Volume 16, Number 7
When planning board members say your plan for 85 or 90 townhouses looks like containers stacked on a cargo ship and wonder just how a mother and two or three children are supposed to walk from their townhouse, across the parking lot for a small shopping center to a grassed area or playground near a pond because there is no open space or play area near their home, you might think you are in trouble.
When your plan would add at least 1,063 people to the Kearney Road-Wake Union Church Road-Capital Boulevard area and nearby residents and planning board members ask why you have not made any improvements to the two local roads, you might think your plan could use more work.
At Tuesday night’s Wake Forest Planning Board meeting and public hearing, the three men from Kimley-Horn Associates spoke at length on behalf of the developer, Rialto Capital Management, for its plan to place both 12 apartment buildings and 85 or 90 townhouses at opposite sides of Wake Union Place where a sporting goods store and a small shopping center have already been approved. Although the mixed use conditional residential zoning they asked for would allow buildings of up to six stories, they said the buildings would be three stories.
The plan calls for Wake Union Church Road to sweep up to the northwest to a large traffic circle near the center of the 27 acres, then go southeast to its current intersection with Capital Boulevard. That intersection would become a superstreet as would the intersection to the north where Stadium Drive and Jenkins Road meet Capital, which will become a limited-access expressway. Planning board member Colleen Sharpe said, “Wake Union then becomes the major road into this area.” Commissioner Brian Pate said the plan for the expressway calls for a connector road on the west side of Capital from Purnell Road “all the way down.” Or, in other words, copying the part of Wake Union Church Road that was abandoned when Capital was four-laned with a median.
Commissioner Anne Reeve questioned the traffic study, saying the peak hours on Capital start about 3 p.m. “You’re not seeing the whole picture.”
Commissioner Bridget Wall-Lennon asked, “Where is the playground?” She was told there is a community house with a pool behind it [in the apartments across the parking lot from the townhouses] “but we haven’t located the playground yet.” He said it may go in the area with the stormwater retention pond. “It depends on the design.”
“If you are going to put the playground up there with the pond, I wouldn’t let my children play there,” Reeve said. The reply was that the pond would only be 5 feet deep after construction and it might be fenced.
Planning board chairman Ed Gary suggested the planners create an alleyway to create some open space and reduce the density of the townhouse section, and he was told they would take it under advisement.
Planning board member Joe Kimray said he saw the developers “crowding in as many townhomes as possible. I think the two things [apartments and townhouses] were submitted together to reduce the amount of open space. There is no open space whatsoever in the townhouses.”
Karen Mallo was the spokesman for the St. Ives residents and said while they welcome development and higher density, this plan is “urban zoning in a suburban setting.” She questioned the total impervious area total buildout would have and said it would be higher than the 70 percent allowed in this part of the Falls Lake watershed. She also asked if the town really wanted to convert one of the largest commercial properties to residential and echoed other comments about the increased traffic on the local roads without any provision for improvements. The town planning department had added a condition that a right turn lane for southbound traffic on Kearney Road, but Michael Burch with Kimley-Horn had already said they would not agree to that condition yet. Mallo also asked where the townhouse residents would park.
During the business meeting after the public hearings, planning board member Thad Juszczak said he was really concerned about the townhouses, “about how compressed this is and they jammed them in right next to a single-family subdivision. The townhouses and the apartments have nothing to do with each other.” There is not even any grass in the townhouse section.
“The 80-pound gorilla is the traffic,” planning board member Thomas Smith said. “There’s going to be additional traffic.” Smith was appointed to Chad Sary’s partial term.
Kimray said again the two projects were requested together to get around the open space requirements, and “There is no way someone is going to walk around a retail area to get to a former retention pond with a trail around it.”
All nine planning board members voted to deny the project. The commissioners will have the final vote during their Feb. 20 business meeting.
The other zoning request on the agenda was for the Forestville Towns townhouse project. After the town board voted not to approve the project in December the developer withdrew the plan and resubmitted it, again for 95 townhouses on the short deadend section of Forestville Road behind Shuckers. Tuesday night the developer asked that it be continued until March, which was approved. One man, name not supplied, spoke against the project, saying he lives nearby and “I’m fighting traffic all the time.” He said Rogers Road is extremely dangerous and there were two accidents that day at the railroad tracks.
The planning board also approved a change in the Unified Development Ordinance to restrict electronic message boards to 25 percent of the sign area, to make the background color black and only one color for the message, red or orange.