The Clayton Town Council last week approved two subdivisions on different ends of the development spectrum.
One project, in downtown, turns traditional neighborhoods inside out, while the other puts large-lot homes in south Clayton. It was the second project, oddly enough, that made the council take a hard look into the future.
Rhoades Farm calls for 40 homes on 51 acres just north of U.S. 70. The project forced council members to think about the differences between downtown Clayton and the large swaths of mostly rural land surrounding much of the town.
Rhoades Farm will be just off of Little Creek Church Road to the southeast of town, where most of the land is undeveloped. Because of the small number of homes and in fitting with nearby subdivisions, the applicant, Gray Wolf Development asked the town to waive its curb-and-gutter requirement.
Some council members cautioned against bending the rules, arguing that doing so could set precedents that would undermine Clayton’s planning authority.
“I think [granting the waiver] is a mistake and could come back to bite us,” Councilman Art Holder said. “I think curb and gutter should be a requirement on every subdivision we approve.”
Rhoades Farm is about four miles from the center of downtown Clayton and about two miles from the closet neighborhood with curbed streets.
Planning Director said Clayton shouldn’t apply certain downtown or high-density development standards if nothing else in an area looked like that. He divided town lands into three categories: urban, suburban and rural, and he placed Rhoades Farm in the third category.
“Not all places need sidewalks and curbs if they’re not ready for it,” DeYoung said. “Sidewalks serve no purpose in a rural neighborhood. Besides, to traverse from one neighbor’s house to another, they’ll probably just cut across the yard.”
Holder argued that the town’s growth rate called for a firm line on Clayton’s development rules.
While Rhoades Farm is in rural Clayton, its development plans include street stub-outs to tracts belonging to other landowners. Town rules require a traffic study only when a project tops 100 lots, but Rhoades Farm prompted councilmen to consider lowering that threshold.
In the case of Rhoades Farm, Councilman Michael Grannis said he cared less about curb and gutter and more about traffic of Little Creek Church Road because of poor sightlines. Mayor Jody McLeod agreed.
“You can’t see; there are cars flying up and down that road,” McLeod said. “DOT might not require a traffic study, but DOT don’t live there and don’t know there’s been four wrecks on that road in a year.”
Town Manager Steve Biggs said he and DeYoung would draft a code amendment that would trigger a traffic study when an area reached a certain number of homes.
“You could have 60 homes here and 40 homes there, and sooner or later you end up with 200 or 250 lots being served and no traffic study ever being done,” Biggs said.
Closer to downtown and next to The Arbors in east Clayton, East Village Walk will build homes that face courtyards instead of streets. The development will put 300 homes on 52.5 acres and is geared toward adults 55 and older.
Garages will be in the back, and all front doors will face into a courtyard cluster of other homes.
“This is an innovative concept,” DeYoung said. “It’s the first for this area and maybe the first for the Triangle.”
Developer Jimmy Thiem said the concept is designed to foster community, with fire pits and common areas spread around. The council did give Thiem an out, saying he could change his plans to offer a traditional neighborhood if the new concept doesn’t sell.
“This will be a closely knit community,” Thiem said. “Not one where the homes are dominated by the automobile.”
The development might have a future resident in Clayton’s mayor.
“I think this is extremely premature, I’m not trying to fast forward,” McLeod said, “but I see having martinis on the second floor veranda.”
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson