Two key growth areas dominated discussion at Cary’s recent quasi-judicial public hearings – the Carpenter Historic District and Chatham County.
On April 19, the Cary Town Council approved with a 3-2 vote a special-use permit and site plan for a public storage facility along N.C. 55, despite some council member concerns that the project would be too close to the Carpenter Historic District.
The mini-storage facility would consist of six buildings, totaling about 135,000 square feet, with the largest building being two stories. It would be on the east side of N.C. 55, north of the intersection of N.C. 55 and Morrisville Parkway.
“My biggest concern is that it is catty-corner to the Carpenter Historic District, and we spent a lot of time and a lot of money talking about how that is planned and how that is going to move forward,” Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said. “So I’m concerned that this is not harmonious.”
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Weinbrecht and councilwoman Lori Bush voted against the project, both citing concerns about the number of storage facilities that already are along N.C. 55. Council members Jennifer Robinson and Ed Yerha were absent from the meeting.
“Just about across the street, a block down, there is already one,” Bush said. “There’s already three within a quarter of a mile. So my concern here is that 55 is going to become mini-storage way ... I think there’s potentially some other uses that can go here.”
Other council members, including Don Frantz, said they think there isn’t a more appropriate use of the property because it is a narrow tract of land that runs between a highway and railroad tracks. The mini-storage use also would be a low-traffic generator, Frantz said.
“There is a demand for this,” he said. “The reality is Cary is an incredibly fast-growing community. Lots of new homes. Lots of new families, and they have lots of stuff ... To me, I don’t know what other use you’d prefer that’s really going to generate little to no impact whatsoever.”
Growth in Chatham County
The council also approved with a 4-1 vote a modification that would allow more than 100 single-family homes to be built in western Cary with only one way out of the neighborhood.
The developer is seeking to build 144 single-family homes on 76.5 acres off of Lewter Shop Road, across from West Ferrell Road in western Cary, said Kevin Hales, a Cary senior planner. Woodhall subdivision would fall in Chatham County.
The surrounding land is undeveloped, giving the developer no road to connect to for a second access point. Town rules require a second public street connection if the developer exceeds 100 units.
But the developer wants to build all 144 units at once to “better preserve the character of the neighborhood by not constructing it in two phases,” said Jason Barron, a lawyer representing Cary real estate developer Roy Mashburn.
“Because this assemblage is essentially the first one to the trough, there’s no other roads for them to connect to,” he said. “But it’s coming.”
Baker Residential, a New York-based developer, recently purchased 76 acres to the southeast for $7.8 million and already is seeking the necessary approval to build on the site, Mashburn said.
“They are moving forward with a development plan for approval,” Barron said. “That will ultimately provide the vehicular connection to this location (Woodhall).”
Although council members anticipate the second access point to come to fruition in the coming years, some were concerned about safety issues that may arise in the short term.
“Emergency access is my concern,” Weinbrecht said. “If somebody has a heart attack and that entrance is blocked and they don’t get there in time.”
Others, including Frantz, said they believed it wouldn’t take long before the adjacent project is built.
“Let’s face it,” Frantz said. “Nobody buys a piece of property for $7 million and then does nothing with it.”
Bush voted against the modification.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608: @KTrogdon