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May 6, 2020

Local developer talks challenges, changes as $51M apartment project moves forward

Terwilliger Pappas was forced to navigate vocal opposition from locals and even a lawsuit as it proposed its new multifamily project in Union County. But with the firm closing on the land for the development and the lawsuit being settled, the Charlotte-based multifamily developer’s latest project appears to be ready to go.

Jeff Smith, senior vice president of Terwilliger Pappas, told the Charlotte Business Journal he was surprised by the local opposition to the project, a 256-unit apartment complex in Stallings with designated retail space. The complex, called Solis Chestnut Farm, is expected to deliver its first units in April 2021 and will include $51 million in investment, Smith said.

In June 2019, a GoFundMe campaign was started in opposition to the project based on accusations that residents were kept in the dark about the development and that it did not abide by town ordinances. It raised more than $16,600 from 175 donors, and organizer Bob Ragon wrote on the GoFundMe page that the group had mounted a legal challenge to the project.

The plaintiffs, including the Courtyards at Weddington Road Homeowners Association, sued Terwilliger Pappas, the town of Stallings and others. In September 2019, Ragon wrote on the GoFundMe page that the two sides had reached a settlement, and, according to Union County court records, the plaintiffs filed to voluntarily dismiss the suit in January.

Smith said he had been involved with projects before that had drawn local opposition, but he was surprised it reached the point of a suit being filed. He said he personally attended “six or seven” public meetings to present details of the project and feels his firm is addressing an unmet need in the area for new apartments.

“We’ve prided ourselves about being very upfront about this project from the start,” Smith said.

Much of the opposition was based on a fear of creating more traffic and crowding local schools, but Smith feels the demographic his project will target will not bring many children. His team has spent a lot of time on addressing the traffic concerns, and the town is installing a roundabout near the project to help alleviate those, he said.

As part of the settlement, the number of units at the project was reduced from 302 to 256. Smith said he believes the project will be a strong asset to the community, and the design will match the town with a “rural feel.” The firm has conducted a market study but has not finalized rents for the apartments, he said.

A chunk of the 30.2-acre project site is reserved for retail development, according to the site plan. Smith said there are no specific plans nailed down yet, but he believes a restaurant would be a good fit. The marketing of the parcel will be ramped up once the effects of the Covid-19 outbreak settle, Smith said.

The firm has not seen any major delays because of the pandemic, but it did have to fight for the project in order to overcome the opposition, he added.

“We always felt like we could figure out a way to put the project on,” Smith said.

Terwilliger Pappas closed on the purchase of the site for the project in early March. It paid $3.95 million for the land, which previously belonged to Union Power Cooperative.

Katerra is the general contractor for the project, and Raleigh-based Cline Design Associates is the architect. Pinnacle Bank and Preferred Apartment Properties provided financing for the project.

By   – Staff Writer, Charlotte Business Journal