Commissioners Reject 193 Unit Development

Jerry Dalton with Dalton Engineering answers questions from Johnston County Commissioners Monday, May 6th. Mr. Dalton was representing Steel Bridge Crossing, LLC who wanted to develop a 193 lot subdivision on Highway 42 West. Commissioners voted 4-to-3 to deny the request. Photo

In a 4-to-3 vote, Johnston County Commissioners rejected a request for a Planned Unit Development in the rapidly growing Highway 42 West area in the Cleveland community.

Steel Bridge Crossing, LLC had requested rezoning and a special use permit to locate a 193 lot subdivision on 129.4 acres at 4150 Highway 42 West.  The development would include 108 single-family homes and 85 townhomes equal to about 1.5 units per acre.

During a recent planning board meeting, two residents spoke in opposition expressing concern about traffic and overcrowded schools.

Jerry Dalton with Dalton Engineering represented the applicant during the May 6th public hearing.  Mr. Dalton said the development would be connected to county sewer if approved.  Dalton said there is a need for more townhomes in this area and felt it was consistent with the county’s Unified Development Ordinance.  “We’re bringing a project here that meets all the rules.”

Commissioner Butch Lawter questioned Dalton on how it would meet the Comprehensive Development Plan and how it would protect a nearby ecologically-sensitive area.  “I have a hard time feeling comfortable this meets our planning goals and objectives,” Commissioner Lawter told Dalton.

Dalton responded by saying an environmental impact study was not required at this stage of the application process but said it would be performed as required later on.  “There’s no doubt the county will look over our shoulder.”

Kirsten Messmer,  who lives nearby on Kasey Dee Circle, spoke in opposition of the development expressing concern about increased traffic, flooding of the area during Hurricane Matthew, and the lack of protection to wildlife.

Commissioner Vice Chairman Chad Stewart said he wished growth would slow down in that area and would go towards municipal areas.  “Instead of 1.5 units per acre, I wish the code said 1.5 units per usable acre. That’s the only problem I have with this.”  Stewart said the board had rules in place and must be consistent with applying the rules.

Commissioner Tony Braswell said, “This is a perfect storm. It’s a hard call. I wish we could change the rules so we don’t do any more PUD’s.”

In a 4-to-3 vote with Commissioners Jeff Carver, Butch Lawter, Larry Wood and Chairman Ted Godwin voting against the rezoning request, the subdivision failed to win approval.  Commissioners Patrick Harris, Tony Braswell and Vice Chairman Stewart voted for approval.

After the vote, Chairman Ted Godwin said if the applicant had been before Commissioners three years from now he would have voted for approval. Godwin said because of so many traffic problems in the area now, until Highway 42 West is widened, he could not support additional traffic the 193-lot subdivision would have created.

Planning officials said the applicant could still place a 129 lot subdivision on the parcel without needing Commissioners approval. The applicant needed Commissioners approval because of the proposed higher density of 193 lots, and the associated special use permit.