Cary News

Road connection a sticking point in Cary Publix shopping center rezoning

This is the Sembler Company’s concept plan of the proposed Amberly Village shopping center, which will include a Publix, as well as restaurants and retail.
This is the Sembler Company’s concept plan of the proposed Amberly Village shopping center, which will include a Publix, as well as restaurants and retail. The Sembler Company

Developers of a proposed Publix shopping center in west Cary have changed their plans to ease resident concerns about a number of issues surrounding the complex, including adding a walkable main street.

But a town-required road connection between the center and an adjacent neighborhood continues to be a sticking point for the residents as well as some Town Council members.

More than 20 residents of Amberly, Cary Park and surrounding subdivisions attended a Thursday, Nov. 19, Cary Town Council meeting to oppose the development.

Applicants Peggy and Grover Lewter of Cary are seeking to rezone a 22-acre parcel at the northwest corner of the intersection of Carpenter Fire Station and Green Level Church roads from residential to mixed-use to allow for the project. No decision was made Thursday, and the rezoning request will return to council in several months.

The proposed development would contain a Publix, which would be up to 55,000 square feet, as well as six other buildings ranging in size from 7,000 to 15,000 square feet. They could contain retail shops, restaurants, service uses and possible dental or medical office space.

The center has spurred the creation of the group, “Neighbors Against Amberly Village,” which has hired a lawyer, put up signs through the neighborhoods and started an online petition that has garnered about 270 signatures and 100 comments. Members of the group cite concerns about safety, traffic and property values.

But many comments made Thursday revolved around a required street connection from the western side of the shopping center into Arlington Park via Northlands Drive. Arlington Park is a community within the Amberly neighborhood. Some neighbors, including Martine Goldman of Arlington Park, said this connection would increase cut-through traffic in the area.

“We want a quality of life for our children to be able to ride their bikes, to be able to go for family walks, to be able to let the kids go out freely and play and not have to worry about through traffic,” she said. “We want to live in a community where we can feel safe and comfortable and not have to worry about added noise, pollution, traffic (or) crime.”

Arlington Park resident Brian Dial requested the council waive the connectivity requirement if the rezoning request is approved.

“Northlands Drive was not meant to be connected to a commercial property,” he said. “The streets cannot support the thoroughfare traffic that would be caused by commercial development.”

Glenda Toppe, a consultant representing the developer, The Sembler Company, said the company does not need the connection for the project but does understand it is a town policy.

“If a connection is required, we will do what we can to mitigate any potential cut-through traffic,” she said.

Plan changes

The developer has met several times with residents to discuss their concerns and has changed the original plan to address them. Changes include an increased buffer and added neighborhood amenities, like a walkable main street, public seating, outdoor dining, plaza areas and more.

“We believe that what is being planned is a walkable development that encourages people to come and shop, eat and utilize the other services in a setting where people can sit outside and be with their families and enjoy a pleasant day or evening,” Toppe said.

The developer also has committed to not building a gas station, a drive-through at Publix and making sure no businesses are open 24 hours, which have been concerns raised by residents.

Council members Ed Yerha and Don Frantz said they did not believe the neighborhood should be connected to the shopping center.

“When I look at all the potential issues here, (the connectivity) is the one to me that rises to the top,” Frantz said. “I don’t think it makes sense to connect this development to a residential development.”

On the other hand, Mayor Pro Tem Jack Smith said the connection could be convenient to nearby residents who may want to walk to the center.

On Thursday, the council also approved an amendment to the land development ordinance in regards to connectivity. This would provide more flexible standards related to requirements for street connectivity and enable certain decisions regarding connectivity to be made at the time of rezoning, rather than when the site or subdivision plan is approved.

Town Senior Planner Mary Beerman said the amendment would classify existing neighborhoods into one of three tiers based on when the development plan was approved, whether there are existing street stubs and whether there are public safety concerns related to access. She said connectivity requirements for new developments would depend on the tier of the adjacent neighborhood.

But this change would not affect the process to waive the connection in the case of the Amberly Village shopping center.

“The Arlington Park neighborhood is defined as a Tier 1 neighborhood, according to this, so these provisions would not apply to connectivity there,” Beerman said.

The only way the connection requirement could be waived is through approval by the council during a quasi-judicial case at the time of the site plan approval.

“If it requires a quasi-judicial, I hope the applicant would go through with it,” Yerha said.

Council members encouraged the developer and neighbors to continue to work together.

Kathryn Trogdon; 919-460-2608; @KTrogdon

In other business

The council also:

▪ Selected Cary resident Anne B. Kratzer as the winner of the 2015 Hometown Spirit Award.

▪ Approved the concept plan for phase two of Mills Community Park, which includes a playground, walking trails, picnic shelter and more.

▪ Approved authorizing the lease for BREW, a cafe and concession space in The Cary theater. The council approved the authorization of the lease in September, but because of a change in the required legal notice period for leases, the council was required to vote again.

▪ Approved the rezoning of 41 acres located on the south side of Westhigh Street, a half mile west of Cary Parkway, to allow for the development of up to 89 single-family homes.

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer