County Rejects Then Approves 244 Unit Development

Sixteen months after Johnston County Commissioners rejected a large Planned Unit Development (PUD) in the Cleveland community, board members have reversed course and approved the project.

In October 2017, a divided board rejected plans from the CE Group of Raleigh to build 244 single family homes on 164 acres of land on Cornwallis Road near Winston Road.  At the time, the board rejected the development due to concerns over density, traffic and the demand for county sewer services.  The board voted 3-to-3, and in a tie vote the measure failed.

Fast forward to February 2019.  In a meeting Monday night, developers resubmitted the same plans to county commissioners for the project, 3 lots shy of the maximum 247 allowed in a PUD in Johnston County.

Commissioners voted 5-to-2 for approval with Commissioners Larry Wood and Jeff Carver dissenting.  Wood and Carver also voted against the project in 2017.

The property is currently owned by Kenneth Lucas.

54 adjacent property owners were notified about the public hearing. No one spoke in opposition.  However two people expressed traffic concerns during the January meeting of the county planning board.

Planners estimate the development will create 141 additional students for Johnston County Public Schools.

Commissioner Tony Braswell said he was concerned about the density but under the current Land Use Plan the project is allowed.

“If we continue to overcrowd our schools we will continue to have to build new schools,” Commissioner Wood said during the meeting.

No one from Johnston County Schools was at the meeting but afterwards WTSB reached out to Dolores Best Gill, Chief of Staff for Johnston County Public Schools. She told us that based on the most recent projections, at least 4 new schools will be needed in the 10 years.  An elementary school in the Archer Lodge area, a high school in the East Clayton area, a middle school in the Clayton area, and an elementary school in the Highway 42 West area. The projections are based on growth students from NC State ORed.

Commissioner Jeff Carver said he was not opposed to the 164 acre tract being developed but was against the use of county sewer for the residential project, citing the rising cost of wastewater plant operations and the lack of sewer for commercial and industrial sites.

“I supported it last time and I’ll support it this time,” Vice Chairman Chad Stewart said. “It’s unfortunate we decided to draw the line right here.”

Commissioners agreed Land Use Ordinances needs to be changed but there are no current plans to do any major overhaul of the ordinances.

Prior to the vote, Commissioners Patrick Harris, Butch Lawter and Tony Braswell disclosed they were contacted by email or telephone by the applicant prior to the meeting.  Chairman Ted Godwin said he was also contacted but declined to discuss the project prior to the board meeting.

Commissioner Carver cautioned his fellow board members about having those types of conversations outside board meetings.

Before voting to approve the PUD, commissioners placed 26 restrictions on the development including setback, buffer and street sign requirements, adding turn lanes on Cornwallis Road and a traffic light at the main entrance. A stop light will not be required at a second entrance but turn lanes will be required by the NC DOT.

Planned United Developments (PUD’s)
Planned Unit Developments or PUD’s are similar to subdivisions except they must have a minimum of 100 acres and can have up to 1.5 homes per acre. They also require county water and sewer because of the increased density.

Traditional subdivisions can be less than 100 acres but the homes must be on septic tanks.  Density of up to 1.5 homes per acre is allowed but because of the septic tank requirement, the density is usually about 1 home per acre lot.

The last time Commissioners rejected a PUD was in January 2016 when the board turned down a 375 unit development on 171 acres on Cornwallis Road. The PUD was resubmitted as a subdivision, with septic tanks, and was approved with 256 lots.

Under county ordinances, the CE Group was required to wait a minimum of 12 months after the Oct. 2017 denial before they were allowed to reapply.