The large, grassy field at the intersection of Holly Springs Road and Cary Parkway will soon look and feel more like suburban Cary.
The Cary Town Council on Thursday voted 6-1 to annex and rezone the 52-acre property so M/I Homes can build up to 93 homes there.
The vote capped an eight-month process during which the council repeatedly asked developers to reduce the density of the project.
As development has picked up since the recession and local schools have become overcrowded, the council has made a habit of sending developers back to the drawing board.
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This time, council members said they sought to find the appropriate transition from rural Wake County to one of southeastern Cary’s busiest areas near the Crossroads Plaza shopping center.
Neighbors submitted a protest petition against the proposal, so it needed at least six affirmative votes for approval.
A super majority of council members supported the project because developers compromised by lowering the average number of homes per acre and increasing lot sizes.
The initial proposal, which developers introduced at a Town Council meeting in January, called for more than 120 homes. Last month, developers submitted a plan for 95 homes.
On Thursday, they submitted a plan that cut two more homes and boosted the minimum average lot size from 8,000 square feet to about 12,000 square feet.
“It’s about as good of a project as we’re going to get,” said Councilman Don Frantz.
“Some great strides have been made,” Councilman Jack Smith added.
The changes were enough to ease concerns for some neighbors, too.
About 50 people showed up at a council meeting in January to protest the project. About half as many showed up to Thursday’s meeting, and some had changed their tone.
Margaret Campbell, who previously said the project was “totally out of character with the surrounding properties,” thanked developers and council members for their efforts Thursday.
“There will be no winners and losers,” she said of the plan.
Fordland Drive issue
Ken Raber also had a change of heart. He and others had worried that developers would build a road that connects to Fordland Drive, a sleepy street that runs parallel to Holly Springs Road and currently dead-ends at the southern border of M/I’s subdivision.
Residents didn’t want additional traffic on the road, and developers said they had no desire to connect the two subdivisions. But a town development rule suggests a connection is required.
Raber said the neighborhood “accepts on good faith the council has no intention of extending Fordland Drive.”
The project is “not perfect,” he said. “I probably like about 75 percent of it. But … it’s an acceptable solution.”
Some said they wished the council would have tried to wrestle more density out of the project.
Robert Gates, who lives on Fordland Drive, suggested the council missed an opportunity to create a “beautiful development” by allowing houses “row by row with little to no space between the buildings.”
Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson, a real-estate agent, agreed, saying, “We could have done better.”
She fears the project is indicative of a bigger problem in Cary.
“Land prices are too high,” Robinson said. “Development companies are forced to put in tighter and tighter densities because they’re paying so much for the land.
“That’s at the core of what’s going on with development in Cary.”