On two-lane roads just outside of town, drivers can find themselves flanked by tobacco fields on one side and golf courses on the other.
At one rural intersection, an old general store with a metal roof advertises rabbits for sale. Across the street stands a newer, sleeker gas station and convenience store.
Fuquay-Varina is a town in the midst of changing into a more urban, or at least suburban, community. And town leaders couldn’t be more excited.
“It’s kind of an exciting time,” Mayor John Byrne said Monday after the town’s Board of Commissioners moved a number of new developments forward and discussed new sidewalks, greenways and other parks projects.
“The sun is shining bright on Fuquay-Varina,” said commissioner Blake Massengill, a homebuilder in the area.
The commissioners unanimously agreed to extend water and sewer north of town to allow Raleigh-based Bill Clark Homes to build several dozen high-end homes near the intersection of Hilltop Needmore, Bass Lake and Sunset Lake roads.
Now the town will begin extending the utilities and building a pump station – which will serve future development in the area – at a cost of $1.2 million.
Officials estimate that between fees and property taxes paid on the 46 planned homes, each estimated to cost $400,000 or more, the utilities project will pay for itself within three years.
Property taxes aiding growth
The commissioners also voted to annex 90 acres of land in two sites, one on Stewart Street and another on Hilltop Needmore Road. They’re expected to have a combined taxable value of about $3.5 million, which would likely increase when the owners develop the property.
Town leaders also voted Monday to close an unused alley in one neighborhood and return the 390 feet of land to the tax base.
Some commissioners said they would like to look for similar pieces of land to return to private ownership.
Increased property tax revenues, among other income sources, have allowed the town to pursue quality-of-life projects, including parks and pedestrian-friendly improvements such as sidewalks and greenways.
Byrne said the projects are moving so quickly that staff members need to remember to think about the big picture, including how they would affect police and public works employees who now have more ground to cover, as well as making sure new residents actually want the services.
“One thing that’s important, as we do more and more of these greenways, is we maintain them ... and build them where they’ll be used,” he said. “Not neccessarily where we want them, sometimes, but where the public will use them.”
Michael Sorenson, the town’s planning director, said the plan is to eventually have most of the town’s major points, including schools, parks and other town venues, connected by a large greenway system.
“One of the first things we’re trying to focus on is destinations,” Sorenson said.
More sidewalks possible
The board also approved applications for grants to help fund construction on sidewalks to make it easier for children to walk to school.
One would stretch .4 miles on Bridge Street, between West Academy Street and Lincoln Heights Elementary School, at Washington Street.
The other would go along North Main Street for .75 miles, connecting an existing sidewalk that ends at 1441 N. Main St., to Mill Ridge Drive and Marquee Station. It would use the Norfolk Southern Railroad bridge and require extensive safety barriers.
Commissioner Ed Ridpath said he’s glad the town is proactively pursuing projects to enhance quality of life.
“We’re growing too fast to stop moving, and it’s good to see that,” Ridpath said.