City Considering 1,000 New Homes at Wedgwood Golf Course

Developers who want to put nearly 1,000 homes on Carpenter Home’s now-closed Wedgwood golf course pressed their case for approval today, telling city commissioners they have softened their plans several times over the past 11 months after hearing about neighbours’ concerns.

But several neighbors who spoke to city commissioners said they were still not directly involved with the 130-acre project, fearing the extra traffic that would result if more homes were added.

A city commission is scheduled to vote Dec. 5 to add 874 apartments, 60 townhouses, and 60 single-family homes to the community, which originally opened in 1928 as a retirement community for members of the United Fraternity of Carpenters and Carpenters.

“This is certainly a fundamental change to the ownership of the golf course as it exists today,” Planning and Transportation Director Chuck Barmby told commissioners Monday morning.

The developers told the commissioners that they began meeting with residents in January to explain what was going on and then with city officials later that month after getting feedback from the community.

The golf course closed last year after operating for more than 90 years, initially as a convenience for the Carpenters Home, which eventually moved to use as the Evangel Christian School when it refused accommodation at the retirement home. The school closed in 2006 and sat vacant until 2016, when the complex was restored and repurposed as Gibson Lake Village, a privately owned living facility.

In 1983, the historic golf course was redesigned to its current configuration to support the new residential development. The now enclosed golf course intertwines seven neighborhoods that include single-family homes, town homes, and multi-family developments built from the early 1980s through the early 2000s.

The area was also home to Carpenter’s Main Church, a massive church that opened in 1975 and had approximately 7,000 worshipers at its peak before it closed amid a financial scandal. This building was demolished in 2015.

According to the documents on the committee’s agenda, Jonathan Hall asked SJD Development for a large-scale land use adjustment to change the future land use designation of the city’s master plan from medium residential to low residential on nearly 19 acres and from medium residential to high residential On approximately 60 acres. Hall originally wanted to build 1,028 apartments, 16 single-family homes, and 204 townhouses, along with 150 assisted living units.

“Overall, this is a net decrease in intensity,” said Bart Allen, an attorney with the law firm Peterson & Myers representing the developer. “Yes, we go up in a certain area, but that allows us to build up density along I-4 and away from single-family[neighborhoods].”

Allen said they went through several rounds with the city’s planning staff, reducing the number of floors of apartment buildings from four to three and adding more single-family homes.

“We spent a lot of time working through these issues,” Allen said.

In addition, Hall wanted to ensure that the walking path would weave throughout the old golf course, that a large amount of green space was maintained and that there were landscaped buffers, including trees, between the new development and the old neighborhoods. He also said the clubs will include shared office areas as another amenity for people who choose to work from home in the changing office environment in the post-COVID-19 world.

Commissioner Stephanie Madden said she wasn’t necessarily concerned with apartment building heights, but wanted to make sure green spaces were preserved.

“If the buildings were taller, you’d have more greenery and nature and things that I appreciate too,” Madden said.

Commissioner Bill Reed asked if a planned traffic circuit could be built as part of the first phase, rather than wait.

Allen acknowledged there were concerns about traffic. A developer’s traffic study shows that at peak traffic in the afternoon, approximately 900 cars use Carpenter’s Road each working day. This will only increase with development.

While the zoning change includes language about including new turn lanes, traffic engineer Christopher Hatten, who was speaking as part of the developer team Monday morning, said no new turning lanes would be required and that left turn wait times “are expected to work.” With an acceptable level of service, the new lanes are expected to operate with reduced delay times.”

But Gina Ward and Pat Tehan made public comments at the meeting, saying they were speaking on behalf of five homeowners’ associations that were very concerned about the number of cars the development would add to the area.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s three floors, four floors, five floors – we can’t handle the traffic,” Ward said of the apartment buildings, adding that on Sunday traffic was backed up for half an hour. “People have been circling Carpenters Road. Snowbirds are coming. Traffic is stalemate. Maybe if there was a lane turning back to Wedgewood Estates (Boulevard). It’s a complete blockage at any time of the day. Traffic is a major concern of ours.”

It’s not just Wedgwood, either, Teehan said, and began listing other new apartments coming to US 98 North: 276 where Sears used to be, 300 on Daughtery Street, and another 278 behind the Racetrac gas station.

“You bring in those numbers on Carpenters Road for a half-mile, and then add 98 North — 2,168 vehicles on the road,” Teehan said. “Traffic is horrible right now on 98 North, so please consider all this traffic that’s going to happen on 98 North and Carpenters Road.”

The city commission is scheduled to hold a second public hearing on the matter on December 5, when it will vote on the project.

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