A decision on a proposed townhouse development near Green Hope High School was postponed Thursday amid worries about potential traffic in the school area.
The council decided it will consider the rezoning petition again at its Nov. 10 meeting after several council members and Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said they were undecided how they would vote.
Tom Beebe of CalAtlantic Homes applied to build a maximum of 40 townhouses on a thin, rectangular parcel – 8 acres – just south of the high school.
Several residents and council members said they are concerned about the project’s potential to worsen traffic woes along the busy street, which often backs up south of the proposed development in the mornings and afternoons as students drive to or are dropped off at the school.
Paula King, a Cary resident, is one of 143 PTSA members who signed a petition against the rezoning. Thursday, she brought a Magic 8 ball to the podium as she voiced her concerns about the project. She shook the ball and asked whether the council should allow housing along Carpenter Upchurch Road. She reported that the ball disapproved.
“The carpool is bedlam,” King said. “I counted 40 cars backed up south of the traffic circle, south of the property we’re talking about. This road is already beyond its safe capacity. Adding any more cars to these roads is insanity.”
Jason Barron, the land use attorney for the project, spoke to the council after King. Barron said Green Hope’s peak traffic hours, from approximately 7 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m, coincide with relatively few trips made by residents working a 9-to-5 schedule.
“I didn’t bring any props,” he said. “But I can’t think of a better use of this land than for townhomes. If you have people in single-family detached homes, you’d get noise complaints about the marching band and football games. If not this, then what?”
Councilman Jack Smith said if there is a safety problem, then the town should work with the state to find a solution for it.
“But to have 40 units that would make maybe two trips in that half-hour, that’s not contributing to a safety problem,” he said. “It’s one of those things where I didn’t even think there’d be discussion on it. I thought it’d be so simple.”
Traffic aside, Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson said she found the density and relative isolation of the project undesirable in that location.
“Forty units tells me it’s going to be one of those subdivisions that doesn’t feel like a place,” Robinson said. “We keep talking about wanting to create a sense of place, and part of doing that is having green space and connectivity.”
Beebe and Barron said the townhomes would likely line a single street in and out of the development, and although the gross density of the project keeps it in the middle of the town’s medium-density zoning classification of three to eight units per acre, the net density allowed by large stream buffers on the property could approach nine or 10 units per acre.
Ferrell Farm rezoned
An 80-acre section of the Carpenter Village area known as Ferrell Farm was rezoned with unanimous support. The decision will allow Ashton Woods Homes of Raleigh to build 306 new homes, of which the majority – 239 – will be either condos or townhouses.
The proposed development has also been controversial in neighboring Morrisville, whose council recently approved 70 new homes along a stretch of Morrisville Carpenter Road farther west, despite considerable public disapproval and fears of worsening traffic congestion.
“I am going to support the motion, but there were 11 intersection mitigations recommended, and the developer is doing one, and it’s in Cary,” Councilwoman Lori Bush said. “When we talk about being good neighbors to the towns around us, I wish there were more that the developer had offered to do other than the one that is being done, even though that one is absolutely important.”
That concession was the applicant’s offer to install a traffic signal at the development’s connection to Airport Boulevard and that connection’s intersection with Davis Drive.
Thursday’s discussion focused primarily on the orientation and style of roads proposed to cut through the property, linking it to other parts of town. Since the council’s last discussion of the matter, the applicant removed proposed streetscape buffers along the northern portion of a road linking the property to both the Wexford neighborhood to the north and Davis Drive to the east.
Jason Barron, also the applicants’ attorney in this matter, said the streetscape had been removed there to give the slightly larger homes a more “traditional, residential” feel in contrast with the denser homes to the south of the development.
Some council members previously said they worried that removing the buffers would allow the developer to fit more homes on the property, but staff reported there had been no change in the proposed number of units on the property.
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan