Cary townhome project shows compromise

aspecht@newsobserver.comMarch 28, 2014 

The Richards House was built in 1938 and will be preserved by developers who plan to build 97 townhomes on the property off of Chapel Hill Road.

COURTESY OF MAC PATEL

— After neighbors protested plans for a townhome project in central Cary, the developer scaled back the project and ultimately won approval from the Town Council.

Cary Hill Developer will build 97 town houses on 16 acres near the Sri Venkateswara Temple of North Carolina, a Hindu place of worship off of Chapel Hill Road.

An original plan submitted to the town in October called for eight homes per acre and didn’t include much open space. It also left the fate of a historic home in question.

But the new plan includes six homes per acre and a community gathering space that’s at least 4,500 square feet with a gazebo and fountain. The Richards House, as the old home is called, will be preserved.

“It seems like they went to great lengths to make this happen,” Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said.

Proposed townhome developments in Cary often draw concerns from neighbors who worry the dense projects will lead to traffic problems.

The Cary Hill project shows the kind of compromise other developments could see, especially as more developers want to build townhomes as the economy improves.

Residents had submitted a protest petition against the Cary Hill project. As a result, the plan needed the approval of a super-majority of the Town Council – at least six votes – to switch the property’s zoning designation.

The council unanimously approved the project.

Councilman Jack Smith said he was “pleased and surprised” by the developer’s willingness to tweak the plans.

Earlier this year, the council asked developer D.R. Horton to revisit its plans to build about 94 townhomes in western Cary near N.C. 55.

Like the Cary Hill plan, Horton’s project called for six homes per acre. But it was near an elementary school, prompting the council to ask developers to make it less dense.

Rather than alter its plan, Horton withdrew the project altogether.

“I think this is a great model for other applicants to use,” Councilwoman Gale Adcock said of the Cary Hill project.

Mac Patel, part of Cary Hill, said he doesn’t know exactly how much the changes will cut into the group’s profit margin. He said it’s probably “a big hit.”

Nonetheless, Patel said Cary Hill was eager to build “upscale and unique” townhomes in an area of town that’s near the airport, the Weston office park and Interstate 40.

The group was also pleased to preserve the the Richards House.

“This is probably the most significant and well-kept historical home in the entire area,” Patel said. “It’s something that will help preserve the town’s heritage. We wanted to be a part of it.”

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

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