Rural residents leery of planning rules

Wake County, its towns may approve subdivision plans without broad notice

Staff WriterJuly 25, 2006 

A group of Fuquay-Varina residents successfully lobbied town officials earlier this month to prevent their cul-de-sac from becoming the only road into a proposed 71-home subdivision.

Their vocal opposition resonated with several Wake County residents who are worried about similar scenarios playing out in their unincorporated communities.

In Willow Spring, a 97-lot subdivision called Blalock's Glen is to be built on 115 acres north of N.C. 42. The only road access to the new neighborhood would be a connection to Willow Winds Drive in the adjacent Brookstone subdivision, a neighborhood of 74 homes.

Brookstone resident Elizabeth Lewis lives one house away from the 60-foot right-of-way for the road. She said traffic already backs up at Brookstone's main exit onto Rock Service Station Road. Brookstone also has a road connection into Nathan's Landing, an adjacent subdivision whose main entrance is on Rock Service Station.

"We know they're going to build a subdivision, but we think they should have another exit," Lewis said.

Wake County planners have deemed the one entrance to Blalock's Glen to be enough, and have given the development preliminary approval.

In northern Wake County, a 20-lot development called Mangum Estates has gotten preliminary approval. The lone entrance will be from a 50-foot right-of-way off Mangum Hollow Drive, which is now a cul-de-sac in an adjacent subdivision.

Mike Sykes, who lives on 3 1/2 acres adjacent to where the new subdivision would be built, said he is angry that surrounding residents have little say in whether new subdivisions are approved.

Most subdivisions that meet Wake County's requirements are approved administratively without a vote by the Planning Board or the Board of Commissioners. The approval process is different in many towns. In Fuquay-Varina, the town commissioners overrode the recommendation of the town's planning staff and planning board in siding with residents earlier this month.

"All of these things are happening without any notice," Sykes said of Wake County. "That's not right."

Keith Lankford, a planner with Wake County, said the county doesn't have a set formula for deciding how many entrances a subdivision should have.

"It's done on a case-by-case basis," he said. "You've got to have sufficient exits to disperse traffic."

Lankford said the county encourages interconnection between neighborhoods because it is often the most efficient way to disperse traffic.

Melanie Wilson, the Wake County planning director, said residents can appeal administrative decisions to the Board of Commissioners if they have a valid concern. She said people should note stubbed streets in their communities and find out whether the land next door could eventually be developed. Most of the time, she said, it's going to be a public road to adjoining land.

Staff writer David Bracken can be reached at 829-4548 or dbracken@newsobserver.com.

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