Clayton News-Star

Clayton’s future a hot topic among residents

Clayton resident Bill Wenzel writes down a comment during an open house on the town’s growth.
Clayton resident Bill Wenzel writes down a comment during an open house on the town’s growth.

Sarah Anderson picked up a blue marker and jotted her idea on a sticky note.

“Sidewalks. Sidewalks. Sidewalks,” she wrote, adding a smiley face.

Anderson stuck her note to a Town of Clayton board that said “Please share your thoughts” and then picked up the marker again. Before long, she’d posted a half-dozen notes on the board.

Anderson isn’t the only Clayton resident with a lot of ideas for her town. As part of Clayton’s long-range planning process, hundreds of residents are bringing their comments and concerns to the forefront.

Anderson lives off of Shotwell Road in an area poised for residential growth. Traffic, she says, could be a problem along what she says are already heavily-traveled roads.

“Growth is not a bad thing, but we have to think of it in a thoughtful way,” Anderson said.

“I don’t want Clayton to lose its sense of being a small town,” she added.

Anderson was among more than 70 people who attended an open house earlier this month on Clayton’s future. Comments from the meeting and responses from hundreds of residents who have already taken a town survey will help develop Clayton’s next comprehensive land-use plan.

The state requires towns to base zoning and other decisions at least partly on a comprehensive plan, which often includes goals and recommended action items and land uses. Clayton is paying a Charlotte-based consultant about $72,000 to help craft the new plan, which will update the town’s 2008 document.

Edna Brown said she cares about what the town will look like in 10, 15 or 20 years.

“I’m just wondering what we’re doing about the traffic,” she said.

“They are adding stoplights; that might help,” Brown added. “But that has nothing to do with the amount of traffic that will still be on those roads.”

Brown, who grew up in Wake County, moved to Clayton in 2009 after living in California for 46 years. She said the beauty of Clayton is that it’s a small town, and she doesn’t want the area’s population to boom as it has in Cary and Fuquay-Varina.

“They want to keep adding, adding and adding,” said Brown, who lives near downtown. “Pretty soon, you will have a Cary here. If we wanted to live in Cary, we would move there.”

From 2000 to 2010, Clayton’s population surged from nearly 7,000 residents to more than 16,000. U.S. Census estimates show Clayton continued to grow, by about 9.2 percent, from 2010 to 2013, a growth rate that continues to lead Johnston County towns.

The town’s recent growth appears poised to continue as developers are expanding existing neighborhoods, building new apartments and planning new subdivisions, including one 2,500-home proposal on the north side of town. Regional planners predict the town’s population will double during the next 30 years.

At the open house, poster boards gave a more in-depth look at the town’s current demographics and infrastructure. For instance, one board noted that area industries use 47 percent of the town’s daily water supply; residents use 37 percent, while commercial businesses use 14 percent. Another board noted that the number of housing units in Clayton increased from 2,249 in 2000 to 4,855 in 2010.

Town resident Bell Wenzel said the town is not growing too large. However, as more people move to Clayton, the main challenge is safety on the roads.

Like many other residents, Wenzel called for improvements to heavily-traveled roads like U.S. 70 Business and Shotwell Road.

“It’s becoming unsafe, and there has to be some ways to handle that issue,” Wenzel said.

“The overall expansion of the town is going to happen,” he said. “The question is, ‘How do you control that growth?’ ”