Cary considers westward growth, annexation at Lewter Shop Road

akenney@newsobserver.comMarch 5, 2013 

This Chatham County property on Lewter Shop Road may become Cary's westernmost outpost.

ANDREW KENNEY - AKENNEY@NEWSOBSERVER.COM

— Say hello, Chatham County.

A proposed development may push Cary’s borders farther west than any before.

The Cary Town Council will decide this month whether to annex 76 acres at Lewter Shop Road and West Ferrell Road at the request of the landowners. The move would extend the town’s westernmost border by about a half-mile.

It would be Cary’s first growth into Chatham County since the mid-2000s, when inter-governmental politics froze development on the town’s far-western frontier, also known as eastern New Hope and Williams townships.

Developer Galaxy Investments first tried to build on the land in 2005, but the company’s proposal reminded Chatham leaders that Cary development was coming.

In response, the two governments temporarily banned Cary-Chatham annexations and began to map the future of the lakeside area, according to Scott Ramage, a Cary town planner.

The governments took seven years to finish the plan, slowed by disputes over the style and density of homes to be built in the 12,000-acre swath. Combined with an economic recession, the moratorium ensured suburban growth largely stopped at the county line.

“We haven’t had, really, a lot of interest in that area,” said Jason Sullivan, Chatham’s planning director. “We haven’t had a lot of interest in new development in the county in general.”

That’s changing. Last year, Cary and Chatham County designated about 2,900 acres along the border for low-density residential development and annexation into Cary, opening the town’s farthest frontier for business again.

A developer already is planning another subdivision near the new Lewter Shop Road project, according to Glenda Toppe, a planning consultant for both proposals.

“Every builder that comes here wants to be in Cary. Whether it’s Cary-Chatham County or Cary-Wake County, they don’t seem to mind,” said Stacey Anfindsen, a Cary land appraiser.

The 76-acre lot on Lewter Shop Road includes expansive fields, woods and at least one small building, according to property records.

Galaxy Investments bought the property from the Yates family for $1.9 million in 2005, according to tax records.

If approved, the request by Galaxy and co-owner Highway 54 Partners would allow a park, a school, a religious use or up to two single-family homes per acre on the 76 acres.

Neither Gary Joyner nor Roy Mashburn Jr., the listed agents for the companies, returned calls for comment.

The proposed residential use is low density on the official Cary scale. But it’s something new for this part of Chatham.

Currently, the heaviest local development is just southward, where big newer houses nestle on multi-acre lots in the woods.

The larger Cary-Chatham area is set aside for what Cary defines as low-density and ultra-low-density housing, plus one mixed-use center on Lewter Shop Road.

So far, the Lewter Shop Road plan hasn’t inspired any public criticism, but Chatham County Commissioner Sally Kost urges ginger steps and open ears.

“I think people would be more welcoming to the development if they knew it was not going to look like everything else in Cary,” Kost said. “Chatham County needs to protect its character and its flavor.”

Cary’s elected officials will consider the Galaxy/N.C. 54 project on March 28. Chatham officials may submit their comments, but the town has the final say.

An approval still would leave questions about the project, though. Town rules would require the developer to pay to extend utility lines almost a mile out to the site – a move that could feed more construction on the fringe.

Kenney: 919-460-2608 or t witter.com/KenneyOnCary

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