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Opponents kept a charter school out of west Cary. Now Thales Academy wants to try.

The Triangle Charter School Association and Charter Schools USA will not open a 2,000-student K-12 school on this land in Chatham County near Cary.
The Triangle Charter School Association and Charter Schools USA will not open a 2,000-student K-12 school on this land in Chatham County near Cary.

Another school is interested in a west Cary tract of land on the Wake-Chatham line.

Thales Academy, which has schools in Apex, Holly Springs and Knightdale, wants to put another campus on the Chatham County side of Cary. It would be the second one in Chatham after it recently began clearing land to build in Pittsboro in Chatham Park.

The Cary location had been considered by the Triangle Charter Education Association and Charter Schools USA for Cardinal Charter Academy West Campus, a K-12 school for 2,200 students. But they abandoned their plans in August, citing “development challenges” with the 62-acre property, which is near the intersection of Yates Store and New Hope Church roads.

Last January, The News & Observer reported that hundreds of people had signed a petition calling on Cary leaders to block that school. Opponents cited traffic concerns and argued there were already enough schools in western Wake County.

Thales plans to begin with a K-5 school and later add a school for grades 6-12. The combined enrollment for both schools would be capped at 1,300 students, said Thales representative Michael Roach.

Before Thales can build, the property owners need a zoning change from Cary.

Roach said Thales had looked at site about five or six years ago but determined it was too big to be feasible. Thales needs less than 20 acres for its two schools, he said.

The property owners are seeking to rezone the rest of the land to allow residential development. The current zoning allows 46 homes, but that could increase to 104 if the request is approved.

Public hearing

The Cary Town Council held a public hearing on the rezoning Thursday.

Many of the people who spoke out against the rezoning said they were concerned about increased traffic on Yates Store Road and adjoining neighborhood streets.

Resident Leslie Stover reminded the council members that a previous board had rejected another rezoning request years ago that would have allowed the entire property to be developed as residential.

Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson, who represents west Cary, gave a brief history of the property. In 2004, it was zoned to allow a church, school or daycare center along with some residential development. It was thought that St. Michael’s Catholic Church would build something there but nothing materialized, she said.

Robinson said keeping the current zoning on the property could preserve the possibility of it being used for a public school site.

“I don’t want the problem in Chatham County like we’re having here in Wake County where we’re running out of school sites,” she said.

After the hearing, the council referred the matter to the town’s Planning and Zoning Board, which Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said could make a recommendation in a couple of months, barring any changes by the developers.

“It will take longer with changes,” he said.

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