The ‘burbs can’t go forever: Holly Springs, Apex set future border

akenney@newsobserver.comSeptember 9, 2013 

— The suburbs can’t go on forever. With a recent agreement, the towns of Holly Springs and Apex at last have agreed on a mutual border, determining which government will control a significant portion of Wake County for decades to come.

Approved late last month by the two towns, the dividing line runs along U.S. 1, starting near Friendship Road and following the highway southwest to Chatham County. The line runs about five miles in all, splitting up a patch of largely undeveloped, unincorporated land.

The upcoming expiration of a previous border agreement, signed in 1993, prompted the two governments to the negotiating table.

The location of the line is crucial to both because it effectively sets a hard limit on the potential size of each town. With the new deal, both will be largely forbidden from “annexing,” or growing, across U.S. 1

“We have been discussing this for 10 years,” said Bruce Radford, town manager of Apex. “You have two rapidly growing towns that … are concerned about their future growth areas.”

The new agreement does not give the towns immediate control of the unincorporated land between them. Instead, individual landowners will have to request annexation, or the towns can forcibly annex parcels.

As part of the agreement, Apex will give up some of its jurisdiction south of U.S. 1

“It really identifies an area where we could potentially grow,” said Chuck Simmons, town manager for Holly Springs.

The highway as a boundary is not a new idea. Because of the expense to run utility lines under the road, and the way it splits the towns, it makes a convenient barrier.

The towns previously had agreed to stop their growth at the highway, but they didn’t extend the line all the way to Chatham County. Discussions about the new line have happened on and off for several years.

The late Carl Dean, former manager of Holly Springs, finalized many of the last details in a meeting with Apex officials shortly before his death earlier this year.

The two towns already have begun planning for their borderlands. Holly Springs sees the Friendship Road area as prime real estate for light industrial development or a business park, near the future site of a U.S. 1 interchange.

Apex also has seen increasing demand along the future border.

“For the last several months, we have seen a number of people who are interested in developing along the northern side of U.S. 1,” Radford said.

Development in the southwestern corner of the county also will depend on the area’s largest landlord. Duke Energy owns thousands of acres, including most of the unincorporated land on Holly Springs’ side of U.S. 1.

“If we could reach agreement with them, what we would like to do is potentially market some of that property” for development, Simmons said.

The mutual annexation line awaits approval by Wake County’s elected officials.

Kenney: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @KenneyOnCary

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