By Yustin Riopko
WAXHAW – Town commissioners have approved a rezoning that will yield 488 new houses by 2030.
Commissioners voted Aug. 25 to approve the rezoning request and make way for the residential development, which will span 212 acres between Rehobeth Road and Waxhaw Crossing Drive.
The Preserve at Forest Creek will go up in five phases, with developers breaking ground in 2021 and finishing up in eight to 10 years.
Annexed into the town in 2005, the land was originally going to support 596 homes, but the project was canceled due to inadequate sewer infrastructure. For 15 years, no developer came forward to invest in the spot.
Now, Waxhaw Ventures LLC is looking to do that legwork.
Developers have agreed to donate a portion of land north of the subdivision to Union County for use as a water pumping station, which Waxhaw Town Engineer Matt Hubert says will serve existing downtown areas and future residential growth alike.
“It will provide several million dollars in tap fees to the county to help them kick-start a lot of other capital improvement projects they have online,” Hubert said. “And this has been done in good faith. This is completely separate of the Preserve being approved or denied.”
Discussions about the Preserve have been underway since July 2019, even though Town Manager Jeffrey Wells says the process typically takes around five months.
“Usually that’s about right,” Wells said. “But sometimes you have a larger project. Sometimes you have more iterations and things you got to work through. And sometimes you have surprises like COVID-19, so this one’s been strung out a little bit more than most.”
Without this rezoning, the site plan would not be possible. While the overall housing density across the 212 acres fits the limit set forth by the original zoning, the new classification lets developers clump the houses tighter in certain sections.
“The reason behind that is to be able to allow for more dedication of open space for a home owner’s association or other public type of ownership,” Wells said. “That area is preserved into the future.”
Commissioner Tracy Wesolek was against the project, arguing smart growth is good but the Preserve isn’t smart.
“When I drive along Rehobeth and Sims, I immediately notice the winding scenic roads and beautiful horse farms,” Wesolek said. “It reminds me of how Providence Road and Waxhaw-Marvin Road used to look before the large land developers transformed the area. It was great to see an area that has still maintained the heritage Waxhaw was known for.”
Wells emphasized the opportunity as a rare one.
“I feel like you’re really making a choice between either allowing a development there at this time or not allowing anything there for the foreseeable – perhaps forever – future,” Wells said. “That’s what the decision really comes down to.”
Based on the findings of a traffic impact analysis, developers have agreed to pay $600,000 to the town for roadway improvements such as stoplights, roundabouts or turn lanes at the intersections of N.C. 75 and Old Providence Road and N.C. 75 and 16. Developers will also install a stoplight at the neighborhood’s main Rehobeth Road entrance.
“We’re already playing catch up with the traffic and roads,” Wesolek said. “So is swapping money for more cars really worth it?
“It may be a few years before we feel the effects from this new traffic, but Rehobeth and Sims roads will feel the immediate effect of construction traffic consisting of dump trucks, logging trucks and heavy equipment on a very curvy road.”
The town communicates with UCPS about projects like this one, so the school system has the information it needs to prepare and a chance to give feedback. UCPS Planning Manager Don Ogram said he doesn’t expect an immediate impact on school enrollment as a result of this project, according to Wells.
Commissioners received over 200 emails and letters from residents about the Preserve.