A major new subdivision won zoning approval at the Town Council’s March 7 meeting over the objections of a standing room-only crowd at Town Hall who oppose the project.
The Honeycutt Road neighborhood will be built on either side of its namesake between Cass Holt Road and Piney Grove-Wilbon Road. It lies on 231 acres bordered by Holly Springs High School to the north and by the site of the unbuilt Buckhorn Creek Elementary School to the west.
The 610 homes to be built by Ohio-based M/I Homes are the result of several months of negotiations between the developer, the town and residents. It was the zoning case’s fourth appearance before the Holly Springs council since Nov. 15.
A divided council weighed in after a public hearing and before the vote, which passed 3-2. Councilmen Tim O’Brien and Peter Villadsen voted against the rezoning, agreeing with residents’ concerns that the traffic impact of the development would be unpredictable.
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“With 1,100 homes already planned along Avent Ferry, I don’t know if we should be throwing that traffic, plus another 600 homes, through there,” O’Brien said. “I don’t know if the infrastructure can support that. I don’t want to play catch-up. I want to be proactive.”
Councilmen Hank Dickson and Jimmy Cobb said the developer had met all of the town’s zoning requirements and that they were impressed with the number of concessions the developers had granted in response to residents’ concerns.
Councilwoman Cheri Lee lives near the proposed development and voted with the majority.
“I equate it to a doctor who has to work on a terrorist,” Lee said. “I have a job to do. I try to take the emotion out of it, but living out there, it’s not always going to happen.”
Developers agreed to cap construction to 610 homes as one of 14 conditions attached to the rezoning since it was first reviewed by the council. M/I initially sought a rezoning that would typically entitle the developer to build 750 homes.
M/I’s conditions also included a promise not to issue building permits for the homes until two major road projects planned nearby are completed: the construction of Main Street Extension on the west side of the N.C. 55 bypass and the improvement of the Avent Ferry Road and N.C. 55 intersection.
Opponents of the rezoning said that they worry the development’s traffic would quickly overwhelm those improvements and return the area’s strained road network to pre-development levels of congestion.
“We hope (the improvements) will help, but their purpose is to address problems today,” Holly Springs resident Jeremy Merrill said. “With all the other development approved in the area, It’s only a matter of time before we see similar issues popping up again.”
Traffic engineers consulted by M/I Homes showed before-and-after traffic simulation videos, hoping to convince skeptical residents that even with the Honeycutt Road neighborhood fully built, the road improvements in the works would be more than capable of handling the increased traffic expected in the area.
Density has been another objection with the project. The rezoned property is large enough that a portion of it lies within one of Holly Springs’ Community Growth Areas – parts of town where planners have recommended denser development. M/I Homes agreed to site the 213 townhouses included in the proposed development within that area and to restrict portions of the property outside the growth area to single-family homes.
But opponents also found fault with the gross density figures provided by the developer – 2.64 homes per acre – which they said misrepresented the number of homes that actually would be built per acre once the 80 acres set aside for green space or easements are taken into account.
Zoning density measurements are based on the number of homes built over the entirety of the subject property, including buffers, easements, and green space, which necessarily leads to spot densities greater than the gross density. But some residents said that “disguised” the development’s true nature and accused both developers and town staff of not being transparent about their zoning practices. A typographical error in the town ordinance explaining density calculations was clarified before the public hearing, but that did little to reassure critics.
“The ambiguity ... should warrant a harder look at what’s being proposed,” Holly Springs resident Dan Berry said during the hearing. “Without a review of its impact on the proposal, this request should not be approved.”
Gargan: 919-829-4807; @hgargan