Clayton’s largest population segment has been here less than a decade, according to a survey that accompanies a proposed update to the town’s comprehensive land-use plan. But anyone just getting used to the many new faces should prepare to even more.
If population forecasts in the land-use plan are on target, Clayton’s growth is more in line with communities to the north than with those in Johnston County. Since 2000, the town has seen 150-percent growth; the land-use plan projects a possible doubling of the town’s population, to nearly 40,000 people, by 2040.
“You’re competing with Holly Springs and Wake Forest,” said Jake Petrosky, an associate with Land Design, the firm charged with updating Clayton’s comprehensive plan.
“Clayton is not unlike Apex when (the Triangle Expressway) was built,” Petrosky said. “I expect Apex to be built out in the next five years.”
The comparison to Apex might be apt, because Clayton is in line to feel the effects of the expressway’s next phase, which will connect Holly Springs to Knightdale and could dip into Johnston County. The N.C. Department of Transportation could choose a route for the expressway’s southern loop this fall.
Clayton last updated its comprehensive plan in 2008, and the town today is notably different than it was during the height of the recession, Petrosky said. “A lot has really happened in that time – a lot of good things – and now it’s time to update that vision,” he said.
This latest update was a year in the making and included three public meetings and a survey with 1,000 particpants. It suggests leveraging Clayton’s recreational opportunities and downtown with its ample room to grow: Petrosky noted that 51 percent of the town’s land is available for development or currently underdeveloped.
With parks, greenways and a community center, Clayton bills itself as “The Premier Community for Active Families.” The land-use plan encourages a greater emphasis on parks, particularly better river access.
“That gets monetized in some way,” Petrosky said. “It translates into property values.”
Since much of Clayton’s population is so new, a study accompanying the plan tried to find what brought people to town. The top three answers were schools, housing prices and family ties. The things residents want to see more of in Clayton are retail options and restaurants, local jobs and mixed-use developments.
“Though they didn’t specify what kind of restaurants they’d like to see,” Petrosky told the council during his presentation.
The plan suggests 10 land-use designations: recreation and open space; agricultural and rural residential; low-density residential; medium residential; high-density residential; neighborhood center; community center; downtown residential; downtown core; and employment center.
The plan, which proposes to guide Clayton’s growth toward 2040, sees the majority of the town’s land as residential, especially low-density and medium-density residential. The goal, Petrosky said, was for Clayton to be able to pass the “orange juice test” within the next 10 to 15 years. In a town that passes the orange juice test, most residents can walk or ride a bike a reasonable distance to buy a jug of juice.
Though the plan was up for a public hearing at last week’s council meeting, no one spoke. The council will revisit the plan at its next meeting, on Sept. 21.
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson