Durham County

Durham wants housing density. Here’s where it’s about to get some

A new townhouse development will be built less than a quarter of a mile from Ravenstone Commons Shopping Center on Wake Forest Highway.
A new townhouse development will be built less than a quarter of a mile from Ravenstone Commons Shopping Center on Wake Forest Highway. dvaughan@heraldsun.com

A one-time blueberry farm will become a townhouse community in East Durham.

The Durham City Council approved the annexation and rezoning of land for a 79-townhouse development on Wake Forest Highway near the intersection with Sherron Road. It’s an area of East Durham peppered with for sale signs along roads that are turning from rural to suburban.

The townhouses will be built on 14.9 acres that is the former Snikroc Farm, which grew blueberries and tomatoes. The farm sold off its blueberry plants this past fall.

Developers will donate $8,000 to the city’s affordable housing fund, or about $100 per townhouse said Tim Sivers of design firm Horvath Associates.

Mikels & Jones Properties advertised the land for sale as a “subdivision development opportunity” for $850,000, with the sale contingent on rezoning and site plan approval.

The new subdivision is not considered affordable housing, but it is middle-income housing, with homes projected to sell for $200,000 to $250,000.

“This is a price point we need to be building houses in Durham,” Mayor Steve Schewel said. “I think for many people this is a good price point, a level of housing affordability we need more of.”

At least half of the townhouses will have a garage. The new subdivision will be connected to Ravenstone, an existing single-family subdivision of homes with two-car garages that sell for $250,000 to $300,000. Both neighborhoods are within walking distance of the Ravenstone Commons Shopping Center.

There will be turning lanes and bicycle lanes entering the neighborhood off of Wake Forest Highway, which is N.C. 98. The future land-use plan was changed from low density residential to low-medium density residential and rezoned from rural residential to planned development residential.

“One of the things in Durham that we’re going to have to get used to is we need more density,” Schewel said. “Either we build more houses or the price of housing is going to go through the roof, and we need more density.”

The development is near Neal Middle School and East Regional Library and will be connected to city water and sewer utilities.

Only Sivers, representing the developer, spoke in favor of the rezoning at the council’s public hearing. Only one person spoke in opposition – Ravenstone resident Johnathan Talley.

Talley cited N.C. 98 already being a busy road, the new subdivision being higher density, and stormwater concerns. Council member DeDreana Freeman, who was on the Durham Planning Commission when it came before the commission in November, said the city wants to welcome developers but want to make sure needs like stormwater and traffic are met.

Talley also said Ravenstone is in a “parks and rec desert” and that he needed to go to Wake County to go to a public park. The new subdivision will have a play area, as required by the Unified Development Ordinance. It is about five miles from Raleigh, and less than four miles from Leesville Road, another area of eastern Durham County being developed.

Leesville Road connects Durham and Raleigh, with a new Raleigh fire station at one end and a new Durham Fire Station 17 under construction on the Durham end of the road near its intersection with U.S. 70. Also near the new Durham station is the Del Webb at Carolina Arbors development, also a Horvath Associates project, and Fendol Farms under construction directly across the street. Fendol Farms is named for the old Fendol Bevers house that was torn down. The house was once listed on Preservation Durham’s “Places in Peril.”

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563, @dawnbvaughan