The developer of a sprawling, controversial subdivision in Clayton is mulling more changes to a plan that’s drawn fire from neighbors.
Many residents of two subdivisions that would border Wakefield Development Co.’s Steeplechase think the planned neighborhood, with 2,200 homes, is too dense. They say it would snarl traffic, infringe on their lifestyles and clash with their estate-style homes.
After hearing from neighbors at multiple town meetings, Wakefield Development has worked with Clayton planners to tweak its plan. In a presentation to the Clayton Town Council on Thursday, Planning Director Dave DeYoung said the Raleigh-based developer is considering the following additional changes:
• Moving a planned townhouse cluster farther away from the neighboring subdivisions, Smith Ridge Estates and Ole Mill Stream, and filling that space with single-family homes.
• Adding acreage to a proposed school site on the property. Wakefield Development had said it would reserve about 24 acres of its 631-acre tract for a school. DeYoung, who thinks the site is suitable for an elementary school, said he talked recently with the school district, which wants a larger, 28-30 acre site.
• Adding a 10-foot-wide multipurpose path along one of the main entrances to the neighborhood and increasing connectivity to other greenways.
• Agreeing to have different architectural designs for homes to avoid a “cookie cutter” approach that neighbors have complained about.
Wakefield Development has already agreed to cut two of four proposed connections to existing streets in Smith Ridge Estates and Ole Mill Stream. The two remaining connections, which DeYoung and other town planners are pushing, will likely be accessible only to firefighters and other first responders.
DeYoung said the connections are needed in the case of an emergency at Smith Ridge Estates and Ole Mill Stream, which have just one access point. However, residents of both neighborhoods, which are outside the town limits, say they don’t want through traffic in their subdivisions. Neither do they want the town telling them what to do.
Clayton Councilman Jason Thompson said the neighbors have a point. “I don’t think it’s any of our business to tell the people of Smith Ridge they’re not safe,” Thompson said.
He said even if the access from Steeplechase was available only to emergency personnel, people would find a cut through. “If they know they can drive across it, they can drive across it."
Traffic has been one of the greatest concerns not only for neighbors but also the town and the state Department of Transportation. Both the town and DOT are working with Wakefield Development on a timetable for making more than 100 proposed traffic improvements as the development builds out.
Because that timetable isn’t done, DeYoung said the Town Council will likely have to table its decision on Steeplechase, scheduled for March 2.
Councilman Butch Lawter said he wants to make sure the council considers Wakefield Development’s rezoning request and master plan in due time. “My thoughts are, we need to have all that information before this council makes an informed decision," Lawter said.
Councilman Michael Grannis agreed. “This is not what we want to rush to judgment on,” he said. “We have a real opportunity here to do something for this community, and we don’t want to rush into it.
“We are not going to satisfy everybody, but we have an obligation to listen to everybody, and I think we are doing a good job of it,” Grannis added.
In addition to homes, Wakefield Development’s plan includes a commercial node on about 10 acres and about 65 acres of open space for an extension of Sam’s Branch Greenway, private greenways and small parks.
The land on the north side of town is owned by the Earp family, which used to host a hot-air balloon festival and horse racing there.