Citing crowded schools, Cary leaders may reject residential proposal

aspecht@newsobserver.comApril 26, 2014 

New homes were being built along Green Hope School Road in February. Cary leaders say they are worried local schools can’t handle the rapid growth in western Cary.

THE CARY NEWS FILE PHOTO

— Town leaders may shoot down plans for a subdivision in western Cary because they say the area’s rapid growth is overburdening roads and schools.

Pulte Homes hopes to build up to 168 homes – 3.6 homes per acre – on about 47 acres between Green Hope School Road and Sears Farm Road.

The existing zoning allows up to 1.08 homes per acre. So the Stitt family, which owns the land, is asking Cary to rezone it.

The town’s planning and zoning board recommended approval of the plan, commending developers for working with nearby residents to increase a buffer between the project and an adjacent subdivision.

But the Cary Town Council hesitated at its meeting on Thursday, voting 5-2 to table the issue for another few weeks.

Council members said they will likely deny the request unless developers reduce the density of the project.

Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson echoed the sentiments of residents who spoke at the meeting, saying the project wouldn’t be as controversial if local schools weren’t already overcrowded.

“We don’t have all of the infrastructure and services we really need to be able to accommodate it,” she said.

Some western Cary schools such as Alston Ridge, Highcroft Drive and Mills Park elementary schools are each between 4 percent and 13 percent over capacity, according to data provided by Wake County schools.

“The growth out there is not as bad a problem as the timing of the growth,” Councilman Ed Yerha said. “Everything is happening at once.”

Robinson, Councilwoman Lori Bush and Mayor Harold Weinbrecht plan to meet with school board member Bill Fletcher to discuss the issue.

In the meantime, the Town Council should do what it can to prevent overcrowding from getting worse, Councilwoman Gale Adcock said.

“While we have no control over the number of schools built and the number of seats available, we do have some control over the number of potential students who can go to those seats,” she said. “And I think we have to exercise what control we have.”

The council has not rejected a residential proposal so far this year. But council members have sent developers back to the drawing board to pare the density of their projects.

They have said too many developers are submitting plans that meet the letter of town rules “but not the spirit of them” by seeking the maximum number of homes allowed under a certain zoning.

In February, the move prompted a developer to withdraw plans for 94 townhomes on Turner Creek Road.

Still, Cary is on pace this year to approve the highest number of townhomes since 2009.

The requests often play out in front of dozens of protestors like Scott Hoyt, who on Thursday passed out a petition that he said was signed by more than 230 western Cary residents.

“Please start saying no,” he told council members. “Or at the very least, not right now.”

They just might.

“We’ve got to slow the pace,” Councilman Jack Smith said.

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

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