Two separate public hearings for rezoning requests filled town council chambers last week, with neighboring residents curious to know how those requests would affect their neighborhoods.
The requests were general-use rezoning, so neither property owner had plans readily available. But the two issues yielded similar concerns among the residents: increased traffic.
For the residents neighboring the 18-acre site of undeveloped land on West Garner Road near Vandora Springs Road, safety was a major concern.
Hoppers Communities, a development company, wants to rezone the 18 acres from R-20 to R-9 to allow the possibility for more homes to go in a future subdivision.
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“The difference is this allows a higher density per lot,” said David Bamfort, long range planner for the town.
The lot size under the current zoning (R-20) allows for homes to be on a minimum 20,000 square feet. That means about 25 homes could fit in those 18 acres currently, according to town staff’s estimates.
The change to an R-9 zoning designation would decrease the minimum lot size to 9,000 square feet. That means, in the proposed zoning, about 65 homes could fit in the 18 acres.
David DeFoor, speaking on behalf of residents on Purdue Street, which is adjacent to the rezoning area, said traffic is heavier on West Garner Road than it has ever been, and approving the request would pose a safety risk.
The town considers West Garner Road a major thoroughfare. There are 11,000 trips per day along the road. A development under the current zoning would add 240 trips per day on the road. A development under the proposed zoning could add 622 trips per day.
“Developement in our town should not be concentrated in an area already burdened with traffic as a major thoroughfare,” DeFoor said. “As a major intersection, Garner Road and Vandora Springs Road is a site of frequent car crashes, along with deadly train accidents. Increasing traffic would surely increase the accident rate.”
He said it will also increase the risk of injury for pedestrian traffic and stymie the efforts of the downtown Garner Revitalization Association to increase foot traffic downtown.
DeFoor and the rest of the Purdue Street residents recommended slower growth and asked the council not to approve the request.
Patrick O’Neill also spoke about safety at the intersection of Vandora Springs and West Garner Road.
“It’s horrible,” O’Neill said. “I think we’re really jeopardizing people’s safety and people’s lives if we try to load more cars onto there, say 600 more a day.”
Stephanie Norris, a civil engineer representing the developer, assured residents that the plan falls in line with the town’s comprehensive growth plans.
She also said although the numbers are not finished, the developer doesn’t plan to build the maximum number of lots allowed in the proposed rezoning.
Bill Hopper, the developer, echoed her sentiments.
“We’re not anywhere close to 65 units,” he said.
The issue was much of the same for the rezoning request of nearly 100 acres of land on Ten Ten Road. It was also a general-use rezoning hearing and there was no plan for any subdivision.
However, the developer, Halley Company, wants to rezone the land from mixed use to all Multi-Family-1.
Halley Company had initially wanted to develop the undeveloped land for commercial and single-family residential, but those plans never materialized, Planning Director Brad Bass said.
A potential apartment complex on the land could see as many as 599 apartment units, although that number is unlikely.
Ten Ten Road and U.S. 401 Highway are also considered major thoroughfares.
A site of that size could add 3,900 more daily trips on Ten Ten Road and U.S. 401. Ten Ten Road would have to be widened near the property.
Multiple residents said the roads are already backed up. Traffic starts to back up as early as 6 a.m., said Eunice Haynes, who lives a little more than a mile from the proposed site on Ten Ten.
Haynes is a high school teacher who travels to her school in Cary every morning.
“I have to leave early to be at school,” Haynes said. “You’re going to have buses coming through an area that already has a traffic problem. It’s an already dangerous zone.”
Ed Kerlin, a two-year resident of Garner, who lives near the site, said traffic is bumper to bumper in the morning. He said Fuquay-Varina is building a subdivision of 150 houses not far from the site, which will also add traffic.
“I’d love to see this built, but I can’t see how the traffic coming out onto Ten Ten is going to be feasible,” Kerlin said. “I’d love to see a development, but traffic is the problem.”
Mayor Pro-tem Ken Marshburn, asked the project manager, Eric Rifkin, how could he address the traffic concerns. Rifkin said his company would honor the Traffic Impact Analysis, but there wasn’t much they could do about traffic. Regardless of how the site would be developed, it would still add traffic, he said.
“The development of this site is going to add a lot of traffic because it is such a big site,” Rifkin said.
Council member Gra Singleton reminded residents that some of land is already zoned R-9 and up to 300 homes could go there now, if the developer wanted to.
“It was zoned like that years ago, and I don’t want anybody to leave here thinking this is a zero to 600 change,” Singleton said.
The two requests went to the planning commission Monday night and are expected to go before the council for a final consideration.
A woman who seemed upset about the 18-acre rezoning proposal was pretty vocal about her thoughts on the North Garner area.
Linda Snow said she didn’t want to see any lower-income housing near her home. Snow, who lives in the 1300 block of West Garner Road, said her family has lived in the area for 70 years.
She described the area she lives in as “the ghetto” and “the forgotten part of Garner.”
“I remember as a child coming to my grandparents house seeing these adorable little cottages along the road,” she said. “They are now owned by slumlords who could care less. They are patched together, trailers falling apart. It’s a sad part of Garner. Forest Hills used to be the big part of Garner. Now it’s scary to go there at night.”
Mayor Ronnie Williams quickly denounced her remark.
“No it’s not. I live there,” he said.
The woman agreed to disagree.
“I’m talking about the shopping center,” Snow said. “Anyway you have your opinion, I have mine.”