The proposed Amberly Village shopping center that generated debate over the last eight months among west Cary residents now can become a reality.
On Thursday, May 26, the Cary Town Council voted 5-2 to approve rezoning a 21-acre property to allow for the development of up to 110,000 square feet of commercial use. Council members Jennifer Robinson and Ken George voted against the rezoning.
The Sembler Company, a Florida developer, is planning a nontraditional, pedestrian-friendly shopping center, anchored by a Publix, at the northwest corner of the intersection of Carpenter Fire Station and Green Level Church roads.
The rezoning case initially spurred the creation of the group Neighbors Against Amberly Village and an online petition opposing the center, which has garnered about 335 signatures and 130 comments. Members of the group, including residents from the adjacent Amberly and Cary Park neighborhoods, cited safety, noise, lighting and traffic concerns in their opposition to the project.
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But as the criticism grew louder, Sembler Company representatives met with neighbors about 10 times to discuss their concerns and make changes to the original plan to address them.
“I think this applicant has gone a long way to best mitigate the concerns residents have,” councilman Don Frantz said. “When I compare the shopping center, the proposal now to what’s across the street or others in the immediate area, this far exceeds what’s already out there.”
The rezoning was one of the final major hurdles before the development can be built, unless the developer decides to seek a waiver for the town-required cul-de-sac, which would leave behind a road stub. This could extend the process by several more months. The plan also would need some staff-level approvals.
Five residents spoke Thursday in opposition of the project with two speaking in favor. The concerns primarily revolved around a cul-de-sac required by the Town of Cary and noise caused by trucks at Publix’s loading dock, which would be at least 300 feet away from the nearest homes.
The number of vocal critics has dwindled from last year when dozens of people showed up to town meetings in opposition.
“There was a lot of dissension and disagreement among the community themselves,” Frantz said. “What I’ve tried to do is hear from all the residents that I’ve been listening to, not just the one group that shows up to oppose, because I’ve also heard form a lot that are very much in support.”
The plan now features a walkable main street that will run down the center of the property flanked by two common areas, shops, fast-casual restaurants like Panera Bread and sit-down restaurants with outdoor seating.
“There have been more changes to this plan than in any plan I have seen in a long time,” councilman Ed Yerha said.
Isabel Mattox, a lawyer representing the Sembler Company, said the company also offered some of the most affected neighbors money to enhance landscaping or build a fence to mitigate the project’s impact.
But some council members didn’t believe the changes were enough.
“I’d like the applicant to take the time to get it right,” Robinson said. “I don’t think that the massing of buildings (in the middle of the site) does enough to create that sense of place that residents are looking for. I think there’s still too many parking areas that have to be traversed to get from one area to another.”
Other council members, including Lori Bush, asked what Robinson expected from further discussion.
“I hear what you’re saying about giving more time, but I don’t know what else we would get from that,” Bush said. “This is going to be better than many of the developments we’ve seen in the past.”
Mike Trainor of S&A Communications, who is representing the Sembler Company, said the developer would work with residents on options to dispel concerns about the cul-de-sac. One option would be to seek the waiver.
“We will have a better idea of the most effective route to take for all parties involved within the next few weeks,” he said.
The Town Council also:
▪ Held a public hearing to receive comments from residents on the fiscal year 2016-17 proposed budget. Several people spoke in favor of expediting the completion of Panther Creek Greenway.
▪ Discussed the room occupancy tax and prepared food and beverage tax funds dispersed to the Town of Cary.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608, @KTrogdon