The yearlong drama about developing the Johnson property is over … for now.
On Feb. 16, the Jamestown Town Council unanimously voted to deny the rezoning request from Diamondback Investment Group for 467 acres along Guilford College and Mackay roads.
Councilmember Lawrence Straughn was not available to vote. He was absent due to testing positive for Covid and was self-quarantining.`
Councilmember Rebecca Rayborn made a motion to deny the rezoning petition from Agricultural to Planned Unit Development, noting it was inconsistent with the Town's Comprehensive Plan. Councilmember John Capes seconded the motion.
The decision was based on the quality of the development, which the Council believed was not what the residents wanted.
Councilmember Martha Wolfe read a five-page Statement of Inconsistency with the current Comprehensive Plan and PUD Master Plan, citing among other things:
• An overall lack of consideration for the preservation and protection of the natural and cultural resources that are present within the site;
• Disregard in the proposed design for the unique aspects of Jamestown's built environment that contribute to its strong sense of place and define the character of the community;
• Inadequate provision of public parks and open space to meet the recreational needs of future residents of the development and the community as a whole;
• Proposed site development and architectural patterns that will create a monotonous urban landscape and detract from the long-term value and livability of the neighborhood;
• The absence of an integrated mix of housing types that are needed to ensure the longterm success of the proposed development and the community as a whole;
• A general development concept, in terms of both the physical layout of the site and the composition of the land use mix, that does not meet the Town's expectation for a Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND).
Montgomery noted that how the land will develop is one of the most significant decisions the Town will make since its founding in 1816.
"We are mindful of our duty to make sure it is done correctly," she said. "How it develops will affect the character, the function, the esthetics and the identity of Jamestown for generations. We must get it right."
Montgomery hoped the Johnson family would be patient as the Town moves forward on this property.
"It's pretty clear they felt that the deal was not what Jamestown wanted," said Interim Town Manager David Treme.
Prior to the motion, Planning Director Matthew Johnson requested both the rezoning public hearing and Diamondback's annexation petition public hearing be continued to the March 16 Council meeting and received approval from the Council.
Amanda Hodierne, land use attorney for Diamondback, requested to learn what she needs to know for the March meeting as well as what direction the land use attorney for the Town had been given. The Council declined to impart that information. The outside attorney for the Town was hired so councilmembers could have expert assistance with their decision.
When contacted on Wednesday, Hodierne said, "Diamondback Investment Group remains under contract to purchase this property and continues to be excited about its future development plans."
In February 2020, Diamondback held two neighborhood meetings at GTCC to announce plans for the development to be called Castleton Village. There was some pushback from the audience.
Plans originally called for an apartment complex and farmer's market, but those ideas were later dropped in favor of 765 townhomes and 644 single-family dwellings totaling 1,409 units. Final plans called for 1,269 units with 2.72 units per acre, consisting of 521 townhouses and 714 single-family residences, along with 34 mixed-use buildings. Again, community reaction was on the negative side, citing the density was too high.
Diamondback has had a request to locate a church at the edge of the property and at one time suggested ball fields could be located at the corner of Guilford College and Mackay Roads. Diamondback would construct these fields, then turn them over to the Town of Jamestown upon completion. Later plans did not include ball fields.
One element of the plan was the amenity center, or clubhouse, which would be designed to mimic the old Mackay Hunting Lodge that was once in the area.
The Planning Board heard the presentation from Diamondback and held discussions with the company from August to November last year. The Board denied the rezoning request in November.
Hodierne stated in January of this year that she felt the Planning Board got off track, requesting items that should not have fallen into a rezoning request, but rather got ahead of the game and focused on details first without having a framework.
Diamondback also requested annexation into the Town of Jamestown. The property is currently in Jamestown's Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction, or ETJ, meaning the town has control of the areas but they are not technically within the town limits. If annexation is approved, the addition would add about 0.5 square miles to the town's size, which is currently 3 square miles. The town currently has about 4 square miles in the ETJ.
"We expect they will withdraw the annexation petition," said Planning Director Matthew Johnson.
The town's population – currently 4,416 – could double in size once Castleton Village is fully developed. Diamondback said it would take 5-10 years to complete.
Perhaps as a backup in case the initial plan was denied, Diamondback submitted plans to the Town for a single-family development in November. It is not known if they will pursue those plans. However, they must wait 12 months before making a formal petition. According to the current Land Development Ordinance, "When an application for a zoning amendment has been approved or denied by the Jamestown Town Council, no rezoning application of the same property shall be accepted or considered within 12 months after the date of the approval or denial."
This waiting period could be waived, however, by a three-fourths vote of the Council if it determines there have been substantial changes in conditions or circumstances. (LDO Section 5:3-6 A-B)