Despite neighbors’ uncertainty about what could be in their backyards one day, the Cary Town Council approved an amendment to the town’s land use plan that could pave the way for a new shopping center with a Publix in western Cary.
The council voted 6-1 for a comprehensive plan amendment that will change property at the northwest intersection of Green Level Church and Carpenter Fire Station roads from medium- to high-density residential to medium-density residential or commercial. Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson voted against the amendment.
This 21-acre tract of land has stirred up controversy in recent months because the Sembler Company, a Florida developer, wants to build a Publix-anchored shopping center called Amberly Village there.
Still, with Thursday’s vote, a Publix may never be built there. The council may not approve the rezoning to allow for the Amberly Village project. The rezoning case is not expected to go before the council for a couple of months.
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“I think we can do much better than your traditional shopping center here,” Councilman Don Frantz said. “I just want to make sure the applicant knows we are not looking for your typical big box, sea-of-asphalt shopping center. We are looking for something much better than that.”
About 10 people spoke at Thursday’s meeting for and against the comprehensive plan amendment. Some members of the Town Council and neighbors of the property like the idea that the change would eliminate the possibility of having up to 210 apartments built on the property.
Others said they believe the area is underserved by retail and grocery stores, and town staff agreed this is a possibility.
“We could end up with about half the number of shopping centers per capita west of (N.C.) 55 than we have in the rest of Cary,” said Scott Ramage, the town’s principal planner.
But others were against the change because they purchased their homes nearby, believing the land would be built out as residential based on the town’s land use plan.
“When we moved to Arlington Park in particular, we believed the land adjacent to our home was going to remain consistent with the land use plan,” said Martine Goldman, a resident. “We feel that whether or not there’s enough commercial or not, we moved here for a sense of community. We would not like our neighborhood to be facing parking lots, lights, noise and traffic.”
Robinson said she sympathizes with those who looked at the land use plan when they bought their home.
“When they go invest in a home, they are believing they are going to get one thing and it’s changed, it’s very hard for them to go with that change,” she said.
But other members of the council disagreed, saying change happens.
“I feel bad that we have a lot of good Cary citizens that have written to us, and those kind of things, that we’re breaking a promise,” Mayor Pro Tem Ed Yerha said. “The truth is the land use plan has never been a promise. It’s a vision.”
The proposed development
The associated rezoning case, which proposes a maximum 110,000-square-foot shopping center anchored by a Publix, has spurred the creation of the group, Neighbors Against Amberly Village. An online petition opposing the center has garnered about 330 signatures and 125 comments.
In the past, members of the group have said they believed there already is plenty of commercial development in the area and cited safety, noise, lighting and traffic concerns.
Sembler Company representatives have met several times with neighbors to discuss their concerns and have changed the original plan to address them. Changes include an increased buffer and added neighborhood amenities, like a walkable main street, public seating, outdoor dining, plaza areas and more.
The developer also has committed to not building a gas station, a drive-through at the Publix and preventing businesses from staying open 24 hours, which have been concerns raised by residents.
“We incorporated all of these meaningful changes into the plan,” said Tom Hareas of the Sembler Company. “It’s a work in progress, and I believe as a team ... we’ve been able to make this plan and project a lot better for the community.”
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608, @KTrogdon