A divided Clayton Town Council on Tuesday tried but failed to find a way to deny or delay the planned Brookside development off of Amelia Church Road.
Though traffic concerns lingered after a public hearing, the 3-2 vote to approve the 38-lot subdivision owed more to town codes than council sentiment.
Brookside’s developer, Clayton NDJC, will seek a two-year construction entrance off of N.C. 42, but ultimately, Brookside residents will be able to access their homes only via Satinwood Drive in neighboring Wynston subdivision.
“I’ve never spent so much time on a 38-lot subdivision,” Jerry Dalton, the project’s engineer, said during the public hearing. “We’ve done our best to be well prepared, played by the rules and done everything to fulfill our requirements. ... I have chased every rabbit you can chase.”
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Opposition to Brookside came exclusively from Wynston residents, who will see added traffic on Breeze Lane and Satinwood Drive once the development comes to fruition. Brookside’s 20 acres are in a corner between Amelia Church Road and N.C. 42 but are hemmed in by a mixed-use parcel to the west and wetlands to the south.
Clayton planning director David DeYoung said the N.C. Department of Transportation is reluctant to agree to a permanent entrance off of N.C. 42, which it plans to widen, but has all but promised a temporary construction entrance.
Council members debated whether a temporary construction entrance was enough, but they stopped short of making it a requirement for Brookside to move forward. Instead, Breeze Lane in Wynston will be the construction entrance if the state doesn’t OK the temporary entrance off of N.C. 42.
“There’s a reason you’ve spent so much time on this 38-lot project,” said Wynston resident Eric Ballard. “This is not the right project for the neighborhood.”
Nearly all council members voiced concerns over increased traffic on Breeze Lane and Satinwood Drive. But because Brookside is just 38 homes, it doesn’t meet the DOT’s threshold of 100 peak-hour trips to trigger a traffic study.
“I’m not as concerned with the construction entrance as I am with the 38 homes,” said Councilman Art Holder. “They should have an entrance” off of N.C. 42.
DeYoung said the town couldn’t deny Brookside access to Satinwood Drive because it is a public street. “When Wynston was developed, they put in a stub-out street,” he said. “To me, it would be inverse condemnation to deny public access.”
The streets of Wynston can look quite narrow when cars are parked on the curb instead of in driveways. Wynston resident Mike Orlowski, speaking for his neighbors, described Satinwood as one long blind spot.
“The roads may be built to DOT standards, but that doesn’t mean the curvature of the road isn’t a safety issue,” he said. “We live it every day.”
One week before the council planed to vote on Brookside, Councilmen Bob Satterfield and Butch Lawter met with about 40 Wynston residents, who chose the dead end of Satinwood Drive for the meeting. While the town’s planning board and staff said Brookside fell in line with Clayton's zoning rules and future land-use plans, residents asked if there was any other way.
“So what you’re telling us is that a developer can come in and do whatever they want and you can’t do anything about it?” said Anne Roux, one of the meeting’s organizers.
“That’s pretty much it, yes,” Satterfield said. “If they can meet our zoning requirements, we have to allow it.”
In approving Brookside, the council rezoned the land from residential lots of 10,000 square feet to lots of 8,000 square feet, though not all lots will be that small.
Dalton, the project engineer, said the developer’s proposal was an effort to overcome the land’s limitations. “They’re not trying to grab lots,” he said of the developer. “Given the cost of the land and being encumbered by some environmental constraints, the developer looked to find a better way.”
That better way turned out to be through Wynston.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, Satterfield told the residents he shared their concerns over traffic but only to a point.
“We’ve had projects in the past where we didn’t like something and the courts liked it a little more than we did,” he said. “I told the residents I wouldn’t be willing to fight this one in court. ... [The developer] has the right to use the stub-out street, and the town doesn’t have the right to require a second entrance. I think they’ve gone out of their way with agreeing to a temporary entrance.”
DeYoung pointed out that Brookside’s lots range from 8,200 square feet to nearly 31,000 square feet.
Efforts by Lawter to table the project and by Grannis to require a temporary entrance went nowhere, and their votes stood as the only dissent against the development.
Moving forward, Dalton pledged to include the town’s planning department in his efforts to secure a two-year entrance off of N.C. 42.
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson