W. Catawba Cornelius

The widening of West Catawba Avenue would interfere with the proposed 42 townhomes and two commercial buildings across from Elevation Church. 

CORNELIUS – Discussions about a potential new development were rescheduled before they began Jan. 22 because of a conflict with a road improvement project.

The Cornelius town board was set to hold a public hearing on a rezoning application to develop townhomes and commercial buildings on a 9.5-acre property off West Catawba Avenue near Elevation Church.

However, after developers Demeter Properties and Landworks Design Group held a community meeting Jan. 8 for Retreat at West Catawba, an update by the N.C. Department of Transportation on its West Catawba Road widening project changed all that.

“Updated plans regarding West Catawba impact the site greatly,” Deputy Town Manager and Planning Director Wayne Herron said.

For several years, NCDOT officials have discussed widening West Catawba Avenue and turning it into a “superstreet,” which limits congestion by restricting where drivers can turn on and off the road. For example, instead of turning left from some side streets, drivers are required to turn right and then make a U-turn using a “bulb-out,” which includes a widened stretch of road that allows vehicles to make a wide, sharp turn.

The updated NCDOT plans show one of those bulb-outs on the applicants’ property. The draft road design was changed because people had complained about the lack of U-turn opportunities on the west side of West Catawba Avenue, town documents said.

Herron told commissioners the developers can no longer move ahead with the design as planned, and meetings will need to be held with NCDOT, followed by submittal of an alternative plan. The applicants requested the public hearing be continued until Feb. 18, allowing citizen input on “an actual plan that can move forward,” Herron said.

The new road design may not be the only problem with the proposed development.

The application shows the developers wanted to turn the property at 17201 W. Catawba Ave. into 42 townhomes and two commercial buildings totaling 16,700 square feet if the conditional rezoning is approved.  

Commissioner David Gilroy questioned whether there was support for a residential project on that site.

Herron said staff discussions are ongoing and will continue based on the new NCDOT impacts before an opinion is formed but that he’s heard there may be potential problems with designing the site as mixed-use.

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