More than a dozen people spoke to the Asheboro City Council for or against a development proposal for more than 400 homes southeast of the city before council members elected to wait until July to make a decision.
Council member Jane Redding made a motion to recess the issue at the June 8 council meeting after a public hearing that lasted more than three hours.
Raleigh developer Bill Turner hopes that the city will annex the land along Old Cox Road and Old Humble Mill Road and give him permission to build the Richlands Creek subdivision.
His plan is to build 413 homes and townhomes in three phases. To do so, he would need the city to annex three parcels, totaling 232 acres just north of the North Carolina Zoo.
"This is very crucial right now with the megasite coming this way," said Robert Wilhoit, an attorney with Wilhoit Hatchel speaking for Turner.
Residents who live in the area raised concerns about increased traffic, the environmental impact and how it would affect the rural character.
Gordon Coburn said Old Humble Mill Road already has a problem with speeding. "With more people, it's going to be harder to get out of my driveway."
Wayne Deaton brought a piece of a broken rear-view mirror that he said was from a car that hit his mother's garbage can on Old Humble Mill Road. He owns property on both sides of the road and worries about the effect on wildlife. The land is currently zoned E1, or Environmental.
Ruth and Richard Lambe both questioned whether emergency services had the resources to serve those properties. Richard said he responded to wrecks in that area when he was a firefighter, and the roads along the steep terrain are particularly dangerous when there's snow or ice.
Judy Eubanks said that the zone is meant to preserve the area's rural setting and requested an environmental study first. She said that residents worry that although Turner withdrew the original plan for commercial buildings, he has not ruled it out incorporating commercial properties to 14 acres in the future.
Phase 1 would begin with the construction of 122 townhomes. The second and third phases would focus on homes on larger plots of land. It would have a community center with a pool and outdoor recreational areas. If the project proceeds, Wilhoit said they would likely lower the number of homes based on the terrain.
"I know neighbors are very concerned about the change," Wilhoit said, "This is not going to be a poorly thought-out plan."
Steve Hepley, a professional engineer, presented a traffic study to the council comparing the area's usage to other roads in Asheboro. He highlighted a roundabout that would be added to help control traffic.
Landscape planner Tim Knowles said they checked nearby schools' capacity to make sure they could handle an influx of new students.
Realtor H.R. Gallimore said that this development would help keep employees of upcoming projects such as the Toyota megasite in Randolph County. He presented a forecast of home sales in the Asheboro area. He said that the county only has about a month supply of available homes.
"To say we have a critical shortage would be putting it mildly," he said.
The Asheboro Planning Board recommended approving the annexation and rezoning request with 28 conditions. Those include no more than 413 dwellings, a minimum of 1,200 square feet of heated space per dwelling, and 20- to 30-foot vegetation buffers along Old Cox and Old Humble Mill Roads.
The board's final analysis reads, "New land development should strike a balance between well-planned growth and honoring the uniqueness of the area afforded by the NC Zoo. Overall, staff believes the application attempts to find that balance and further advances the public’s interest to promote diversified home-ownership options for people."
Mayor David Smith apologized to residents and the developers for making them wait another month for an answer. He said as they left, "This is your best opportunity to get the best subdivision that you could live with."