The Harrisonburg Planning Commission voted 4-2 in favor of allowing more than 12 units per building for the 265-unit EPOCH development’s three apartment buildings.
Harman Realty and Stone Spring Holdings LLC plan to develop the housing complex at 650 and 680 Stone Spring Road, according to city and applicant documents.
Planning Commission members Richard Baugh and Kathy Whitten voted against the request, and Isaac Hull was absent.
A special-use permit is needed by the developer to include more than 12 units in one apartment building. The request must be approved by City Council to move forward. Planning Commission Chair Brent Finnegan said the request will go before council at its July 13 meeting.
The site is just over 17 acres of vacant land and is zoned for high-density residential housing with town homes and apartments to the north, vacant land and a detached single-family home to the east, more apartments and vacant land and Interstate 81 to the south, and industrial parcels and a city park to the west, according to city documents.
Buildings would be a mixture of cottages, town homes and apartment buildings with parking, according to plans.
The development will include sidewalks throughout with a shared-use path planned and other amenities, according to developer documents. A private shuttle service would be available to the James Madison University campus.
In explaining their opposition, Baugh and Whitten cited the proximity of the development to Stone Spring Elementary and worried what approval would signal to developers for future requests since the design presented is only an idea, not a locked-in design.
Members of the advisory panel in favor of the request said the project would increase density in the city and help alleviate pressure on the rental market.
Only 2% of rental units in Harrisonburg are vacant, which is unhealthily low, according to the Comprehensive Housing Assessment and Market Report. The low rental rate forces renters to compete for available leases, driving up prices.
Before the vote, a public hearing was held, where only a representative of the developer called in to answer questions if Planning Commission had any.
City staff received one letter of public input by the time of the meeting. The letter is not supportive of the development and cites increased traffic, noise, partying and lights; decreasing property value; proximity to Stone Spring Elementary; overcrowding of the schools; and impact to area wildlife as reasons to oppose the project.
Also at the meeting, the commission also approved a subdivision request of 9.2 acres at 1255 Greendale Road for 11 single-family homes as part of a 91-acre development mostly in Rockingham County.