Cary News

Habitat for Humanity offers compromise on Cary housing project

Habitat for Humanity has revised a proposal for housing near downtown in response to Cary residents’ concerns about density and aesthetics.

The nonprofit’s original plan for a 2.6-acre property near the corner of West Chatham Street and Trimble Avenue drew 115 people to a community meeting when it was first proposed, along with criticism on online message boards.

Habitat for Humanity presented a new plan to residents Jan. 12 that reduces the number of homes from 23 to 15 and has a less dense zoning classification.

In response to aesthetic concerns, Habitat agreed that the houses fronting the road will be detached, single-family homes. Previously, Habitat had proposed that all of the new homes would be townhouses.

Kevin Campbell, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Wake County, said he and his colleagues presented the revised proposal at a second neighborhood meeting. A slightly smaller group of residents attended, Campbell said, but they still seemed opposed to any townhomes being built near their neighborhoods, which comprise traditional houses.

“We had a few neighbors who spoke in support of the proposal and did like that we had changed the zoning,” he said. “But to be honest, it didn’t feel like there was much recognition of the rezoning, which we thought was hugely significant.”

Those opposed to the proposal have voiced concerns about the compatibility of townhomes with surrounding neighborhoods. They have said the development would worsen traffic and flooding from stormwater runoff in the area.

Habitat for Humanity receives locally administered block grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. That money, in addition to private donations, allows Habitat to subsidize home recipients’ mortgage payments. Without additional fundraising, Campbell said, the smaller number of homes now being proposed could diminish the nonprofit’s ability to subsidize homeowners’ costs.

Stephanie Brinson, who lives on Medlyn Road, said she was one of two people to speak at the Jan. 12 meeting in favor of Habitat’s revised proposal. Brinson, who often volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, said her comments weren’t well-received by her neighbors.

“I was heckled,” Brinson said. “That’s a strong word, but I was the first person to speak positively about the project. There was someone who yelled out, ‘Go back to your house, sit down.’ 

Cary is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the plan Feb. 23, where Campbell said he hoped the Town Council and Planning Board would see the merits of building affordable housing in such a central location.

Cary’s recently approved planning document, the Cary Community Plan, calls in some cases for a greater mix of land uses, and Habitat is hoping a mix of affordable housing near traditional neighborhoods has a place in that framework.

“There is some concern about whether attached homes would fit in with the neighborhood,” said Rachel Zeitler, an advocacy manager with Wake County Habitat for Humanity. “There are ways to make sure it does fit in that context, and in the Town of Cary’s new plan, there are examples of ways that even multifamily units can fit in near single family homes.”

The land belongs to the nearby Bethel Baptist Church and is currently under contract, though closure of the sale is contingent upon the success of Habitat’s rezoning petition.

“There were people in the room who took on the pastor of the church,” Brinson said. “He said the ‘For Sale’ sign sat on the corner for a month without an offer, and no one came in and asked what they were going to do with the land. It wasn’t until someone said Habitat wanted to buy it that this happened.”

Gargan: 919-829-4807; @hgargan