Cary leaders have extended talks about rules requiring developers to build new roads connecting roads in existing subdivisions instead of pursuing a set of proposed changes.
Under Cary’s current connectivity rules, developers of new projects are generally required to connect new roads with roads in adjoining subdivisions. The rules are meant to improve traffic, reduce emergency response times and welcome other forms of transportation besides motor vehicles.
But residents and some council members say the rules sometimes force a connection between incompatable subdivisions and overburden old roads with new traffic.
Changes proposed by town staff at the March 26 Town Council meeting provide exemptions for some neighborhoods. For example, developers wouldn’t have to connect to subdivisions built before 1999 if there’s no street “stub” to connect to, and the lack of connectivity isn’t a safety issue. In those cases, a developer could promise never to build a connecting road when rezoning paperwork is submitted to the town.
Some council members, such as Ed Yerha, think Cary should offer more exemptions. If all parties involved – developers and existing residents – don’t see the need for a connection and there’s no safety issue, they shouldn’t be forced to connect, he said.
The council, which discussed the connectivity rules in December, plans to discuss them again at a work session on July 21.
Yerha described himself as perhaps the “most anti-connectivity council member.” Others said they tend to favor connectivity but want the council to have more say over which subdivisions must connect.
“I think connectivity in most ways, shapes and forms is good,” Councilwoman Lori Bush said. “There are areas, and there are times, when that (connectivity) decision needs to be carefully considered by council.”
The connectivity issue came to the fore last summer after residential developer M/I Homes announced plans to build a new subdivision at the intersection of Cary Parkway and Holly Springs Road.
The development site is an open field that faces Holly Springs Road and doesn’t back up to another major road. It does, however, abut Fordland Drive, a residential road that runs parallel to Holly Springs Road and deadends at the M/I property.
While town rules won’t require the subdivisions to connect in this case – most of Fordland Drive is outside Cary in Wake County’s jurisdiction – they do require M/I to build a road stub up to the Fordland Drive dead end so the roads can connect eventually.
M/I Homes representatives said last year during rezoning hearings that they don’t have a preference whether the neighborhood connects to Fordland Drive or if a road stub is built.
Many residents of Fordland Drive don’t want their road to connect to the new neighborhood, and some, like Mel Tucker, say that road stubs are “staging areas” for crime.
Council members said last summer that they don’t want the roads to connect either and were frustrated they couldn’t vote to exempt M/I from the town rules that require a road stub. Bush mentioned Fordland Drive during the council’s recent discussion.
“It’s an older neighborhood,” Bush said. “It’s in Wake County. It has a very narrow street, and it’s not suited at this time for connectivity.”
Fordland residents who spoke at the meeting shared Yerha’s view that the proposed changes to the rules don’t go far enough in protecting well-established, low-density neighborhoods.
Proposed rules define neighborhoods with single vehicular access points and single streets that are longer than 1,000 feet as potentially dangerous. At the meeting, Tucker asked the town to produce a study supporting that theory.
Bob Gates, Tucker’s neighbor on Fordland Drive, added, “Please don’t allow anyone to tell you that a single access road into a development is unsafe when, in fact, it isn’t true.”
Meanwhile, Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson said the proposal goes too far in some cases. She worried that developers seeking to rezone a property would attempt to scrap street connections to appease opponents of their development.
If residents file a valid protest petition against a rezoning request, state law requires local governments to approve the request with a supermajority rather than a simple majority.
She said she doesn’t want to make it too easy for the stub and road connection rules to be waived for developers who don’t want a protest petition to be a factor in the council’s decision.
“If the adjoining neighborhood has a stub … we need to connect,” she said.