Cary News

Cary-Chatham plan near approval

Local governments are on course to finalize their long-term plans for Jordan Lake’s eastern shores by the end of June. A joint board of Chatham County and Cary officials signed off this week on the plan that will govern development of about 9,000 rural acres west of Cary.

The final product, which awaits approval by town and county boards, was forged across about two dozen joint meetings where officials debated countless details about zoning and land, and some big questions too.

Cary and Chatham’s joint plan is a long-term guide to where and how the governments will allow subdivisions, retail and public infrastructure to grow between Jordan Lake and Cary. In all, the plan addresses 18,000 acres between Bells, an unincorporated community, and Amberly, a half-completed effort to put 5,000 homes on 1,100 acres.

The construction of Amberly’s first phases cued the plan. The Cary super-subdivision included a chunk of Chatham County land, and more Cary-based developers were sure to be interested in the sliver of Chatham between Jordan Lake and Wake County.

The wide-ranging plan was shaped by homeowners who would profit from more-intense development of the area, by people who feared the “Cary-fication” of the area, by environmentalists who called for restrictions on residential growth, by state and federal rules about the lake, and by the views of the elected officials themselves.

At times the conversations came to a standstill. The joint committee stopped meeting in August 2010, when Chatham leaders demanded the two governments legally bind themselves to the plan. Six months later, Chatham’s leaders used Cary’s growth as leverage, threatening to obstruct a regional sewer project while demanding more legal power for the county.

The logjam cleared when a new majority arrived on Chatham’s governing board early in 2011. Within 18 months, they worked out the document that both governments will consider for approval next month.

The plan on the table covers about 9,000 undeveloped acres. It sets the land within about a mile of the lake for “very low density” development at one unit per acre, while areas further inland are designated for “low density housing growth” at up to two units per acre

The document also suggests that developers could build a mixed-use office, commercial and residential area at the intersection of N.C. 751 and Lewter Shop Road, which could become the most intensely developed intersection in the plan area.

The document suggests the two governments plan for public schools and parks as needed. The plan also suggests the governments figure out what role Chatham County will play as more of its landowners opt to join Cary.