Johnston County Commissioners have rejected a request for a large cluster development in the rapidly growing Cleveland Township. Developers had requested permission to rezone 456 acres, known as the Yeargan tract, on Cornwallis Road just south of the intersection of Highway 42 West of Clayton to a Special Use District.
A consulting engineering firm, Bass, Nixon & Kennedy of Raleigh, had petitioned the county in November to allow a 665-lot residential home subdivision to be constructed over an 8 to 10 year period. Each home would be situated on an average lot size equal to a quarter of an acre. Plans included 248 acres of open space, three miles of greenway trails, a swimming pool and 5 pocket parks.
Developers requested permission to use Johnston County sewer for the subdivision instead of on-site septic tanks.
Commissioner Jeff Carver asked how much of the 248 acres of open space was suitable for building. He was told the vast majority, about 228 acres, is wetlands and a buffer for the Neuse River. Other areas of the open space were set aside for a club house, pool and pocket parks.
Carver expressed concerns about traffic and school overcrowding. “This is really really overloading something that has already been overloaded.” He said the county doesn’t have adequate sewer capacity for potential new businesses or empty seats in schools.
The proposed development would add 386 students to area schools. Five schools are located in the area: Westview Elementary, Cleveland Elementary, Cleveland Middle, Clayton Middle and Cleveland High. Three of the schools are already over capacity with the exception of Cleveland Elementary and Clayton Middle. Cleveland Elementary has a capacity of 900 students and has 849 students enrolled. Clayton Middle has a capacity of 750 and has an enrollment of 637. Cleveland High has an enrollment of 1708, well above the capacity of 1200 students.
Developers said they contacted staff with Johnston County Public Schools and they did not have interest in pursuing a new school site on the Cornwallis Road property.
The petitioner requested the County allocate 160,000 gallons per day of sewer treatment capacity.
Commissioner Chad Stewart said he would hate to see the Board back themselves into a corner by providing residential sewer then be unable to provide sewer for new business development.
Commissioner Butch Lawter said the County currently only has 660,000 of available capacity at the sewer treatment plant. By reducing the capacity to 500,000 gallons, Lawter said it could limit what industry the County could attract if sewer capacity is not available. A project is well-underway to expand the sewer capacity with a new treatment plant on County Home Road off Highway 210 but the plant has not been built.
Commissioner Larry Wood said he was concerned about sewer capacity, school overcrowding and the traffic the subdivision would create. Highway 42 West and Cornwallis Road is already congested he added.
Planning Director Braston Newton said the application for the new subdivision was submitted in June 2020. If the application had been submitted after the Land Use Ordinance was tweaked in September 2020 it would have limited the subdivision to approximately 248 lots instead of 665.
“We have $300 million to spend in the next 20 years on utilities,” Commissioner Carver stated. “Do we want it all spent on rooftops? We are not telling anyone they can’t develop (their property). Do we want 665 or 248? What do we really want?”
Commissioner Stewart said he thought it was a “fine project” but said the timing was not good. He suggested the timing might have been better after the new sewer plant was built to allow for more capacity and Highway 42 West was widened.
Commissioner Lawter made a motion to deny the rezoning due to the inconsistency with the Comprehensive Land Use Plan saying it was not currently in the public interest due to concerns over sewer, traffic and schools. The motion to deny the development passed unanimously in a 7-t-0 vote.