A developer plans to build 350 homes next to two Johnston County schools that are already brimming with students.
Jack Carlisle’s Cleveland Bluffs subdivision, on Cornwallis Road, would go on 112 acres next to Cleveland Elementary School, where enrollment has reached capacity of 900 students.
The neighborhood would also be across the street from Cleveland Middle School, which has 17 mobile classrooms and 275 more students than it was designed for.
Relief for the overcrowded Cleveland Middle should come in the form of a new school, which voters approved as part of a bond issue in 2013.
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Money to buy land for that school should become available when the county issues new debt on March 31. The county is scheduled to sell the bonds for construction in 2016.
While the new middle school should ease some concerns about overcrowding, Jennifer Mayes, who has a daughter in first grade, is concerned about the future of Cleveland Elementary.
“We are proud of the Cleveland schools ratings, and if we overcrowd our schools, our ratings will go down,” Mayes said in an email to county planners. “That is not the vision people have when they move here.”
Mayes said new schools are among the many infrastructure improvements needed before the county approves new developments in her community.
The state Department of Transportation is planning improvements to the intersection of Interstate 40 and N.C. 42, just northwest of the two schools. However, Cleveland resident Melissa Mattes said traffic is also a problem on Cornwallis, where an estimated 5,400 cars pass by the schools every day.
The county and the DOT are recommending several road improvements near the proposed subdivision, including re-striping pavement and adding a right-turn lane on northbound Cornwallis Road at Cleveland Road.
Mattes, who lives in Spring Creek subdivision near the proposed subdivision, said the schools don’t have enough turn lanes.
“This causes problems with other drivers, including school buses, driving in the center turn lane to get around the carpool line,” Mattes said. “This is causing T-bone accidents every year.”
Cleveland resident Rebecca Teague said she and other commuters arrive home from work about the same time parents pick up their children from after-school activities. To get to her subdivision, Teague said, she has to travel down a turn lane or sit in traffic.
“I should be able to get home,” she said in an email to county planners. “With more homes going on Cornwallis Road, is (it) going to make a bad situation worse?”
Carlisle, the developer, is a business owner in the Cleveland community who has built other subdivisions in the region, said Donnie Adams, the neighborhood’s engineer.
Adams said the housing market has righted itself in the past 18 months, and now is a good time to put homes on the ground.
As for the concerns voiced by neighbors and parents, Adams said he can’t address all the questions about the schools. Those decisions rest with the school board, he said.
However, he said the developer will build a sidewalk along Cornwallis Road to provide access from the neighborhood to Cleveland Elementary. He said Carlisle is also planning a stub-out for a future crosswalk to the middle school across the street.
Adams said he’s aware that many roads in the Cleveland community are crowded. “I don’t think this project is going to make a major impact on the congestion in the area,” he said.
The neighborhood, with 256 single-family homes and 96 town homes, will have sidewalks throughout and a pool with a clubhouse. Prices will start at $225,000, Adams said.
“The developer is planning on putting in the swimming pool and the clubhouse in the first phase of construction,” he said.
By a vote of 4-3, the Johnston County Planning Board has recommended County Commissioners issue a required special-use permit for Cleveland Bluffs. The developer needs the permit because he’s asking for a planned unit development, which allows for higher densities than a typical residential subdivision.
“The more subdivisions that are built, the more traffic will be on this road that leads you all the way into North Raleigh,” Mattes said. “If they continue to build, this situation with the traffic is only going to grow and be more frustrating than ever.”
Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104