Clayton News-Star

Clayton, county will split Gordon tract

A developer plans to build houses on this land on Front Street and market them to adults 55 and older.
A developer plans to build houses on this land on Front Street and market them to adults 55 and older.

The great land dispute between Clayton and Wilson’s Mills appears headed toward a draw.

For more than a year, the Gordon family has been seeking the approvals needed to build 177 homes on 61 acres next to the Glen Laurel community. One reason for the long wait: The Gordons first chose Wilson’s Mills for services but then opted for Clayton. Another holdup: Neither Clayton nor Wilson’s Mills was willing to cede planning authority.

This past week, the Gordons settled the dispute themselves, saying they would put 29 homes on 12 acres under Clayton’s planning authority and the rest under the county’s control. But neither Clayton nor Wilson’s Mills will annex any of the homes, meaning their tax bases won’t benefit.

“The applicant decided to go with a split project,” Clayton planning director David DeYoung said at Monday’s Town Council meeting. “They will probably continue to pursue the project’s original design.”

Clayton will provide water and sewer to the full 177 homes, with those in town’s planning jurisdiction paying lower rates than the rest of the neighborhood. The Johnston County Sheriff’s Office will provide law enforcement.

As recently as last month, Wilson’s Mills leaders had made a play for splitting the Gordon tract in half between their town and Clayton. But Clayton leaders were dubious of that, saying it wouldn’t make sense to divide services among neighbors.

The Gordon tract lies next to Glen Laurel, which is in the Clayton town limits through satellite annexation, but the town can’t forcibly annex the land because it’s not contiguous to the rest of Clayton.

A portion of the tract came under Clayton’s planning jurisdiction in 2008, but because the property was under different ownership, not all 61 acres were included. Wilson’s Mills could grant Clayton annexation rights, but town leaders have balked at doing so. They’d rather have the proprety-tax revenue for their town, and they don’t want Clayton growing any closer to Wilson’s Mills.

“We have to stop the ever constant creep of Clayton,” Wilson’s Mills attorney Bill Anderson said last month.

Clayton leaders said their claim to the tract was stronger than Wilson’s Mills’.

“Wilson’s Mills never had legal standing,” Clayton Town Manager Steve Biggs said on Monday. “With the absence of an annexation agreement, the project couldn’t move forward – you can’t halt development.”

Wilson’s Mills Town Manager Zach Ollis deferred comment to Anderson, who said the portion the Gordons intend to move forward on is outside of the disputed area. “I’m sure my client is glad to see something positive happening for the Gordons,” said.

The plan for the 29 homes will have a public hearing in Clayton on Dec. 7.

More housing on the way

Clayton’s stockings are overflowing with development projects going into the holidays. At Monday’s Town Council meeting, Clayton leaders heard plans for two projects representing more than 500 new living options in town. That number is on top of 181 homes recently approved for Covered Bridge Road and 264 apartments set for phase two of The Arbors.

One of Monday’s projects East Village Walk, a higher-density development to the east of Walden subdivision on Front Street. The project aims to put 300 units on 52.57 acres behind the existing Arbors apartments. DeYoung, the planning director, said the developer would market the homes to adults 55 and older. The houses, he added, will face each other, forming shared courtyards.

“It’s different than anything else in Clayton – different than anything else in the area, that I’m aware of,” DeYoung said. “The idea is people will get to know their neighbors.”

The project will have two kinds of housing, a larger “village” lot and a smaller “cottage” lot, with a majority of the 300 units on the smaller of the two, depending on sales. The development will have sidewalks throughout, a walking trail, small parks and a clubhouse.

East Village Walk is a revival of sorts of a project the council approved in 2012, when the developer planned 208 houses. This time around, the plans call for one large street running down the middle of the development, with smaller, private streets jutting off to access the homes.

While the main street is wider than what the town requires, the council voiced concerns over the other streets.

“Are we sure a fire truck can get back there?” Councilman Butch Lawter asked.

The main entrance will be off of Front Street, in between the Arbors and Walden, but after the developer completes 75 homes, the town will require a second entrance. That could be problematic, because the second entrance would have to go through the Arbors or through vacant land to the north.

Another mixed-use project

The council also discussed a previously announced mixed-use project at N.C. 42 East and Glen Laurel Road. Those plans call for 240 apartments, 180,000 square feet of commercial space and a 121,000-square-foot self-storage facility on 45.75 acres owned by former N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt and his brother.

Like the planning board, the council’s biggest concern was traffic and roadway improvements. The project comes just ahead of the planned widening of N.C. 42 East, and DeYoung said all intersections and entrances would have to be built to those future standards.

Another question was storm-water runoff. A nearby homeowner spoke at the end of the council meeting, asking how the developer would replace an existing retention pond after construction. DeYoung said the developer would address that issue at an upcoming public hearing.

“The applicant should be prepared to explain its storm-water plan,” Councilman Michael Grannis said.

Public hearings on East Village and the N.C. 42 East project will be Dec. 7.

Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson