Opponents of an annexation petition approved in November returned to Town Hall to protest a proposed subdivision during a joint public hearing Dec. 12.
The town and planning boards heard two and a half hours of comments for and against the Barrington development 264 Investments wants to build on about 210 acres off Old Bunn Road. The developers’ plan calls for a maximum of 837 units in a mix of single-family homes, townhomes and duplexes.
The developers claimed to have met the four requirements spelled out in the quasi-judicial process for considering a special use permit.
Their report said the project complies with the town’s comprehensive plan, land use plan and greenway master plan, and since the town’s plans considered the public health, safety or welfare, so will the project. For the same reason, the report said the requirements that the project be in harmony with the surrounding area and that it be in compliance with town ordinances, policies and plans were also satisfied.
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They also had a real estate agent prepare a report indicating the development will not substantially injure the value of adjoining properties. The project benefits the town, the developers said in their application, by extending water and sewer to more customers, helping speed up the payout of Zebulon’s utility merger agreement with the City of Raleigh.
But both Kim Bunn, who was a minority owner in a corporation that sold the land against her will to 264 Investments, and Tom Hendrickson, who owns nearby Bennett-Bunn Plantation, argued that the development would negatively impact their properties of historic significance.
Parties on both sides will have to wait until at least Jan. 5, however, for a recommendation from the Planning Board, which tabled the request after the lengthy hearing.
Of the 84 conditions town staff proposed for the project, only five were not yet agreed to by the developer. They involved a greenway culvert crossing under U.S. 64, public roadways throughout the development and the number of garages per each unit.
While the developers want a mix of public and private streets in the subdivision, staff requested that all roads be public to avoid the possibility of the town getting caught up in service-related disputes.
Town staff also wants the developers to pay for a greenway culvert under U.S. 64, where a small, open space portion of the development would extend across the highway.
Charles Walker, a land use consultant representing 264 Investments, said there has not been a time when a developer has been required to pay in full for such a crossing.
Caught in the middle
Bunn’s Parks Village Road home and two more parcels she owns would be surrounded by the development.
She already had some of her property condemned by Raleigh to construct a pump station. She raised concerns about utility needs for Barrington possibly taking over more of her land, about plans to handle the additional traffic and about what the new subdivision would mean for her property and 120-year-old home.
“They’re wanting to take my front yard,” Bunn said. “They’re going to take my pond. They’re going to build 837 houses and you don’t think that’s going to devalue my property? There’s going to be little two-bedroom townhomes with no garage and parking on the street, and that’s not going to devalue my property? Anybody? It says that you’re not supposed to do it if it changes the value of the adjoining properties.”
Mayor Bob Matheny asked Bunn if she had an expert witness to attest to her claims, since it was an evidentiary hearing.
Andy Gay, a lawyer representing Bunn, said by all case law in all circumstances in North Carolina, a property owner can testify to the value of their property.
“I think that my property provides a lot to the Town of Zebulon,” Bunn said. “Not tax value, but it is a historic home. I am under the Wake County (program) where people come and look at your land and see what you do. They come out and look at the grapevines my husband planted. They’ll be gone.”
Town planner Julie Spriggs said at buildout there could be 1,700 new cars using the surrounding roads. A traffic impact analysis indicated Barrington would generate about 5,890 total site trips in that area over 24 hours on a typical weekday.
“But in the first phase, you might only have 100 (cars),” Spriggs said. “As the seven-year buildout happens, we have a time frame to get that plan in place and then do the roadway widening so by the time the cars are actually there at buildout, the roads will be built.”
Walker said the plan calls for buffers in areas not already covered by existing vegetation. He also said one of the developers own conditions is that they cannot and do not intend on going after land that is not already part of the property for the proposed development.
“That will put a couple holes in the doughnut, but we can’t commit to something we don’t own,” he said.
But Gay said just to access the existing pumping station would further condemn Bunn’s property.
Walker’s reply was that there is a possible need for a sewer easement, but that the entire project does not hinge on that happening.
Tom Hendrickson, who owns Bennett-Bunn Plantation, raised doubts that Raleigh would be interested in options for utility lines that would bypass Bunn’s land, because they would require more frequent maintenance.
“Technically, it’s the city, but functionally, it’s you all,” Hendrickson told the boards. “It’s in your hands as to what happens with that.”
Hendrickson explained he wanted to buy some of the untapped land Barrington would surround and swap it for some of the land the developers own that borders Bennett-Bunn Plantation, which is on the National Historic Register. His proposal would have also allowed Bunn to retain her grapevines.
“As I look at this plan, I see nothing but the rear end of townhomes facing Zebulon’s one major National Historic Register property,” he said. “If it turns into where the town doesn’t care about it, it makes it hard for us to care about it. I would ask you to care.”
A cabin on the property dates back to the 1780s. The house was built in 1833.
Hendrickson assured the boards that a 15-foot-wide buffer between the properties would be meaningless to his operation.
“Which is why I proposed to them to purchase property, trade out property so that we could have a double-layer of buffer and also have room to put the circa 1900, white country church that we bought from down near Clayton that we were trying to move over to our property to finish out a wedding venue,” Hendrickson said. “Unfortunately for the site that makes sense, if we’re backing townhomes up to it, I think it creates a problem and will eliminate that use for us.”
Hendrickson suggested dropping the culvert idea, which he said will never come to fruition in his lifetime, and apply that money toward better buffers for the neighboring properties.
He and Bunn both invited town staff and board members to come out and tour their properties.
“This is your town, it’s our properties, and we welcome you to come see the impact of what this is going to have,” Hendrickson said.