CARY — Local governments have ratified their plans for the eastern periphery of Jordan Lake.
With a vote Thursday, the Cary Town Council ended more than six years of debate with Chatham County about how 10,000 acres just west of Cary should develop.
At the council meeting, Cary’s elected officials looked back on the long and often-contentious effort to balance environmental concerns and landowners’ rights to develop their land.
“The feeling was we were at war, five years ago,” said Mayor Harold Weinbrecht just before the council’s unanimous vote of approval. Chatham County’s Board of Commissioners approved the plan by a 3-2 majority June 18.
The area in question is bounded by Jordan Lake to the west and the Wake County line to the east. It is up to five miles wide, marked on one corner by Bells, a tiny crossroads, and in another by Amberly, a large subdivision at Cary’s edge.
The plan sets guidelines for what kind of construction the two governments should allow in different parts of the area, which Chatham County governs but whose landowners may join Cary’s utility systems. The document sets aside the intersection of N.C. 751 and Lewter Shop Road for a potential mixed-use development, the area closest to the lake for low density residential, and the inland areas for comparatively denser development.
The effort was dogged at times by perceptions, long held by some in Chatham County, that fast-growing Cary wanted to subsume the rural area by the lake. In approving the plan, Cary officials stressed otherwise.
“We are not trying to spur development,” said Cary Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson. “We just want to make sure that if it gets developed, it’s done in a way that is harmonious with the people that live there … but it also respects the right of property owners to develop this land.”
The right to develop land led the town and county in April to drop proposed new restrictions on development near the lake. While earlier drafts would have allowed only one new house per 5-acre lot within a mile of the lake, the final version keeps the current limit of one house per acre.
Al Swanstrom, chairman of Cary’s planning and zoning board, said the change came too late for his board to properly consider it.
“I’m at a little bit of a loss to say we recommended this proposal. What we did do was look at a proposal that had much lower densities closer to the lake,” he said. Had the change come earlier in the process, he said, “I expect we probably would have had some vigorous debate.”
In closing, councilwoman Gale Adcock said the plan’s approval was a testament to tenacity. Robinson said she hoped the plan’s rural area would remain much as it is now.
“If you own land, please don’t sell it, just stay on it. People who live in Cary love to see that there’s this rural area,” she said. “But if you have property, we hope that you will honor this plan as you go forward.”
Kenney: 919-460-2608 or twitter.com/KenneyOnCary