Residents of Daphne Court and their neighbors nearby on Old Main Street don’t mind if a new live-work townhome development goes in just east of their quiet little stretch of downtown.
Nor are they opposed to development of another two-acre plot that abuts the neighborhood east of where Daphne Court ends.
But what they are decidedly against is using Daphne Court as a way in and out of any new developments there.
“All the neighbors are up in arms about it,” local resident Tom McKinney said. “We don’t mind them building that thing back in there, we just don’t want them to run all the traffic into Old Main Street. We’re trying to keep the aura of old-time Daphne safe.”
Developer Craig Dyas and Jacob’s Well LLC have received primary approval from the city to build 38 townhomes on a four-acre parcel behind Popeye’s Chicken on U.S. 98. It will be what City Planning Director Adrienne Jones calls a live-work development with commercial downstairs and residential upstairs.
“Right now, they already have a site plan approved by the planning commission in March on the larger property,” Jones said. “So, they have the right to construct 38 townhomes in that parcel, which is 4.3 acres.”
At a public hearing at the Feb. 5 City Council meeting, the developers came back seeking a change in the planned unit development to add 1.8 acres abutting the Daphne Court neighborhood.
“The developer proposes to have access for both parcels to be able to go through Daphne Court and to the east to 98,” Jones said.
Residents of Daphne Court and nearby Old Main Street crowded the chamber and many spoke out against it during a 45-minute public comment session. Many more were prepared to speak before the public hearing ended. The council also received letters from nine residents, including Main Street resident Sandy Robinson.
“They didn’t disclose when they were getting that townhome development approved that they were going to ultimately try to tie in to Main Street by Daphne Court,” Robinson said. “They kind of snuck that in later because we would have been up in arms if that had been made known.”
By right, the owner of the 1.8-acre parcel can subdivide it to build as many as six homes. Developers are asking for a zoning change to add it to the PUD for the larger parcel to allow for 10 townhomes to be built there.
Robinson said that would not be good for her neighborhood.
“We’re not irate,” she said. “They can build six houses on it. Go ahead, build the six houses on it as they are allowed with the current zoning. But don’t connect it up to the back of the townhomes.”
Robinson said she believes a road connecting U.S. 98 to Main Street via Daphne Court isn’t just a bad idea for Daphne Court but for the entire area of downtown.
“Daphne Court is a substandard street,” Robinson said. “It’s narrower than is required by the fire marshal in the fire code. It’s unsafe from the beginning. There’s the traffic from pedestrian traffic there with all the schools and all the kids and all the bicycles and everything else. It just makes no sense to funnel all of this to Main Street. They’ve got an access on 98 and that’s what got approved.”
Councilman Robin LeJeune said he’s still considering the facts surrounding the development and has not decided how he’ll vote when the issue comes before council on Feb. 19.
“The planning commission voted 4-3 unfavorably,” LeJeune said. “I’m still looking at it. Of course, the planning commission decisions are weighed heavily with the council. We’ll be discussing more. I’ve got some calls to make.”
One of those calls will be to Fire Chief James White to find out how his department feels about a thoroughfare funneling traffic through Daphne Court.
“There were some things they had said about their street and their fire chief and they had some issues with whether it could handle that type of connection or not,” LeJeune said. “I’m not going to say one way or the other what everyone else is doing. I’m still making my decision.”