CARY — Dave and Carol Dayton bought five and a half acres of land west of Cary in 1983, long before subdivisions cropped up and major highways came through.
They built a 4,000-square-foot dream home, where they raised a son and planned to stay forever.
Other families also settled on the rural stretch of Twyla Road, and a community formed. Neighbors’ children played together. When it snowed, everyone would get together and sled down the hill.
But now they all want out, and the neighborhood has joined forces to escape the sprawl that has edged westward over the years.
Nineteen property owners hope to sell their combined land – about 79 acres – to a developer who could turn the mostly wooded area into a shopping center or denser residential community.
“We’re just regular people here,” said Dave Dayton, 60, a laboratory manager in Research Triangle Park. “We’re trying to survive ... and recover from a bad situation.”
Last summer, the state opened the western stretch of the Triangle Expressway, which runs along Twyla Road. An overpass straddles the highway, connected to nothing as it awaits the future Morrisville Parkway extension.
When it arrives, that piece of road will cut the Twyla Road neighborhood in half.
The Daytons considered selling their house. But they said the Triangle Expressway hurt their home’s value.
Potential homebuyers might not be interested anyway, for the same reasons the Daytons want to leave. Commercial developers have no use for an individual lot surrounded by homes.
So neighbors got together to weigh their options. And they decided they were willing to abandon the community they have loved for decades.
In November 2011, about 40 people who own 21 parcels of land formed the Twyla Road LLC, a legal entity. Now they hope a developer will want what they have to offer – a big tract of land near a future interchange.
“This is the only way we’re going to be able to make lemonade out of lemons,” Dave Dayton said.
It’s uncommon for so many property owners to band together to sell, but it’s not unheard of. A group of residents near downtown Cary have long hoped to sell 20 acres to developers.
On Twyla Road, selling en masse can pave the way for a developer to transform the area, said J.W. Shearin, a real-estate broker for Coldwell Banker who is representing the group.
Western Cary has seen plenty of residential growth, he said, but the area could use a grocery store and other services.
Jeff Ulma, Cary’s planning director, agrees. The town has already designated most of the Twyla Road area off of Green Hope School Road for mixed-use development in its long-range plans.
‘Everything has changed’
For some local residents, leaving will be bittersweet.
Vicki Smith and her husband, Mike, designed and built their home on a few acres of land 30 years ago.
“It was a beautiful spot. ... It’s very idyllic,” said Smith, 62, a self-employed graphic designer.
But soon, Morrisville Parkway will essentially be part of the Smiths’ backyard.
“We all built our homes and everything out here, but there’s the reality of how everything has changed,” Vicki Smith said. “You need to start looking at things realistically.”
The Daytons and the Smiths aren’t sure where they’ll go next – maybe somewhere just as green, but further off the beaten path.
Maybe a place where they won’t hear rush-hour traffic.
Some members of the Twyla Road group have talked about finding a big piece of land to buy together, Dave Dayton said.
“It is sad, but you know, you just have to move on,” said Carol Dayton, 57. “Your heart tells you one thing and your mind tells you another.”
An unclear future
Developers have already shown some interest in the property, Shearin said.
But as the economy continues to recover, it’s unclear when a major change will happen.
Eventually, the residents of Twyla Road know their neighborhood will become something very different than what it is now.
“This is the heart of West Cary,” Shearin said.
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