The Town Council here unanimously approved a site plan for a 115-home subdivision off Clifford Road Tuesday night, despite neighbors’ repeated calls to halt the plan until something is done about traffic.
The council on Tuesday also agreed to rezone the 46-acre parcel of land, which will be adjacent to the Sutton Springs subdivision.
About three weeks ago, the Town Council delayed Bill Harrell’s site plan and rezoning request to give him some time to meet with the residents of Sutton Springs subdivision to hear their concerns.
Those residents came to the council with more concerns Tuesday night. Their biggest worry was about traffic.
The proposed neighborhood is expected to be constructed on about 46 acres of land, off country roads in an area that was once nothing but farm land. But since the boom of White Oak, construction in that area south of Garner has seen an uptick in recent years.
The town has targeted that area as its future growth area.
With 115 homes slated for the subdivision, the average units per acre will be 2.5, Harrell said.
According to a traffic study, traffic is expected to double from current levels when the subdivision is built out.
South Garner High School is also being built nearby, and Sutton Springs resident Wil Cummings asked the council to be mindful of the increase in teen drivers on those roads.
“I really want to impress upon you guys, what is it going to take when we start adding all these communities, start adding all these people, start adding all this traffic,” Cummings said. “Is it going to take a teenager to wrap himself around a telephone pole and die? What is it going to take for these rural roads to be fixed?”
Council member Buck Kennedy said the town council is aware of the road issues. He said the council has lobbied the state Department of Transportation for road improvements over the years.
“That has been a concern primarily from the first time we knew the new high school was going down New Bethel Church Road,” Kennedy said. “There’s no easy answer and no inexpensive answer.”
Council member Gra Singleton echoed his sentiments.
“Yes they are narrow roads, there is no question about that, but they are all state roads,” Singleton said.
He said a lot of the current improvements N.C. DOT is making to Highway 50 are driven by the high school traffic.
“That’s mainly how a lot of these roads are getting improved by development,” Singleton said. “The state is not going to come out and spend money to widen New Bethel Church Road, Clifford, Ackerman any time soon. That’s just a sad way to put it.”
Some residents, whose homes would likely back up to houses in the new subdivision, were concerned that the buffer proposed to separate their properties wasn’t big enough. The developer initially proposed a 15-foot buffer, but after discussion with council members at a previous meeting, and with residents at a recent neighborhood meeting, the developer decided to extend the buffer out five more feet, to 20 feet, along the whole property line.
While some residents of Sutton Springs seemed satisfied, others were not.
Harrell, with Hopper Communities, said he could not extend the buffer any farther.
“I think if we go over 20 feet then we start to compromise the marketability of the property,” Harrell said.
Harrell recently had a site plan approved for a subdivision off West Garner and Vandora Springs Road. That neighborhood will have 41 homes and will be on 18 acres of land.
It took a year for that plan to be passed after opposition from neighbors.
Harrell said he expected the price points of the Clifford Road homes to be somewhere between the high $200,000s to as much as $400,000.
The average home value in Garner is about $178,000.
After hearing both sides, council members believed Harrell and his team had done their best to address the residents’ concerns, and unanimously approved the plan and the rezoning request.
South Garner High, Bryan Road Elementary and Bryan Road Middle schools would likely draw students from the subdivision when it is complete.