Cary News

July 2, 2014

Civil War battle site could be developed with homes

Homes could be built near the site of one of the last Civil War skirmishes, but Morrisville leaders hope to also build a park in the area.

Homes could be built near the site of one of the last Civil War skirmishes, but Morrisville leaders hope to also build a park in the area.

Some residents complained about Morrisville’s plan to update the zoning designation of about 18 acres at Morrisville-Carpenter Road near Savannah Drive.

As part of a major update of the town’s zoning map that sets aside swaths of land for industrial, commercial or residential growth, the Morrisville Town Council changed the designation from agriculture to very low density.

Some people have said development in the area would erase a piece of Civil War history and ruin Morrisville’s chance to become a tourist attraction.

Under the recently approved plan, a developer could build about one unit per acre at the site, said Courtney Tanner, a senior planner for Morrisville. A developer could have pitched a housing plan of the same density under the agricultural designation.

The town eliminated agricultural zoning altogether because Morrisville doesn’t have much farmland.

There’s no immediate plan for a park or monument at the site, where a battle took place for two days in April 1865.

But Morrisville Mayor Mark Stohlman said he hopes a developer would set aside enough space “for a meaningful park.” He envisions an open space with a plaque to mark the historical significance.

Town officials have said the private property is for sale.

The idea is to allow development while also preserving history, Tanner said.

“The value is you’re preserving green space, which is good for the town … while at the same time allowing a property (owner) to develop their land,” Tanner said.

In the meantime, Stohlman said, Morrisville hopes to work with the state of North Carolina to include the town in a statewide tour of sites to mark the 150th anniversary of the conclusion of the Civil War.

“Morrisville does have a part to play, especially at the end of the war,” Stohlman said.

‘More streamlined process’

The town updated zoning designations in an effort to streamline the development process, which could help spur growth.

Previously, it could take about eight months for town officials to review and approve site plans for a development project. Developers sometimes had to request changes to zoning designations.

With the current map in place, development projects could be reviewed and approved in about four months, Tanner said.

“I think it allows projects to come in (with) a more streamlined process,” Tanner said. “I think it can put us at a competitive advantage.”

Much of town limits fall within Morrisville’s Airport Overlay District near Raleigh-Durham International Airport. That area – mostly east of N.C. 54 between Aviation Parkway and Airport Boulevard – is set for industrial growth.

Homes aren’t planned for the area because of noise.

The updated zoning map calls for residential growth mostly along N.C. 540, including at the interchange of Interstate 40.

Local elected leaders have said they want to encourage the development of more single-family homes in town. Morrisville was mostly an industrial town until just a few decades ago, Stohlman said.

He said he wishes more homes could be built closer to the airport, especially along the future N.C. 54 bypass.

“It’s particularly a huge chunk of the bypass area,” he said.

Activity centers

The new map sets aside several “activity centers” with five different focuses: transit, neighborhood, regional, community and business.

An area on McCrimmon Parkway has been designated a transit activity center. That’s where town leaders envision mixed-use growth anchored by a rail station.

Neighborhood activity centers focus on walkability, such as the Grace Park area and Town Hall Commons.

Regional centers aim to provide job opportunities in fields such as health care, Tanner said. Examples include Shiloh Crossing and the former outlet mall near the airport that developers hope to transform into a Chinatown.

Community activity centers, such as the area around Park West Village, would feature mixed-use development of homes and businesses that would employ local residents.

Business centers would feature large office settings and multifamily residential development. The area near Evans Road and Aviation Parkway is designated a business activity center.

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