About two dozen southeast Morrisville residents expressed concerns Monday about a request to close Wilson Road at its intersection with N.C. 54 so a developer can build 82 new homes there.
Many of the same residents also spoke against the request at a Cary Town Council meeting the previous week. A portion of Wilson Road, as it currently exists, lies in Cary’s corporate limits, while another is in Morrisville’s. CalAtlantic homes, the developer of the proposed Wilson Place neighborhood, has asked both towns for permission to close Wilson Road and eventually re-align it farther east and entirely within the Town of Cary.
The council did not vote on the matter Nov. 7, and no action will be taken until December.
An unrelated but nearby CalAtlantic project just north of this one will eventually extend Wilson Road north to intersect with Cary Parkway, providing another exit. CalAtlantic also has said it will build a new road through Wilson Place to provide access to N.C. 54 until Wilson Road is re-aligned, but the new outlet road can’t be built without the old portion of Wilson Road first being closed and demolished. As submitted, the site plans for the Wilson Place neighborhood can only be approved if Wilson Road’s closure is approved first.
“Will it be inconvenient? Yes. Do we wish there was another way? Yes,” said Tom Beebe, representing CalAtlantic at Monday’s meeting. “But it will be for a short period of time, eight to nine months, and we will ultimately go through the Pathan property and construct the connection.”
But residents of the Woods at Fairbanks neighborhood take issue with that order of operations, which would leave Fairbanks Road as their only means of exiting onto N.C. 54 for the eight months it would take to construct the Wilson Place through-road.
For that reason, they are asking both Cary and Morrisville to deny the road closure request until the developer comes up with a workable alternative. They say the traffic and safety concerns presented by having just one way out of their neighborhood and onto a heavily traveled stretch of N.C. 54 are impermissible, especially with so many new homes being built in the area.
“We’ve attended both sets of council meetings (in Cary and Morrisville), and we’re trying to make sure our voices are heard, but we’re becoming frustrated, if we’re being honest,” said John Wilson, head of the Fairbanks Homeowners Association. “We’re not opposed to development, but we’ll have 500 cars in under half a mile (along N.C. 54) with one exit.”
About a dozen residents spoke at Monday’s meeting, with another dozen in the audience. The meeting had been rescheduled from its normal Tuesday date to account for the election.
“This allows CalAtlantic to profit from development without being required to make reasonable improvements to the surrounding area,” said Fairbanks resident Monica Horvath, whose remarks were met with applause. “Why not wait until Wilson is realigned, until the extension to Cary Parkway is complete? I fail to see how the riches of a private developer trump the congestion and safety concerns of families and children.”
Beebe said his firm had been unable to secure the property or easements needed to immediately realign and extend Wilson Road. A property owner who owns property in the path of the proposed realignment has refused to sell that property to CalAtlantic or grant them an easement, and CalAtlantic hasn’t been able to buy the land needed to connect Wilson Road to Cary Parkway.
If the closure is approved, Beebe said, work would begin in January, although the closure might not occur for another month.
The Town Council appeared troubled by what it heard from the residents, but didn’t appear prepared to deny the road closure. Several council members proposed compromises, such as the construction of a temporary or gravel road out of the neighborhood. A vote is is scheduled for the council’s Dec. 13 meeting.
“There’s no easy development left out there, and it’ll become more typical that we’ll have to think outside the box,” Mayor Mark Stohlman said. “We know from experience that CalAtlantic is a good community partner, but at the end of the day we have to look out for our residents. Let’s try to find a solution that minimizes inconvenience and lets you develop.”
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan