The Town Council approved rezoning requests or master plans for four new neighborhoods and three mixed-use areas Tuesday, clearing the way for hundreds of new homes and apartments to be built.
The four subdivisions were passed without much discussion. Although council members voiced distaste for some projects, the also said they had no legal option but to approve them.
Much of the distaste centered around projects they said would put too many new residents in a poorly chosen area, straining roads or subjecting future home buyers to nuisances such as loud trains.
The Villages of Apex South will put 232 townhouses in downtown along Hunter Street, right up against a busy – and increasingly noisy – railroad switching station.
The plans comply with Apex’s development rules, and town attorney Laurie Hohe advised the council to approve it or face a lawsuit.
“Are we in a legally defensible position if we voted against this?” council member Scott Lassiter asked.
“You’d have a hard time,” Hohe replied.
That also was the case with three other projects that will soon add a combined 399 new single-family homes in western Apex.
“Once they jump through all the hoops, we’re locked in, unfortunately,” council member Bill Jensen said, refering to a different master plan that the council also reluctantly approved.
One of the most important steps for a developer is getting the correct zoning. The council also approved three rezoning requests at Tuesday’s meeting.
‘Retail follows rooftops’
The most contested project, called Aquiline, is a 48-acre property near the intersection of N.C. 55 and U.S. 1 that previously was a commercial lot.
Bill Peebles, a local real estate broker who represents the New York-based owners, said the property has been on the market since the mid-’90s, with no luck in selling it. He asked for it to be rezoned as a mixed-use area.
“We have set this property before every developer known to man,” Peebles said, but Beaver Creek and the Holly Springs Town Center drew more interest.
“There’s just not the demand and need for (more) big box retail in this area,” he said.
The new plan would turn a third of the property into apartment buildings, in the hopes of using that built-in population to draw restaurants and shopping to the rest of the site.
Jensen expressed concern about allowing more residential development. But Lassiter said because Apex’s tax base is about 80 percent residential and 20 percent commercial, this project – which would be mostly commercial – “begins to turn that ship a little bit.”
Council member Nicole Dozier also pointed out that “retail follows rooftops,” and Jensen eventually agreed that a mixed-use site would be better than nothing.
The town council approved the rezoning unanimously.
Aquiline is just north of the massive Veridea development planned for 1,100 acres of land along U.S. 1.
Once Aquiline gets going, Peebles said, the developers will spend millions of dollars building a new road through the site, which could help kickstart Veridea as well.
Grocery store, town homes
Two other projects, one right next to the other, would create a dense mixed-use area between N.C. 540 and Kelly Road in the east and west, and U.S. 64 and Olive Chapel Road in the north and south.
At nearly 53 acres combined, The Pointe and The Reserve at Beaver Creek would bring a new grocery store to the corner of Olive Chapel and Kelly roads, plus other smaller stores and a mixture of single-family houses and town homes.
Alan Maness, a representative for The Pointe, said he couldn’t comment on the grocery store name or other large tenant that might anchor the development.
The town also:
▪ Approved a new greenway in the southwestern part of town, stretching from Apex Friendship High School’s campus to near Jordan Lake. There’s no timeline for construction yet. It’s also unclear whether the school system would allow it to connect directly to the campus.
▪ Annexed a new part of Parkside at Bella Casa, across from Apex Friendship High School, into town limits. That will allow the developers to connect to water and sewer lines and begin construction on more town homes along Humie Olive Road.
▪ Approved the master plan for a 40-acre addition to Arcadia Ridge at the corner of Olive Chapel and Richardson roads. The addition will bring 130 homes to the neighborhood, which will now have a total of 201 homes.
Dozier said she’s hopeful more schools will be built in Apex soon.
“There are already people on the waiting list for Scott’s Ridge (Elementary School), and it hasn’t even opened yet,” she said.
▪ Approved the master plan for a 36-acre neighborhood to be called Crestmont. It will bring 122 new homes to 36 acres near the intersection of Roberts Road and Green Level Church roads. Although the neighborhood added land, the developers cut about 40 homes from previous versions of their plan to make the lots bigger.
The council approved the first three phases of construction, and at least another two phases, of comparable size, are still awaiting approval.
▪ Approved the master plan for Lake Castleberry, a planned neighborhood of high-end executive housing nestled up against the Chatham County line. It will bring 147 homes to 118 acres on Green Level West and Castleberry roads, including some lakefront property.