Brad Moore, Elon University architect and Elon’s director of planning, design and construction management, proposed a rezoning request for 19.6 acres within the city limits of Burlington to the Planning and Zoning Commission — which unanimously voted to recommend the request to city council — at a meeting on Oct. 24. 

Moore told the commission that the area would be used for a research farm, which may eventually include student residential buildings and a research building for local children to learn about sustainable farming. 

According to the commission’s staff adviser Conrad Olmedo, the commission considers the future land use map in the city’s comprehensive plan, Destination Burlington, developed in 2015. Olmedo said this map is a reminder of what is compatible with the city looking forward. 

“It tells us what future land uses we want to have here in the city,” Olmedo said. “It kind of helps inform the Planning and Zoning Commission. … Is that proposed zoning compatible or incompatible as it was with the community with the surrounding land uses in the area? Or is it in alignment with the future vision of the city’s growth with that land use plan?”

Elon Town Manager Rich Roedner said that possibly sharing the university’s tax exemptions with the city of Burlington does not bother him. 

“That is an aspect that moving something into Burlington rather than Elon helps us from a taxation standpoint, in that that’s a facility that won’t be in Elon, not paying property taxes, if you get my drift,” Roedner said. “Sharing the tax exempt portion of the university with other communities — I don’t have a problem with that either.”

Roedner said the situation is not unique, as Elon Law is situated in Greensboro. 

“I think it’s good to see the university financially healthy that they’re continuing to look at options for new facilities and expansions,” Roedner said. “I think that serves the area well.”

The area, 2635 W. Front St., is currently zoned for office institutional and light industrial and medium density residential development. According to Olmedo, rather than a conventional rezoning, this is classified as limited use — which means because the request is through Elon University, it does not require a master plan. 

“It helps the commission, helps the council, helps our citizens be more comfortable with the rezoning request without having to develop a full scale site plan that shows all these details on the property,” Olmedo said. “This limited use rezoning basically allows the university to say, ‘Hey, we don’t really have a site plan that we’re ready to commit to. … We just want to make sure that the use is going to be allowed here.’”

Olmedo said the commission did disapprove when Moore said there is a possibility for livestock on the farm, due to the ordinance against chickens and other fowl kept in Burlington city limits. 

The request will be brought before the city council in a work session Nov. 14, where it will then be scheduled for a public hearing.