WESLEY CHAPEL – Some residents hope that a proposed age-restricted “cruise ship on the ground” development never sets sail.
County commissioners held an Oct. 7 public hearing to discuss the development, Cresswind.
According to Kolter Homes Director of Development Ben Stevens, Cresswind would have a maximum of 615 age-restricted, single-family homes for adults ages 55 and older. Stevens said the development would compare to a cruise ship with food and activity options on-site, making it less necessary to leave the property. Construction would happen in phases and all 615 homes would be developed by 2027.
The proposed location is on Potter Road between New Town Road and Highway 54, with two access points along Potter Road. Stevens said the development would be gated and roads inside would be privately maintained. However, the developer is willing to contribute $1.1 million on road improvements for surrounding roads tied directly to this project and has spoken to NCDOT about changing the speed limit on surrounding roads to 45 miles per hour instead of 55.
Board Chairman Richard Helms was unconvinced that changing the speed limit would make a significant impact. He had worries about putting senior citizens in danger as he has witnessed drivers speed down Potter Road.
“It’s a beautiful community,” Helms said. “It’s just on the wrong road.”
Stevens said Cresswind would not have a significant impact on traffic, as studies have shown that seniors tend to avoid rush hour.
Residents disagreed with Stevens’ traffic claims in the public hearing portion of the presentation. Additionally, the planning board recommended commissioners deny the project as it would bring “too much traffic to already burdened roads.”
“I don’t care what time of the day you’re going over there, whether it’s rush hour or if it’s when the traffic is not as heavy,” Union County resident Gwyneth Dale said. “You have to be very careful. It’s 55 miles an hour now, the speed limit. Dropping it down to 45 is not going to make a significant change. No one does 55 miles an hour there.”
Dale also said that as a senior resident of Union County, she drives the roads often and does not stay at home as much as Stevens’ presentation claimed.
“Every cruise I’ve been on, I’ve wanted to go on a shore excursion, which meant I didn’t want to stay on the ship,” Dale said. “So just because you’re a senior, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to have all the amenities that anyone would want and you’re not going to want to step out of that door.”
Jennifer Campbell expressed concerns about Willoughby Road, where a proposed access point to the development would be.
“I can’t even safely go to my mailbox,” Campbell said. “When we put the trash can out, we have a pile of probably 10 to 15 car side mirrors because they’re hitting the trash can and knocking them off because they’re driving 60 miles an hour down Willoughby Road and slamming on their brakes at that stop sign.”
Another resident, Frank Capella, said the proposed development would not solve the problems along Potter Road, even with the help of NCDOT.
“I have a newsflash for you,” Capella said. “DOT is broke. Potter Road is literally falling apart. If turn lanes and roundabouts aren’t going to fix this mess, then, where are we going to put, I don’t even know how many cars, where are we going to put them?”
Stevens said that because the community is age-restricted, no children will be living there, leaving no impact on schools.
“Age-restricted allows a lot of control and it’s a very, very low impact to the community,” Stevens said.
Wesley Chapel Village resident Lori Bailey said even though no children will be there, students will still be affected.
“There is a tremendous impact to the students just by the increased traffic,” Bailey said. “Any road improvements will carve out from the school area, which is already crowded and a nightmare to navigate multiple times during the day because there’s an after school program there as well that extends into the evening.”
Bailey reminded the board of other senior communities in the area.
“There are already three retirement-age communities in and around Wesley Chapel and a new 84-unit apartment building the commissioners recently approved nearby so it’s not an underserved population by any stretch,” Bailey said.
While most residents in attendance were against the development, one resident spoke in favor of it.
“With all due respect, I think we have an opportunity here to get some tax dollars coming in,” James Helms said. “It’s going to bring in more commercial industry. We’ve already got good commercial industry in Wesley Chapel… I think it will just get better. Change is coming, guys. This is a good opportunity for us to put something positive in there to make some money for the county that everyone benefits.”
Stevens said that while there will be an impact on the community, Kolter Homes believes it is presenting the best possible option.
“No matter what happens here, there’s going to be an impact,” Stevens said. “But we feel like we’re bringing the best and most responsible use to this property, and we fully believe that … The seller is absentee. They’re going to do something regardless, so we would love to be a part of the solution.
County commissioners will vote to deny or approve the development at a later meeting.