Holly Springs approves townhomes over protest

akenney@newsobserver.comJune 24, 2013 

— Elected leaders have approved the most hotly debated project the town has seen of late.

With a unanimous decision last Tuesday, the council will allow perhaps 100 townhomes in a new residential area proposed for West Holly Springs Road, southwest of the Oak Hall subdivision. Neighbors have said for months that the new 17-acre neighborhood would stand too close and bring too much traffic onto Oak Hall’s single-family streets, especially with a town-required road connection.

Dozens of Oak Hall residents turned out for a final public hearing on the proposed rezoning, capping a campaign that included petitions, Town Hall meetings and conferences with developer Glenn Futrell. Many said the medium-density project upset their expectations for the area, increasing the potential density of the affected lots from about three units per acre to eight.

“We figured that if the land would ever develop it would most likely mirror Oak Hall. I’m here tonight to ask you just why we need another townhome neighborhood in Holly Springs,” said Matthew Mueller, who lives on the road that will connect to the new development.

Others said that they saw no indication of such development as they moved into Oak Hall, a 500-home neighborhood built from 1993 to 2002. They’re right: The town didn’t set aside any land, in any part of town, for a density of more than five units per acre until 2006.

Futrell, who also developed Oak Hall, offered the neighbors a partial compromise, planning larger buffers than the town required. The developer also had agreed to axe the extension of Gremar Drive into the townhome development, but town staff urged construction of the new road, as required by town ordinance.

The rules call for connections between neighborhoods and businesses to strengthen the road and utility networks. Gremar Drive was planned all along as an extension, staff said; the proposal complies with the town’s current long-term land plans.

The council unanimously approved the development. Some sympathized with neighbors, but each gave a clear “yes,” prompting an unhappy response from the capacity crowd.

“We have no right to stop a developer from coming in as long as he’s meeting the town requirements,” said Councilman Chet VanFossen. “We bent over backward … by requesting that the developer have a meeting with his neighbors. The developer has again gone above and beyond town requirements to satisfy it.”

Futrell next must submit detailed site plans, which will go before the town council for review, allow neighbors to weigh in on the specifics of the project. If all goes according to plan, construction on the townhomes and an accompanying office/retail area could begin early next year.

“This is going to be a very attractive project, and it’s going to fit in real well with its surroundings,” said Futrell. Meanwhile, neighborhood uproar over the project has prompted a shift in town policy. The local government now requires that most developers meet with their neighbors before they head to the town council.

Kenney: 919-460-2608 or twitter.com/KenneyOnCary

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