Apartment complex planned south of downtown Exeter

Reggie Ellis

Exeter City Council will consider a 44-unit apartment complex on F Street later this month

EXETER – A new apartment complex is coming to Exeter and will bring over 100 people within walking distance of downtown and help fill the community’s need for more rental housing.

Plans for the 44-unit apartment complex on F Street between Chestnut and Cedar streets have already received approval from the Exeter Planning Commission. The project is described as family apartments and will consist of 20 one-bedroom units, 18 two­-bedroom units and 6 three-bedroom units. The units will be contained in three separate buildings, two will be two-story and one will be three-story, that all face F Street. Between the buildings will be an interior courtyard and around the buildings will be 90 off-street parking stalls – 15 stalls in a garage, 71 in uncovered stalls, and four handicapped accessible stalls. There will also be public parking on Chestnut, Cedar and F streets.

This will be the city’s first apartment complex since the Tulare County Housing Authority built its facility on Belmont Road behind Citrus Plaza.

The Exeter Planning Commission approved the apartments at its May 21 meeting on a 4-0 vote, with commissioner Jim Tyler abstaining because he owns property across the street. The commission’s vote included a General Plan amendment rezoning the property from “service commercial” to the “multi-family residential”, a negative declaration finding there were no significant impacts that would result from the project, recommending a density bonus for the developer, allowing four more apartments than is normally allowed in the multifamily zoning, and approving the Site Plan Review of the project, meaning it met all of the city’s requirements for construction.

City planner Greg Collins said the commission’s vote included several conditions of approval, the most notable of which was a request for a new design. Collins said the commission requested the applicant, Bill Morgan of West Coast Construction, bring back designs that were more consistent with the “railroad architecture” (Mission or Spanish Revival architecture) along the F Street corridor or a California bungalow style to blend in with the existing residential neighborhood to the east.

Other design conditions recommended by the commission included a tree-lined parkway with decorative wrought iron fencing along Chestnut, Cedar and F streets, a 7-foot chain link fence with climbing vines facing the alley behind the complex, trellises and shrubs to hide the trash enclosure, and the installation of decorative street lighting to match those across F Street.

In his staff report, Collins said changing the zoning of the property would prevent residents in the area from living near businesses that could be “noisy, not visually-pleasing and generate a fair amount of traffic,” such as auto repair, warehousing, lumber yards and sheet metal yards. He also noted that residential in-fill projects near downtown would provide more foot traffic for businesses at the city’s center.

“Given the subject site abuts three residential neighborhoods, staff has concluded that a residential use is more compatible with these three residential neighborhoods than a service commercial use,” the report stated.

The lot has been vacant since 2002 when the Keith Brown Lumber yard burned down. The property had served as a lumberyard since the Copeland Lumberyard opened in town over 60 years ago.

One of the biggest concerns of any new development in Exeter is water use, given the city’s precarious water system. The staff report estimates the apartments will house about 132 people and that each person will use an average of 100 gallons of water per day. Each unit is required to pay a water impact fee, which is used to expand the city’s water system – new wells, water storage tanks, pumps and generators, and water lines.

“With the installation of new water saving devices in each unit and with the outdoor landscaping requiring to adhere to the State’s Model Water Efficient Landscape regulations, the project will not have an adverse impact on the city’s water system,” the report stated.

The “density bonus” requires that 5% to 35% of the units must be for low-income, very low-income or moderate-income housing. Morgan has committed to making at least 10% of the housing units affordable for moderate-income households.

Collins said the apartment complex will likely be considered for approval by the Exeter City Council at its June 23 meeting.

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