Residents worry about proposed apartments near Carpenter Elementary School in western Cary

aspecht@newsobserver.comNovember 4, 2013 

— The Town Council is giving residents extra time to weigh in on a proposed rezoning that would allow for up to 285 apartments and retail on Carpenter Upchurch Road and Morrisville Parkway.

The 21-acre property, across the street from Carpenter Elementary School in western Cary, is currently zoned for general commercial and residential multifamily use.

Property owners Olde Carpenter LLC applied to rezone the property to be part of a mixed-use district.

After hearing concerns from residents during a public hearing on Oct. 24, the Town Council voted unanimously to extend the public hearing to its Nov. 21 meeting.

The nine residents who spoke were mostly concerned the project would exacerbate what they described as an already problematic traffic situation along Morrisville Parkway.

With the elementary school to the north and Green Hope High School less than a mile away on Carpenter Upchurch Road, traffic is already heavy at times.

A median on Morrisville Parkway also prevents drivers on Carpenter Upchurch Road from driving straight or turning left, funneling more traffic onto the parkway.

Susan Allison-Dean said some vehicles drive over the median.

“That traffic area is horrendous,” she said. “I have grave concerns.”

Morton Berkowitz said the Heritage Pines community, which is located south of the Carpenter property, already has trouble with drivers cutting through the neighborhood at high speeds. He said the 4,500 square feet designated for fast-food restaurants would bring more speeders from Green Hope High School.

“The high school is a serious problem for us, and has been for a long time,” Berkowitz said.

Kim Weglar, a Preston Village resident, said short commutes are among the reasons people move to Cary.

“Do we want to keep a quality of life where people want to come and enjoy what we have?” Weglar asked. “Or do we want to fit so many people in here that we lose that and the people who were here 20 years ago want to leave now?”

Others, like Hank Saye, said they worried the high-density development would bring more crime.

“I’m really troubled by one recurring theme, and that’s apartments,” said Saye, referring to the apartment complex under construction at Davis Drive and High House Road.

Glenda Toppe, who represents the Carpenter property owners, said they hoped to develop the land under its current zoning designation.

“Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond their control, this has not been possible,” she said, noting that the completion of Morrisville Parkway drove down interest from developers.

Toppe said studies show less traffic would be generated under the proposed zoning than if someone developed the property under its current zoning.

She added: “Our research shows that property values will not be lowered, and that there is not an increase in crime with multifamily development.”

Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said some apartment complexes in Cary participate in a town program that allows managers to evict renters who are charged with a crime.

Councilman Don Frantz took issue with the assertion that there’s a link between apartments and crime.

“The crime and apartment stuff, that’s rubbed me wrong ever since I’ve been on this council,” he said.

As for traffic, Frantz echoed other council members who said they’ve reached out to the state Department of Transportation about re-engineering the traffic pattern on Morrisville Parkway.

“DOT is incredibly frustrating,” Frantz said. “You can get an answer from God faster than you can get an answer from those folks.”

Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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