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County approves garage apartments

(ran PW, PS editions)

Longleaf has been billed as a traditional neighborhood with modern conveniences. One of those modern conveniences will now include a place to rent out, put elderly parents who can no longer live at home or the kids who want to move back.

Longleaf developers Frank and Trey Starkey got permission from the county's Development Review Committee on Thursday to add up to 400 garage apartments to their 1,050-unit development.

Other neo-traditional communities, such as Celebration and West Park Village, also have these features attached to garages, in freestanding buildings or within the main houses.

"It's a growing trend," said James Constantine, a planner with Looney Ricks Kiss, a Memphis-based architectural firm. "We're seeing more and more situations where families are confronted with wanting options with elderly parents forced to give up independent living and college graduates in need of living at home."

The apartments will predominantly be with single-family homes clustered around the business districts within Longleaf.

But the more contentious issue Thursday was the county staff's request that the Starkeys put an emergency access gate on the boundary of Longleaf and Ellington Way. Residents of Ellington Estates North complained that construction and residential traffic from Longleaf had been running through their 38-home neighborhood, endangering residents and wearing down the road that they'd ultimately have to pay to repair.

Bob Ridings, who lives on Ellington Way, said he wanted to "keep people from using it as a speedway." He says he moved in two years ago because he believed he was moving onto a peaceful, dead end street.

The Sheriff's Office did a traffic study in May that showed more than 100 cars traveled on that road during a 24-hour period. The Starkeys have put a temporary barricade between Longleaf and Ellington Estates and agreed to keep it there until Oct. 31, when much of the construction in the adjacent part of Longleaf is complete.

A county ordinance encourages the interconnection of neighborhoods. When Ellington Estates North subdivision was originally approved in 1996, developers Ellington Group Inc. requested that Ellington Way be built to end in a "T" instead of a cul-de-sac to ultimately allow for the continuation of the street. But residents say that their builder, Community Homes, told them the road would remain closed.

Officials from Community Homes did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.

In mid October, the DRC again will look at the amount of construction going on in Longleaf and look at whether the temporary barricade is ready to come down.

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