A report on the future of land in the New Hill and Friendship areas is due back to Apex leaders in early April.
But before that happens, town leaders are seeking more public input on various ideas that have surfaced.
Last fall, after the election ushered in a Town Council majority focused on slow growth, the town’s planning department suggested taking a second look at 3,000 acres of land southwest of town.
Nearly the entire area is now slated for medium-density housing growth, which can allow for townhomes or subdivisions with several homes per acre. Some have suggested lowering the housing density, turning residential acreage into commercial or industrial land, or both.
The town already has identified three areas that might have potential for mixed-use growth by 2035, which is the scope of the study.
Two areas are along Old U.S. 1. One is at the intersection with Humie Olive Road, near Apex Friendship High School. The other is at the intersection with New Hill Olive Chapel Road. Those are both tentatively planned for what’s called neighborhood mixed-use – essentially a subdivision with a handful of shops on site, too.
The third area is along new U.S. 1 between N.C. 540 and New Hill Holleman Road, where there eventually will be another exit once Richardson Road is extended. The town is mostly relying on developers to build Richardson Road, however, so there’s no set time frame for when it might eventually connect between this site on U.S. 1 north to U.S. 64.
But Mayor Lance Olive said the third area, in particular, has promise as an employment center for residents as well as for people in counties to the west.
“It sounds crazy, but just being on this side of Apex, compared to the other side, can cut 20 minutes off a commute for someone who lives in Sanford,” he said. “So that’s a very viable commute for them, and they don’t have to get into Raleigh or RTP traffic.”
At a meeting Feb. 22, Olive and other members of Apex’s council and planning board gave their thoughts on how to address growth in the 3,000-acre study area.
“I would like nothing more than a big office park with the surrounding infrastructure – retail and all that,” Council Member Gene Schulze said.
Jim Mead, the planning board member who represents Apex’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, including the land in question, said he doesn’t want to see it paved over for either homes or offices.
“Folks that just moved there, or who plan to stay there ‘til they’re carried out, they deserve to keep a semblance of this area they’ve come to love,” he said.
Most, however, tried to strike a middle ground with commercial and housing growth that still somewhat maintains the rural character of the area.
“It’s a tough balancing act, I know,” council member Wesley Moyer said.
Members of the public were invited to look at maps and ask questions of officials and the Charlotte-based Kimley Horne consultants who are conducting the study. Apex is paying $28,000 for the study.
Most of the comments centered around the idea that the land should remain rural.
A number of factors affect the way this area may grow over the next 20 years.
To the west are developments in Chatham County – not the least of which is the massive Chatham Park project that could bring thousands of new residents to the land between Apex and Pittsboro.
To the south, development in Holly Springs and the construction of N.C. 540 through Fuquay-Varina, Garner and Knightdale could make Apex more accessible to residents in those towns and in Harnett and Johnston counties.
And to the east is perhaps the most unpredictable development – Veridea. The project, though smaller than Chatham Park, would still add thousands of new residents and commercial projects to Apex, between N.C. 540 and N.C. 55.
That’s virtually next door to the eastern edge of the New Hill and Friendship land being studied.
Although work has stalled on the wide-ranging development after its initial approval about three years ago, town officials said at the meeting that parts of the project might break ground this spring.
If built as originally imagined, the 1,000-acre Veridea could bring up to 4,000 new homes and apartments along with a promised 30,000 jobs in offices, stores, restaurants and more.
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran