The Town Council’s vision for the Avent Ferry corridor and areas south is taking shape as it reviews a four-month examination of how the mostly undeveloped, but quickly changing, area should grow.
Town Manager Chuck Simmons said there was agreement among council members for lowering the density of residential development from what is allowed under the existing land use plan. No changes to the plan have yet occurred.
The Department of Planning and Zoning led the four-month Southern Area Planning Initiative. The study of growth patterns and land use policy included three community engagement sessions to learn what residents would like to see.
At a Feb. 20 work session on the southern study, council members took the first steps toward a unified vision of how plans for the 12.2-square mile area might change.
“The council is still working to arrive at a unified vision for the southern area,” Assistant Town Manager Daniel Weeks said. “But ideas are beginning to coalesce into a general framework.”
In addition to lower density overall, the council intends to discontinue reserving undeveloped land for neighborhood-scale mixtures such as shops, restaurants and townhomes. Instead, council members said a location should be market-driven.
The approved land use plan has concentric circles showing up to three “community growth areas” best-suited for mixed use development in the southern area. The purpose is to ensure that surrounding neighborhoods have easy access to shopping, amenities, restaurants, and places for small community gatherings. Mapping them also alerts neighbors about what could be built someday.
The mixed use concept envisions townhomes or similar residential densities adjacent to the commercial portion to try to ensure that those businesses have enough customers.
At the Feb. 20 session, council members said the southern area might support one mixed use location in the future, provided that issues such as tree preservation, greenways and park land were addressed. Council members indicated they were reluctant to allow higher residential density without assurances that the commercial portion would be built.
Traffic remains a top concern for residents in the southern area. The vicinity of N.C. 55 and Avent Ferry Road has been the town’s top transportation focus in recent years.
Developers have funded most transportation improvements throughout Holly Springs by widening or extending roads along their property frontage, and sometimes beyond it. Although most major roads in Holly Springs are the state’s responsibility, statewide needs far outstrip available state funding.
Most of the traffic on N.C. 55 in Holly Springs originates outside of town. Simmons said that growth in Fuquay-Varina and northern Harnett County will continue adding traffic to southern area roads regardless of what happens in Holly Springs.
“I think the council realizes that this region is growing and will continue to grow into the foreseeable future,” Weeks said.
Formalizing any change in direction for the southern area would involve council action to amend the comprehensive plan. The process would include opportunities for public comment.
In the meantime, the council intends to hold additional work sessions on the southern area. Tree preservation and related issues will be the focus of the next session.