Cary News

Morrisville seeks to balance development, roadwork along congested corridor

A proposed development could bring 75 new homes to land along Morrisville-Carpenter Road, the same stretch of road the town plans to widen within the next three years.

The Town Council will vote in June on a rezoning petition for 18 acres of land between Town Hall Drive and Old Savannah Drive. Town staff have recommended approval, but the council has heard complaints from nearby residents about the effects development at that location could have on their homes and traffic.

Morrisville-Carpenter Road is one of Morrisville’s most congested thoroughfares. The council’s deliberations have thus far focused largely on how construction along that corridor would be timed in relation to the $8 million road-widening project planned for the corridor. One of the conditions the applicant proposed in its rezoning petition would restrict construction vehicles’ access along the road to off-peak hours, but the widening project is expected to begin in early 2018 and has the potential to overlap with the development’s construction.

For all the short-term difficulty it poses, though, that road project’s timing might be what yields a favorable vote from the council. Mayor Mark Stohlman said at the council’s May 10 meeting that he wouldn’t consider approving the development if the town hadn’t already planned to increase the capacity of Morrisville-Carpenter Road.

“I can’t see approving in good conscience 75 homes without knowing for sure that we’re going to make those improvements,” Stohlman said. “This is ground zero for our traffic issues. I think we could craft it in such a way to balance all those needs that we have.”

Mayor pro tem Steve Rao agreed, but suggested withholding approval until the town has secured funding for the project and can make promises about its completion date.

“I’m of the firm belief, based on feedback I’m getting, that we have to make sure we have adequate infrastructure in place today before we approve development,” Rao said.

Several residents of the nearby Savannah neighborhood, just west of the proposed development, spoke against the rezoning at the town council’s May 24 meeting. Traffic was among their concerns, too, but so was the destruction of forestland and the size of the proposed 20-foot buffer, which they said was too small.

“That’s not much considering when we bought our homes up against what we thought was a forest, we were told it would be preserved as a civil war battleground,” said Dale McGee, whose home on Savannah’s eastern border abuts the land up for rezoning.

Elizabeth Trahos, a lawyer representing the Stadelmaier family, which owns the land subject to the rezoning petition, told the council at May 24’s public hearing that the concessions her clients agreed to as conditions for rezoning went beyond what the town required.

Of the 18 acres in question, the applicant has offered to set aside six for town uses, including a Civil War battlefield memorial, pedestrian trails and open space, Trahos said. The petition originally suggested the development could include as many as 140 homes, but that number has since been capped at 75.

Trahos also said that the parcel, which is currently zoned for very low density residential use, was no less fit for development than the built-out land that surrounds it.

“We are asking that you let the Stadelmaier family develop their property in the same way you’ve allowed their neighbors to develop their’s,” she said.

Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan