Town officials in Cary, North Carolina, considering proposal by M/I Homes to build up to 95 homes on 52 acres of land; homebuilder has tweaked plans several times in response to community concerns

CARY, North Carolina , July 3, 2014 () – It's the last swath of undeveloped land before drivers enter Cary on Holly Springs Road.

The Crossroads Plaza shopping center is about a mile to the north, and swamplands are less than a mile to the south.

So the Cary Town Council is taking its time to consider a proposal by M/I Homes to build up to 95 residential units on 52 acres at the intersection of Holly Springs Road and Cary Parkway. The council recently tabled the project for a second time.

Landowner Rildia Pritchett and M/I Homes are asking the town to annex and rezone the property. Developers requested the delay so the council could consider recent changes to the plan.

Even with the changes, though, some on the council said developers need to provide a better transition from rural southwestern Wake County to one of the town's busiest areas.

Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said he had an issue with part of the plan that calls for an average of 2.5 homes on lots that are at least 8,000 square feet. Neighboring subdivisions have lots that are much larger.

Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson said she wants the new homes to be more than "just a box with a pretty front."

Neighboring property owners submitted a protest petition, so at least six council members -- rather than the usual four -- must vote in favor of the project for it to move forward.

M/I has amended the plan several times in response to critics who say it doesn't match the character of the community.

Earlier this year, developers increased the minimum lot size to 8,000 square feet from 7,000 square feet.

They offered to build a 30-foot opaque tree buffer -- which is not required by town rules -- next to the neighboring Campbell Woods subdivision.

M/I plans to increase the size of lots along the southern and eastern borders of the site, said Jason Barron, a representative for the company.

The plan considered by the council most recently called for those lots to be a minimum of 15,000 square feet. But they will be at least 20,000 square feet under the plan M/I will submit at an upcoming council meeting, Barron said.

He noted that the plan meets Cary's requirements for the zoning M/I is pursuing for the project.

"There can be no argument that this case doesn't meet the requirements," Barron said. "This case passes with spades."

Some council members thanked the developers for being flexible.

"Every condition we've seen has gotten better, has made the plan better," Councilman Ed Yerha said.

Councilman Jack Smith suggested protestors could stand to be a little more flexible, too.

"This is a keystone area. What I'm hoping is that folks make an effort for compromise," he said. "Data shows that anything developed here is going to improve your property value."

But the density of the project is not the neighbors' only concern. They also want to prevent M/I from building a road stub that might connect its project to Fordland Drive, which runs parallel to Holly Springs Road and currently dead-ends.

M/I Homes has said it doesn't want to build the connector road, but a Cary policy may require it. The town staff is working on tweaks to the policy.

The council will likely consider the plan again at its July 31 meeting.

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


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