers insisted a bank along Abington Road would partly veil the sight of the apartment complex. 

But Kenneth Hollar said after the hearing the terrain from his home in the neighborhood to the site is largely flat.

“We’re going to be looking at this three-story eye sore no matter where we’re sitting in our yard,” he said.

The proejct could begin as early as next year.