MATTHEWS – The Town of Matthews has issued a violation to Taft Development Group after hundreds of trees that were promised to be preserved at an apartment complex project on Monroe Road were cut down earlier this month.
The violation was discussed at the Matthews Board of Commissioners meeting March 11 and the miscue will cost Taft $150,000. The town has fined the developers $50,000 for a zoning violation, and Taft has promised to set aside $100,000 for landscaping enhancements along Monroe Road to replace the lost trees once the project is finished.
Taft Development is constructing the
Residences Galleria across the street from the Family Dollar corporate headquarters and distribution center. The project, which was approved by the town in early 2017, will have 250 housing units consisting of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments as well as two- and three-bedroom townhouses. The project costs $35 million, and the developers paid $2.6 million for the property.
During the rezoning process, Taft said about 18 percent of the trees on the 22-acre parcel would be saved but that may not happen when a subcontractor cut down around 200 trees that were supposed to have been preserved.
Catherine Hall was one of several nearby residents who voiced concerns about the project when it was first proposed almost three years ago. She said her worst fears were realized when work on the project began.
“One of our primary goals was to maximize the tree save on that area,” Hall said. “I was concerned even after we came to a compromise that we could live with that in some way the tree save would not be followed. Not by intentional plan or something that was intended to happen. There were so many details in it that I was scared that when people came out with the bulldozers they would not have the correct information in hand and a mistake would be made.’’
That is exactly what happened.
Dustin Mills, who is the president of Taft-Mills, told the board that his company dropped the ball and said the plans given to the subcontractor were confusing. Mills said this is the first time in 40 years that Taft has been levied a fine for a tree violation.
“This should not have happened,” Mills said. “It shocked us. I stand before you to make a formal and public apology. Quite honestly, this was just a horrendous mistake. When we first found out (March 5), we ceased operations as quickly as possible. This is not a subcontractor issue. We are the contractor.”
Taft is now looking at preserving trees that were slated to be cut down on the site, including trees near City Barbeque. But Hall said at the board meeting that she has not been given a commitment from the developers that will happen and urged the board to preserve as many trees as possible. She also asked that the $50,000 fine be set aside for tree planting on the property.
“We have been on site to look at the opportunities that we might be able to do next,” Hall said. “We don’t need to be here. This is something that could have been prevented. I don’t think this was intentional. I feel it was a major miscommunication.’’
Mills said he will work with area residents and the town on the enhancements that will be added along Monroe Road.
“That will have community buy-in,” Mills said. “We are going to make it right. There is not a near-term opportunity to plant trees because for the next six months, it is going to be an active site as far as clearing and balancing the site.”