In response to fears from residents of the town’s semi-rural outskirts, Apex’s Town Council is exploring the creation of a new zoning distinction that would allow those residents to protect their neighborhoods from higher-density redevelopment.
Under a proposal outlined Nov. 1 by the town’s planning staff, a “yes” vote from 70 to 80 percent of a subdivision’s residents would be needed for the neighborhood to be subject to a new voluntary rural overlay district. The district would prohibit redevelopment and the extreme subdivision of properties.
“It is beneficial for both the town and the residents in the Rural Overlay District to maintain as much of this rural character as possible while being a voluntary process giving property owners a voice in becoming part of a Rural Overlay District,” according to the staff report.
If circumstances change, a simple majority of residents could elect to remove that distinction.
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“We want to make it just the opposite of a wedding,” Apex Councilman Bill Jensen said. “Hard to get into and easy to get out of.”
An overlay district imposes an additional set of development rules on an area that apply regardless of zoning differences that might already exist among parcels in that area. Apex, for instance, already has a Small Town Character Overlay District that sets special architectural standards for land near Apex’s downtown to help preserve and highlight the town’s historic district.
Large-scale developments proposed for land south and west of Apex’s current corporate limits have put some landowners who already live there in a tricky situation. The residential and commercial development on the way could drive up their property values, but it also threatens the forested landscapes and farmland that many residents sought when they chose to live there.
A study commissioned by the town and completed earlier this year suggests the area west of the intersection of U.S. 1 and the Western Wake Freeway (N.C. 540) can expect abundant interest from developers in coming years.
Residents of some neighborhoods are already discussing what the growth means. One group of property owners – the Pricewood Farms neighborhood – already has elected to sell, said Apex Principal Planner Brendie Vega. It is one of the neighborhoods the planning department had in mind when it conceived of the new rural overlay district.
According to the planning department’s report, the neighborhoods still eligible for this new zoning district, all outside of the town’s current corporate limits, are Chapel Ridge, Green Level Farms, Lake Marsha, Westwinds, Creeks Bend, Pleasant Plains Estates, Kirkwood and a portion of Hazelhurst Circle not yet in the town limits.
Neighborhoods that opt for the protection would have to guarantee the town that their lands’ existing use wouldn’t change after the protection is applied.
Property subdivision within the district would be limited to the creation of parcels no smaller than 50 to 60 percent of the average lot size in that neighborhood, and adjacent lots would have to be a minimum of 10,000 square feet and separated from the district’s boundaries by an especially wide buffer.
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan