Comprehensive Plan Public Hearing Packs the Hall

Wish list for many plus cautions and questions from others

— Jeanne E. Fredriksen • • September 2017

The August 1 Town Board Meeting offered a surprise in the number of residents who attended to speak, listen or both, but the meeting held few surprises in what they thought about the Rolesville’s Comprehensive Plan. The chamber was packed to capacity, with dozens more crowding the foyer and hallways. Within 45 minutes, 18 people spoke for an average of 2½ minutes each.

TB meeting - Comprehensive Plan, Aug. 1, 2017

Residents crowded the Town chambers for the Comprehensive Plan public hearing. Photo by Susan Flower

The August public hearing was preceded by an April 13 open house during which Town representatives presented a draft of the plan and sought input. The public comments segment in August was dedicated to additional input for the near-finalized plan.

“(The August meeting) was well-attended, and overall, everyone spoke in favor of the plan,” Rolesville Planning Director Danny Johnson said. “There were varied opinions and comments, but no one spoke in opposition to the plan. I was very pleased with the input given.”

Several residents (or representatives who spoke on their behalf) expressed the desire for transitions from the high school to mixed use or residential as a buffer to the business park plan or asked questions about how their land is being impacted. In one case, Rolesville native Betty Gunz Wall, now of Charlotte, gave an impassioned plea to leave the acreage owned by her and her husband, Joseph, as preserved open space.

“We have declined several offers from developers to buy our land over the years because I have a strong belief that we can’t develop all our land and expect our planet to survive,” Wall said.

Transportation safety concerns were voiced many times over. Notably, Planning Board member Jim Schwartz, who voted nay on the plan at the board’s June 26 meeting, took the opportunity to explain his vote.

“It’s not just the business park or what’s going in it but what type of traffic will go in there,” Schwartz said. “Typically, that could be a warehouse with trucking, that could be offices and professional offices, and generating that type of traffic into the area where you’re bringing in commercial and high schoolers I thought was very concerning.”

Johnson addressed the various concerns by saying, “The safety question is always an important question when you do the road design, and, of course, as growth and development comes, we do have a traffic impact analysis and other things we try to institute to make sure we can do our best to plan for it.”

Scott Lane, Senior Transportation Planner with Stantec Consulting’s Raleigh location, added, “The plan looks at not just big expensive streets but things that developers will do as they come into develop or redevelop a property – intersection improvements, things to make biking and walking easier. … It wasn’t all about moving cars as fast as we can. In fact, it’s almost the opposite.”

Lane also spoke about Rolesville’s downtown.

“The focal point has most recently been the Bypass,” he said, “but now, moving forward, it’s time to think about the historic downtown and Main Street.”

Main Street resident Lyle Davis pointed to both Wake Forest and Knightdale as examples of what can be achieved to benefit the Town and attract people: retail, restaurants, parks.

“Let’s work on that together as a community and get it growing to where it’s at least competitive to Wake Forest,” he said.

Susan Decker added that she’d like the Town to focus on the downtown area, making it nice and walkable with cute places. She also said she could “do away with everything I can get 10-15 minutes away at all the other bigger cities and towns.”

Decker’s sentiments about downtown were echoed by Michelle King, who also wants to try to stay away from the big box places in favor of smaller, family-owned businesses.

“We need to support them, or we’re going to lose them,” King said.

Wish list items included a dog park, a pottery studio, public transportation, a library, a community pool, a community house, more sports fields and pickleball courts.

However, the bottom line was not forgotten.

“I just really want you to consider what are real wants and what are needs that we have for our community,’ Rachel Beguhl implored.

“I’ve listened to all the ideas, and I think they’re all wonderful,” Phyllis Woodard said, “but I wonder who’s going to pay for it and how it’s going to be done.”

Ruth Payne, a real estate agent, loved the plan but cautioned, “I think that there are a lot of things that we want, but in order to get half of what we want, we have to increase our tax base, and you don’t increase your tax base unless you have growth. When people talk about all the lovely things that they want, I think it’s great, but we have to be able to pay for it.”

Since the meeting, two written requests have been submitted for a change to the proposed land use classifications of the future land use map that was presented prior to the public hearing. They are the Gideon Drive/Universal Drive location by Jerri Jo Butler and Tammy Grower Massey from Medium Density Residential to Industrial and the Emily Lane location by Joseph Wall, Betty Gunz Wall, James and William Merritt, and Wesley and Roxy Wilkins from Business Park to Mixed Use Neighborhood.

“As for the next step, the Board will take it up at the September 5 meeting,” Johnson said. “We’ll eventually want to get the plan approved and start using it as a guide.”