Town leaders voted to expand some preferred growth areas east of town last week, citing the fast-growing town’s need to be ready for development.
The preferred growth areas were created in 2007, situated along major roads in town. They signal to staff where to spend money extending water and sewer pipes for future development, and they signal to developers where the town expects or would like growth to occur.
The two new areas that have been added to the map are:
• In the Willow Spring area east of U.S. 401, from Air Park Road in the north to N.C. 42 in the south. The eastern border is curved, abutting Triple W Air Park and following Old Stage Road and then Norman Blalock Road south.
• South of town, in a triangle between Purfoy Road and N.C. 55 along the Harnett County border to where Holland and Purfoy roads intersect, including the now-closed Hidden Valley Country Club and golf course.
The addition of the two new areas passed unanimously. But it also spurred the Town Board of Commissioners to discuss how they need to do more to let the public know of decisions about similar matters.
Recent residential and non-residential developments in some of the preferred growth areas have drawn angry protestors to town meetings, generally upset at the traffic or noise they fear growth will bring.
In each of the two new areas, more than half the area is made of large tracts of land that have the potential to be developed.
Commissioner William Harris said he was concerned that the public doesn’t understand the significance of the preferred growth areas.
Harris said he wants more public discussion of the town’s development processes and growth areas “because it’s going to have a significant impact.
“And property owners – some of them stay on top of what we are discussing here,” he said. “But it seems to me we run into the situation where the public says, ‘I didn’t know it.’ ”
Mayor Pro Tem Charlie Adcock said he agrees because the town spends taxpayer money extending utilities to the preferred growth areas to attract development.
“We need to do a better job communicating with the public, as a whole, what our vision is,” Adcock said.
In previous interviews and meetings, town officials have been clear on a broad vision in favor of increased growth.
They support more of the kind of planned residential developments that have swollen the community and kept its businesses afloat through the recession, as well as a stronger pursuit of commercial and industrial development that would bring jobs to the area.
Mayor John Byrne – who recently learned to how to use Twitter, he proudly announced – said the town should do more on social media to engage with residents. The town’s Facebook page has more “likes” than much larger cities, including Raleigh and Cary, Byrne said, adding that residents clearly want to know what’s going on.
But he also said it’s hard to answer all questions when development’s involved. The town can’t decide where development will occur, even if programs such as preferred growth areas help the town steer developers and anticipate growth.
Plus, there are eight different preferred growth areas surrounding the commercial center of town.
“Now, which one of these is going to be the next one developed? I don’t think anybody knows,” Byrne said.
A main objection voiced by opponents of growth has been the state of the narrow and often poorly maintained roads around Fuquay-Varina, many of which stay congested for hours around rush hour.
Byrne said most roads in Fuquay-Varina are state roads, not town roads, and are the state’s responsibility to maintain. Acknowledging the “terrible” status of many roads around town, he estimated he has spent 100 hours on the phone or in meetings with state officials just trying to get them to pay more attention to Fuquay-Varina.
“We had a call with the governor’s office today,” he said at Tuesday’s meeting. “And we’re trying to get some representatives from the governor’s office to come down and look at our roads. We’re trying to reach the highest levels we can in this process.”