Several property owners in the Canterbury Village subdivision of Dunn are listed as plaintiffs in a civil suit filed against the City of Dunn for actions taken regarding plat approval for the Village of Kent subdivision.
Attorney Benjamin N. Thompson of the Raleigh firm of Wyrick, Robbins, Yates & Ponton LLP, and also a property owner and resident of Canterbury Village filed suit on behalf of the plaintiffs against the city in care of City Manager Steven Neuschafer on Nov. 21.
Plaintiffs are listed as Robert H. Jones Jr. and wife, Lou Ann Jones; Lester R. Phillips and wife, Deborah Phillips; Cecil Glynn Jernigan and wife, Jan E. Jernigan; Carlie C. McLamb Jr. and wife, Zada McLamb; Howard Lee Herring and wife, Jeanette F. Herring; and Marcus R. Phillips and wife, Courtney J. Phillips.
The suit identifies all of the plaintiffs as property owners whose holdings adjoin the 31.26 acre parcel now known as Village of Kent which is set to be developed behind and adjacent to Canterbury Village. Additionally, a few of the plaintiffs hold property adjacent to the two main roads through Canterbury affected by the proposed new subdivision, Canterbury Drive and Kingsway Drive.
The property in the Village of Kent subdivision is owned by Hubert Yeatman and Sallie Yeatman Thomas. They are in the process of selling this land to Smith Douglas Homes, a subsidiary of SDH Raleigh LLC, according to the complaint filed in the suit.
The plaintiffs claim that on June 9, Smith Douglas submitted an initial application to the city for approval of a preliminary plat for a subdivision of the property; 63 lots are involved and 57 of the lots are proposed as single-family, detached homes along extensions of Canterbury and Kingsway drives. The remaining six single-family, detached homes would front South Orange Avenue.
According to the plaintiffs, Smith Douglas submitted revised preliminary plats to the city on July 22, Aug. 15 and Sept. 20.
The plaintiffs allege that the original application for approval was submitted in early July 2022, but it was not presented to the Dunn City Planning Board for approval because Smith Douglas failed to meet certain requirements as a prerequisite for consideration of the preliminary plat. No meeting had been scheduled with affected property owners to explain the proposed planned development of the property, according to the lawsuit.
Plaintiffs say Smith Douglas held a meeting with more than 50 property owners affected by the planned subdivision on July 14. The property owners asked probing questions regarding the planned development, but Smith Douglas only provided general responses and further advised the affected property owners that they were conducting the meeting only because the Planning Board required such a meeting, according to the complaint.
Property owners say they asked questions about safety and traffic concerns, raising the issue as to whether Smith Douglas or the Yeatmans had conducted any safety or traffic studies, to which Smith Douglas responded that they were not required to conduct such studies.
Allegations state on Aug. 23, Smith Douglas’ application for preliminary plat approval came before the planning board, but the application was tabled pending further study by the board.
Plaintiffs allege that on Sept. 27, a meeting of the planning board was held and Smith Douglas’ application for preliminary plat approval was again on the agenda for consideration. Several of the affected property owners requested to speak in opposition to the preliminary plat, but said they were denied an opportunity for public comments by planning board Chairman Claudell Brown.
The suit states that Planning Director George Adler and representatives of Smith Douglas were allowed to address the planning board and make comments in support of the application. The issue was tabled again to a later meeting.
The plaintiffs allege that members of the planning board were told public comments were not allowed in a preliminary plat review process and that the plan should be approved.
On Oct. 25, a meeting of the planning board was held and the application from Smith Douglas was once again on the agenda. At this meeting, the board permitted limited comments lasting no more than 2 to 3 minutes from five residents and property owners who were opposed to the approval. During this meeting, the planning director and counsel reportedly told the planning board that its role in considering the application for approval was administrative rather than quasi-judicial in nature; the planning board could not consider the affected property owners’ voiced concerns or any other matters of public concern.
Administrative approval of the application simply asks the planning board to make certain all the necessary prerequisites have been met by the applicant. Quasi-judicial approval means the planning board would hear from all parties involved and make their approval or disapproval based upon evidence presented by the parties.
The planning board approved the Village of Kent Preliminary Plat at the Oct. 25 meeting.
The complaint notes that a city ordinance states, “Before acting on the preliminary plat, the Planning Board ‘shall request a report from any person or agency directly concerned with the proposed development, including but not limited to the district highway engineer, the county health department, and the county superintendent of schools. The report shall certify compliance with or not deviations from the requirements of this chapter and include comments on other factors which bear upon the public interest.’”
The suit claims at no time during the review or approval of the Village of Kent preliminary plat did the planning director or the planning board request or receive reports from any person or agency directly concerned with the proposed development as required by the ordinance in Chapter 20.
Allegations also note no consideration was given to: the safety of pedestrian traffic, general vehicular traffic due to site development and construction, the city’s sanitary sewer capacity and the city’s ability to meet the demands of the proposed additional home sites while complying with the North Carolina Division of Water Resources Moratorium, compliance with the Comprehensive Pedestrian Plan adopted by the city, or the impact to owners and other members of the public by reason of the planned development.
The plaintiffs also fear harm because of limited access to the planned development extending from Watauga Avenue to Canterbury Drive and Kingsway Drive due to increased traffic concerns. The additional traffic from construction of the 57 new homes will deprive the owners of the safe and peaceful use of their property, the lawsuit alleges.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to enter a judgment declaring that the planning board violated the city’s subdivision regulations by failing to comply with the requirements.
They also ask the court to declare the planning board’s approval of the Village of Kent preliminary plat null and void due to the planning board’s failure to comply with the city’s subdivision regulations requirements and its review and approval of the preliminary plat.
Plaintiffs ask the court to order the planning board to conduct a new review of the Village of Kent preliminary plat as required by Article II, Chapter 20, 20-42 of the subdivision regulations. They also ask the court to order the request of reports from the owners that contain comments made by the owners with regard to public interest and considering those reports and comments.
The suit further asks the court to make the planning board review the preliminary plat through a quasi-judicial evidentiary process.
Finally, the court is requested to prevent the city from issuing any building permits for the Village of Kent property until the planning board conducts a new review of the preliminary plat.