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Condos approved for Murphys Mill Road

Another 70 condominiums will be going in an area next to the Hallstead Reserve property near Pruden Boulevard, Murphys Mill Road and the U.S. Route 58 Bypass that has already been approved for 312 apartments and 102 condominiums.

City Council voted unanimously to approve the proposal to rezone a nearly seven-acre property off of Murphys Mill Road from general commercial to residential urban zoning to allow for seven 10-plex structures on property that is now mostly forested land.

The applicant, Bob Arnett of Murphy’s Mill Road Associates LLC on behalf of property owners Bryan Gayle and William Nelson of Suffolk Holms LLC, has proffered just over $35,000 per elementary school student and nearly $30,000 per high school student the additional development is expected to generate. The applicant has also agreed to build a right-in turn lane on Murphys Mill Road and has proffered various exterior building materials to be used.

“We really fit into all of the boxes that council and the city should be looking for with growth in this area of town,” said Grier Ferguson, a Suffolk attorney representing the applicant.

City planning staff recommended the project and said it “meets the intent of the provisions” of the city’s comprehensive plan and the unified development ordinance.

The staff report said the project “keeps with the primary city theme to keep development within its specified focused growth area, promoting the highest intensity possible within new neighborhoods. The new neighborhood will be compatible with existing zoning, consistent with the city’s focused growth theme and its policy of efficient land use.”

He said the project would not generate enough traffic to pose any new problems for that area.

“We’re putting in some density that is affordable,” Ferguson said. “It’s housing that the average person with a husband and wife working could afford to buy and they could then have their jobs a little closer.”

Council initially approved rezoning 48 acres of the 57-acre Hallstead Reserve development from general commercial to residential urban by a 6-2 vote in September 2019, with Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett and Councilman Tim Johnson voting against it. At the time, they expressed concern with the number of students the development would bring to Elephant’s Fork Elementary School, which has a capacity of 498 students, the staff report states.

A year later, Bennett and Johnson were part of a unanimous council that voted to amend the proffers for the project to allow for more one-bedroom apartments in Hallstead Reserve while keeping the overall number of apartments the same, reducing the number of students that would be going to an already over-capacity school.

The staff report notes that 158 students would come from committed development in the Elephant’s Fork school zone, which would then put the school at 175 students overcapacity, and would go up to 192 students with the new development of 70 condominiums.

While the staff report states the capacity at Elephant’s Fork to be inadequate to accommodate the proposed development, it cites a new downtown elementary school proposed in the adopted 2021-2030 Capital Improvements Program and Plan that would relieve Elephant’s Fork and other elementary schools in the area.

Ferguson said part of the plan with the 70 new condominiums off of Murphy’s Mill Road is to put people closer to their jobs and reduce the amount of driving people have to do and bring people closer to downtown.

“We feel that the plan is one that is well-thought-out,” Ferguson said. “It just blends right in with the Hallstead right next door, so it really just completes that project is what it does on a much smaller scale.”