One north Raleigh neighborhood could get busy in the coming months as developers plan to add a 64-home subdivision behind the already established Millbrook Estates off Falls of Neuse Road.
The Raleigh Racquet Club owns the undeveloped property behind Millbrook Estates, which is zoned R-4 for residential development. As the club owners make plans to develop the parcel with Ashton Woods Homes, they are requesting the city of Raleigh rezone the property to R-6.
Typically, R-6 would allow for more houses on the property. In this case, however, the rezoning request is a wash – with the same number of homes permitted either way. What the rezoning will do, said Raleigh Racquet Club president Bill Edwards, “is it allows clustered homes with a common space area.”
Because of the topography of the property as well as a nearby creek and on-site Progress Energy power lines, the proposed rezoning will create “zoning conditions that limit the density on the property … and that provide a buffer adjacent to existing homes,” Edwards said.
But residents of Millbrook Estates aren’t convinced that a city-mandated natural buffer will be enough to lessen the impact of this potential development on their neighborhood.
Neighbors have expressed concerns about Ashton Woods Homes’ plan to make Cypress Lane the exclusive entrance road into this new subdivision.
“This is very concerning on several levels,” said Cypress Lane resident Mariah Matheson.
With 17 homes on Cypress Lane, adding four times the number of residents using what the city of Raleigh classifies as a minor residential road, “has a lot of us on edge,” Matheson said. “There are concerns of bottlenecking, being able to get out of the driveway and walkability within the neighborhood.”
A transportation comparison summary conducted by Kimley-Horn and Associates as part of the rezoning application sees the impact of the rezoning as minimal.
“Our traffic engineer prepared a traffic comparison letter that compared the traffic that could be generated by the proposed rezoning with the traffic that could be generated by the existing rezoning,” Edwards said. “No increase in traffic as a result of the rezoning was found.”
According to Kimley-Horn’s report, the proposed zoning would generate exactly as much traffic as it does now – 345 vehicles traveling in and out of Cypress Lane each day.
The report does not address any potential impacts of a 64-home neighborhood, but focuses on the impact of the rezoning request.
Though the transportation comparison summary doesn’t focus on the potential of 64 new drivers, Millbrook Estates resident Joe Corey said that is his chief concern.
“All of the impact from traffic will be on us,” Corey said. “This is only going to add to an already busy neighborhood.”
With 40 homes in Millbrook Estates, the subdivision’s three roads see its share of traffic from Friendship Christian School, which has an entrance at the end of Ivy Lane.
Many of those parents use Cypress Lane to access the school property from northbound Falls of Neuse Road, Corey said.
“At 7, 7:30 in the morning, people are speeding down this road to get to the school,” he said.
The school’s current impact on the neighborhood is a factor some neighbors believe isn’t accounted for in the traffic engineer’s summary.
The summary reports a total 55 cars going in and out of Cypress Lane during the a.m. peak hour; 70 cars go in and out during the p.m. peak hour.
Friendship Christian School officials estimate that of the school’s 326 students, about 200 parents pick-up and drop-off students to the school each day. Drop-off time for students is 7:30 a.m., with pick-up time at 2:30 p.m.
The comparison summary engineer for Kimley- Horn, Mike Horn, did not respond to requests for comments on the summary report.
However, city transportation planner Fleming El-Amin said standard Raleigh peak traffic hours are 7:30-8:30 a.m. and 4:45-5:45 p.m.
With school traffic in mind, Millbrook Estates residents suggested in a recent meeting with Ashton Woods Homes and the Raleigh Racquet Club that a new road be added for the proposed subdivision.
That idea wasn’t supported by the city or the traffic engineer, Edwards said.
“Raleigh transportation staff and our traffic engineer advise us that new ‘cuts’ into the thoroughfare are discouraged and, neither believes it is warranted in this instance,” he said.
Millbrook Estates residents disagree and are looking for ways to lessen the impact of Cypress Lane.
“We’ve requested a sidewalk or other road improvements and we have been told it’s not necessary,” Matheson said.
“We don’t want to begrudge the racquet club the right to develop its property,” she added. “If we felt our needs were being heard, we wouldn’t be against it.
To ensure Millbrook Estates’ best interests are kept in mind, some neighbors considered hiring their own traffic engineer to conduct an independent study of Cypress Lane.
But that may not be necessary. City transportation department staff said this week they will conduct their own study of the area in the coming weeks in response to residents’ concerns.
“We have a traffic calming program and, after we spoke with a number of residents on Cypress Lane and Beechwood Lane, we’ll be looking at ways to make those intersections safer and lessen the amount of cut-through traffic from the school,” El-Amin said.
The Raleigh Neighborhood Traffic Calming Program will specifically look at traffic problems around the intersections of Cypress Lane and Beechwood Lane as well as Cypress Lane and Quail Ridge Road.
Matheson said she hopes that study will be done in time for planning officials to consider it at the April 17 rezoning hearing.
“We’re not completely against the development,” she said. “We just want to mitigate its impact.”
To read more about Millbrook Estates residents’ concerns, see their online petition at tinyurl.com/millbrookestates.