For two days the town council and staff members met during a planning retreat in Raleigh to discuss future plans for Garner.
Among the topics they discussed were transportation plans for Garner, future housing development around White Oak, updating the comprehensive growth plan and traffic around South Garner High. The new South Garner High building will house Garner Magnet High students for the 2016-17 school year, while their new school is renovated.
The town is planning for growth and development in the undeveloped areas south of Timber Dr. and east of Highway 50 near White Oak. Planning Director Brad Bass said there is 5,000 acres of land, 3,000 of which are undeveloped. He said although there have been no commitments, some developers have shown interest.
As the area gets built it will be voluntarily annexed. Town members all agreed that the roads around White Oak, including White Oak Road, the bridge on New Bethel Church Road and the Timber Drive extension needed to be improved soon, especially before South Garner High opens.
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Town council members felt there needs to be a traffic light coming out of the school near Ackerman Road similar to other school entrances like Timber Dr. Elementary and East Garner Middle School, to avoid traffic problems and wrecks .
“But we think it’s going to be worse because then you have kids with licenses,” council member Kathy Behringer said. “Sometimes projected traffic counts don’t give you the whole story.”
During a discussion between council members and staff, Behringer said she overheard a discussion among school board members, where the board chair suggested traffic wouldn’t be as bad as some thought.
“I think they are going to be bigger than they are being played out to be, and I think we need to make some noise about it,” she said.
Cabela’s is expected to open in the late spring and draw major traffic.
South Garner High will also add families to the area.
But road improvements are something the council members hope the town won’t have to spend money on. They said that’s the job of the N.C. Department of Transportation.
The town will also continue its initiative to fill vacant shopping centers with tenants, particularly North South Station. Council members expressed interest in helping them get filled. They suggested making them a little more aesthetically pleasing.
Assistant Town Manager John Hodges said they want to do that, but there are challenges that come with it.
“We want to try to help encourage tenants to be in the vacant store fronts but we also know ultimately that is the job of the leasing agents who are leasing the spaces,” Hodges said.
Joe Stallings, the town’s new economic development director, said the key will gaining an understanding with shop owners.
“Our ultimate goal is to fill the vacancy, (but) more importantly to continue to build key relationships and partnerships with property owners to ensure that the town and the property owner will continue to work as one to achieve the end goal which is fill in those vacancies and putting those spaces back to work,” he said.