Neighbors of a proposed 2,200-home subdivision aren’t necessarily happy the plan is moving forward.
But they say they’re thankful for changes the developer is making.
On Monday, a smaller crowd of concerned neighbors turned out for a Clayton Planning Board meeting in which the board recommended that the Town Council approve Wakefield Development Co.’s Steeplechase. The council could vote on the plan as early as March 2.
In recent weeks, neighbors have packed town meetings to oppose aspects of the subdivision, planned on more than 600 acres on the north side of town. Wakefield Development has worked with the town to amend parts of its proposal to try to ease neighbors’ fears.
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For instance, after neighbors complained that Steeplechase, with an average of four houses per acre, was too dense, Wakefield Development moved one of its densest phases – a section of town homes – further away from the neighboring subdivisions.
“Does that hurt the efficiency of the project? Yes, it does,” Kem Ard, Wakefield Development’s land specialist, said during Monday’s planning board meeting. “But we were willing to make that concession.”
Wakefield Development also cut two of four proposed connections to streets in two nearby neighborhoods, Smith Ridge Estates and Ole Mill Stream. Neighbors were worried that Steeplechase residents would use their streets as a cut-through. The two remaining street connections are now likely to be access points for first responders only.
Lisa Mills, a Smith Ridge resident vocally opposed to Steeplechase, thanked the developer for moving the town homes away. But she’d also like Wakefield Development to do away with the emergency access points.
“We don’t want a connection into our neighborhood,” Mills said. “I appreciate the concern for our well-being, but leave that alone as it is.”
Town of Clayton staffers want the connections from Steeplechase to Smith Ridge Estates and Ole Mill Stream, which currently have just one way in and out. Ard said if neighbors don’t want any connections, that’s fine with him, but he doesn’t recommend it.
Ard, a Clayton resident, said he lives in a neighborhood that has one entrance. He said the subdivision didn’t have any problems until Hurricane Fran felled trees that blocked the sole access point and kept residents from leaving.
“I’d hate for an emergency to happen and a fire truck can’t get in and an emergency vehicle can’t get in,” Ard said.
The Clayton Town Council will have the final say about the street connections and the plan in general.
Town Planning Director Dave DeYoung has said the council is unlikely to vote on Steeplechase on March 2, as the town, Wakefield Development and the N.C. Department of Transportation are still figuring out a timetable for scores of recommended traffic improvements. Steeplechase would add thousands of additional drivers to City and Covered Bridge roads.
Wakefield Development’s traffic consultant originally proposed a schedule of improvements based on two phases. However, the Steeplechase plan actually includes more than 30 phases, and the town has asked the consultant to amend its original schedule to represent the correct phasing.
Neighbor James Carson said he was appalled that the Planning Board would make its favorable recommendations while the revised traffic study was still out.
“I think the guys have done a good job of listening to us and making adjustments, but the traffic report is something that’s very big,” Carson said.