Throughout the first 30 minutes of the town’s presentation of Swift Creek Substation – a proposed 660-lot residential subdivision on the U.S. 401 corridor – everything appeared great for Garner.
For a town that has struggled in recent years to attract much single family housing growth, as well as build up on U.S. 401, the subdivision appeared to be the perfect solution: An innovative neighborhood with open green space, attractive to millenials and homes with price points between $250,000 to $400,000, well higher than the average home price.
But reality struck when Garner Fire Department Batallion Chief Donnie Lindsey took to the podium and presented some concerns from the fire department.
“This project is great for the town of Garner but it is a nightmare for the fire department,” Lindsey said.
Lindsey, and later Fire Chief Matt Poole, in an interview, said it would take double the time to respond to a fire in that neighborhood, more time than the fire department prefers.
“We are striving for a 4- minute response time,” Poole said. “In the town of Garner, we are averaging 4 minutes and 38 seconds. If that area is annexed, we average eight-minute response time, so that would double our goal and that is a major concern for me as a safety standpoint for homowners who are paying for municipal service.”
The nearest fire station to the site, on 6855 Fayetteville Road, is off Timber Drive near its intersection with Vandora Springs Road. From there, one would have to take Vandora Springs Road to Old Stage Road to U.S. 401 to get to the neighborhood.
Another concern was the proximity of the houses to each other. Some of the homes are neo-traditional styled homes, meaning they are on smaller lots and closer together.
While the U.S. 401 corridor doesn’t have much housing inside Garner’s town limits, other than Eagle Ridge, there could be the potential for future housing growth as the town looks to enhance the road some say is the eyesore of Garner.
“Our concern is the spread of fire to adjacent property,” Poole said. “I’m not opposed to this type of subdivision but if we’re going to support this type of subdivision we need to make sure we have the infrastructure in place to support it.”
Poole said the fire department is asking the town to build another substation that would serve that corridor if that neighborhood and others are built. He said it is currently in the fire department’s long range plan.
Wake Emergency Services has a similar concern, Poole said. The departments are discussing partnering to possibly share a station.
There is also the potential for a developer to build up to 600 apartment units near McCullers Crossing. At the last town council meeting, Halley Company, which owns 100 acres at the site, requested to have the property rezoned to multifamily zoning.
“When you look at 1,100 to 1,200 units between the two projects, it makes it real clear to us that there is a real need for another station,” Watkins said.
Watkins said the planning department will be working with the developer to help figure out ways to offset some of the costs of building a new station.