Cary hits 5-year high for new townhomes

aspecht@newsobserver.comMay 2, 2014 

  • A rise of townhomes

    The Cary Town Council has approved plans for 657 townhomes in the past six months.

    • May 1: 147 townhomes on 17 acres at the corner of O’Kelly Chapel Road and Green Level Church Road.

    • April 10: up to 100 townhomes on 25 acres between Weston Parkway and Cary Parkway.

    • March 27: 97 townhomes on 16 acres off of Chapel Hill Road.

    • Dec. 12: 144 townhomes on 26 acres on Cary Glen Boulevard. Separately, the council approved plans for 169 townhomes on 59 acres on Green Hope School Road east of N.C. 540.

— For the second time this year, Cary leaders rewarded a developer for reducing the density of a proposed townhome project.

The Cary Town Council on Thursday voted 5-1 to approve plans for 147 townhomes on 17 acres at the corner of O’Kelly Chapel Road and Green Level Church Road in northwest Cary.

The vote brings Cary to a total of 344 townhomes approved this year, already topping the 323 approved last year.

Cary is seeing a five-year high in townhomes, marking the highest number of the units approved since 2009.

The approval on Thursday came about two months after council members sent the developer, M/I Homes, back to the drawing board to reduce the density of a plan that initially called for 152 townhomes.

Cary’s land-use plan allows for up to 600 townhomes on the property. But council members have said residential growth is outpacing schools and road upgrades, so they have at times asked developers to pare down plans.

Without giving a specific number of townhomes to shoot for, the council asked M/I to reduce the density as well as include more open space in the project and make one of the main streets safer for pedestrians.

Developers removed plans for five homes and expanded the recreational space from 3 acres to 4.5 acres. The area will have a playground, picnic table, grills, and a large lawn, according to Jeremy Medlin, a division vice president with M/I.

“It marries the whole site together,” Medlin told the council.

M/I also added a traffic circle on one of the main roads to reduce the likelihood of speeding.

“When we came in front of you a couple weeks ago, we had a good plan,” Medlin said. “We have a better plan now.”

Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said he voted against the plan because it’s “not at harmony with the surrounding area.”

“I’m not convinced that criteria has been met,” he said.

But other council members – excluding Lori Bush, who was absent from the meeting – praised developers for bringing back a better proposal.

“I’m very happy with the changes,” Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson said. “Thank you very much.”

Councilwoman Gale Adcock is oftencritical of dense projects. After Thursday’s meeting, she said she would have preferred to see the land developed with detached single-family homes. But it was too late in the process to reject the project “on principle,” she said.

“I thought it was as good as it was gonna get,” she said.

The council has asked developers to redo plans at least three times this year – with mixed results.

In February, the council’s request prompted developer D.R. Horton to withdraw plans for 94 townhomes on Turner Creek Road.

But in March, the council approved plans for 97 townhomes on Chapel Hill Road after the developer reduced the density from eight to six homes per acre.

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

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