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Carolina Ridge developers plan another meeting with community before public hearing

Citizens review the Carolina Ridge site plan

Citizens review the Carolina Ridge site plan

KEN H. FORTENBERRY

publisher@newsatnorman.com
  The company that wants to build the  county’s  largest planned community will meet again with Denver area residents in advance of a January public hearing where it will seek county approval for the 1,650 home Carolina Ridge project.
  Shea Homes, an Arizona homebuilder, wants to build the active seniors community across from East Lincoln High School beginning in mid-2014. Carolina Ridge must first clear county planning and zoning hurdles, and company officials met last week with local residents in an informational question-and-answer session. Shea hopes to have a second community involvement meeting before the Jan. 6 public hearing.
   A packed house turned out last week to hear about what is being billed as an upscale, active seniors community. It was an opportunity for the company to
get valuable feedback from the public before the January hearing and to head off any major objections before then.
  Some residents showed up to express concerns about traffic near the proposed community and others – potential homebuyers – just wanted to learn more about Shea’s Trilogy home community.
  The meeting attracted a cross-section of the community – from homeowners who live near the proposed site to Realtors and prospective subcontractors who wanted to learn more.
  The company is resurrecting a plan by Pulte Homes to build the community that never got off the ground .
  It could simply have adopted Pulte’s plan and moved forward without another public hearing, but decided to submit a new plan that fits the requirements of the county’s Unified Development Ordinance.
  Walter Fields, a consultant hired by Shea to help it navigate the planning process in Lincoln County, told the audience that the plan “looks remarkably similar” to the Pulte plan with one notable exception. Shea wants approval to build up to 300 homes that are not age-restricted.
   The company has found that seniors and other family members increasingly like to live near each other, and having the non age-restricted housing in the same area puts grandparents closer to their children and grandchildren.
  Shea representative Jay Seymoure showed a video about the company’s Trilogy homes and said Trilogy communities provide a “fun, vibrant lifestyle” for residents.
  He said that there is significant demand for a community like Carolina Ridge in the area and the company did a lot of research before deciding on the Denver site.
  The Charlotte area is high on the list of places that people want to retire, he said, “because they like this part of the country.”
  He noted that Carolina Ridge will have walking trails, tennis courts, a restaurant, walking trails and other amenities that active seniors want. The community’s topography of hills and creeks will mean that about 30 percent of the land will be green space. Houses will range from the upper $100s to the high $300s, he estimated.
  Consultant Fields told the gathering that the company has presented an updated traffic study to the state Department of Transportation, and expects to hear from the DOT in a matter of days about any required improvements.
  Shea intends to have its main entrance across from the bus lot at East Lincoln High and will install a traffic light that he said would help residents and school traffic as well.
  The company also will make improvements including widening at the Highway 73/Little Egypt Road intersection.
  However, some residents said those improvements won’t be enough to accommodate the huge neighborhood.
  Fields countered that by noting that seniors traditionally don’t drive during rush-hour periods, and when one area resident said that Highway 73 traffic is a problem, Fields said “it’s already a mess.”
  The company should not be required to make changes to a road that already needs improvements, he said. The company will do whatever the DOT requires, he pointed out. Seymoure said that the company can’t just “elect” to make changes to the highway without DOT approval.
  Liz Craig, whose lives in a subdivision adjacent to Highway 73, said that the road will have to be four-laned to accommodate Carolina Ridge and the proposed Denver Global manufacturing site.
  “It’s not gonna all work on a two-lane road,” she said, adding that she supports both Denver Global and Carolina Ridge. She said she simply wanted to express her  concerns what impact four-laning would do to residents whose backyards abut the highway.
  “You can’t widen that road without taking their backyards,” she said.
   Fields said he believed the DOT already has right-of-way to widen Highway 73, but promised to check into that.
He said that Denver Global “will trigger” a lot of required improvements anyway.
   In response to question about the company hiring local craftsmen to help in construction, Seymoure responded “absolutely” and said that 200-300 subcontractors likely will be necessary.
  Carolina Ridge could begin as early as mid-2014 with an estimated 2021 build-out.
   The land is currently owned by the Clark family.
  “We are very encouraged about the opportunity to bring Trilogy to Lincoln county,” said Seymoure
  “At Shea, our core purpose is to enhance peoples’ lives and tonight was part of that for us. We hope and believe we will be in a position to close on the property in the future, however we are still very much in our due diligence mode. Tonight’s meeting helped take one step closer.”

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