Town of Cary
North Carolina

Site Sub Plan

M16 Middle School 16-SP-045

Information

Department:PlanningSponsors:
Category:Public Hearing

Speaker: Doug Loveland, Planning Department

 

Recommendation: Staff recommends that council conduct a public hearing and consider action on sketch site plan.

 

Executive Summary: The applicant is requesting consideration of a site plan to construct a 230,000-square-foot school on a 41-acre property. The Land Development Ordinance requires Town Council approval for plans that propose a non-residential building with a floor area of 100,000 square feet or more.  The applicant’s request also includes requested modifications to the Town’s development standards regarding the removal of five champion trees.

Body

 

SUBJECT PARCELs

 

Property Owner

Wake County Parcel Identification Number (PIN) (10-digit)

Real Estate ID Number

Deeded Acreage

Wake County Board of Education

1551 Rock Quarry Road

Raleigh, NC 27610

0726861425

0079790

38.44

Wake County Board of Education

1551 Rock Quarry Road

Raleigh, NC 27610

0726850785

0079791

2.77

Total Area

41.21 acres

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

 

Applicant’s Representative

Kenneth Haywood

Boxley Bolton Garber & Haywood

227 W. Martin Street

Raleigh, NC 27601

(919) 832-3915

General Location

West of the intersection of Winding Pine Trail and Green Level Church Road

Land Use Plan Designation

Very Low-Density Residential (VLDR)

Zoning Districts

Residential 40 (R-40),

Jordan Lake Watershed Overlay

Within Town Limits

Yes

Staff Contact

Douglas Loveland, AICP, Senior Planner

Town of Cary Planning Department

P.O. Box 8005

Cary, NC  27512-8005

(919) 469-4045

douglas.loveland@townofcary.org

 

SUMMARY OF PROCESS AND ACTIONS TO DATE

 

Pre-application Meeting

The applicant attended a pre-application meeting for the site plan on May 25, 2016.

 

Plan Submittal and Review

The sketch site plan was submitted for its initial review on June 23, 2016, and has been reviewed by the Development Review Committee (DRC) through four review cycles.

 

Notification and Property Posting

Notice of the public hearing on the proposed site plan was mailed to property owners within 400 feet of the subject property, published on the Town’s website, and posted on the subject property.

 

LIST OF EXHIBITS

 

The following documents incorporated into this staff report are to be entered into the record for this hearing:

 

Exhibit A: Plan Review Application (5 pages)

Exhibit B: Agent Authorization (1 page)

Exhibit C: Sketch Site Plan (14 pages)

Exhibit D: Executive Summary of Traffic Analysis (35pages)

Exhibit E: Speaker Guidelines

Exhibit F; Suggested Motion Wordage [added after the meeting]

Exhibit G: December 9 Meeting Presentation [added after the meeting]

 

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

 

CLH Design, P.A., on behalf of the Wake County Board of Education, is requesting consideration of a sketch site plan to construct a 230,000-square-foot, three-story building for use as a middle school. The proposal includes a multi-purpose sports field, a softball field, and an outdoor basketball court. The plan also reserves space for the potential addition of mobile classrooms at a future date.

 

The site will have two points of vehicular access, one from the northeast and the other from the southeast. The connection to the north would be from a new public street, which would be extended by the applicant from the Alston Ridge Elementary School site to the east. Access from the south would be via a proposed extension of Winding Pine Trail, which would also include a stub for future connections to the south and west. The plan proposes that staff and visitor parking, along with queuing for student pick-up and drop off, would be accessed exclusively from the northern street. Bus traffic would use the southern access point from Winding Pine Trail, which would connect to the bus parking and loading area on the south side of the school building. Pedestrians could access the site using the public sidewalks along the northern or southern road extensions, both of which would connect to private sidewalks that lead to the school building. 

 

The applicant has identified nine healthy champion trees on the site. The proposed sketch site plan proposes to preserve four of the trees, and the applicant is requesting modifications to remove the remaining five champion trees. Staff granted an administrative modification to the requirement for the building to front on a public or private street.

 

There are currently two dwelling units located on the heavily-wooded 41-acre site. The site has rolling topography, and falls approximately 40 feet from east to west. The sketch site plan proposes four separate storm water control devices, and also identifies several existing wetlands and an existing pond.

 

The sketch site plan depicts the required 15-foot streetscape along the extension of Winding Pine Trail, which is designated as a local street, and the required 30-foot streetscape along the proposed northern roadway, which is anticipated to be classified as a collector street. The required 40-foot type A landscape buffer would be provided along all interior property lines on the site.

 

The proposed building would comply with the architectural requirements of the Community Appearance Manual (CAM), although the Manual does provide some flexibility for institutional uses. A full review for compliance with the architectural requirements will take place during site plan review, and is not a requirement for a sketch site plan review.

 

SITE PLAN WORKSHEET

 

A site plan may be approved by the Town Council only if it satisfies all six approval criteria listed in Section 3.9.2(I) of the LDO. As part of determining whether the first criterion is satisfied, Town Council must determine whether to grant the requested modifications to the Town’s development standards.

 

1.      Does the plan comply with all applicable requirements of the LDO, including all applicable Town specifications and official plans and manuals or documents adopted by the Town?

 

Applicant’s Statement: The plan complies with the applicable requirements of this ordinance.”

 

Staff Observations:

 

§         The sketch plan is generally consistent with the requirements of the LDO, with the exception of the requested modifications.

 

§         Documentation of full compliance with Town requirements will take place at the time of full site plan review. Many of the detailed requirements of the LDO and other regulating documents are not reviewed at the sketch plan phase of review.

 

§         Schools are a permitted use in the R-40 zoning district on sites more than 20 acres in size.

 

 

The following modifications require consideration by Town Council.

 

A.                 Request to remove the following five champion trees located on the site:

 

A1. A 40-inch Willow Oak located on the western portion of the site, in the location of the proposed softball field. The LDO designates this as a tier 1(v) priority for preservation

 

A2. A 42-inch Willow Oak in the location of the proposed parking area, west of the proposed school. The LDO designates this as a tier 1(iv) priority for preservation

 

A3. A 48-inch Willow Oak in the location of the proposed parking area, west of the proposed school. The LDO designates this as a tier 1(iv) priority for preservation

 

A4. A 32-inch Red Oak in the location of the proposed basketball court, west of the proposed school. The LDO designates this as a tier 1(iv) priority for preservation

 

A5. A 33-inch White Oak in the location of the proposed basketball court, west of the proposed school. The LDO designates this as a tier 1(iv) priority for preservation

 

Section 7.2.5(A)(1) provides the purpose behind the Town’s requirements for tree preservation:

 

“It is the intent of the Town Council to preserve trees and other vegetation through buffer (including urban transition buffer), streetscape, and floodplain regulations, and through champion tree preservation requirements, to the extent practical and reasonable. Preserving trees and vegetation on a site should not prevent the reasonable development of a site, given its zoning classification. This section 7.2.5 is designed to recognize unique site conditions and to allow flexibility in meeting the requirements.

 

The Town Council finds that preserving trees and healthy vegetation on a site during development:

 

a) Maintains and enhances the visual character and aesthetic qualities and appearance of the community and preserves community values;

b) Conserves and enhances the value of buildings and land

c) Conserves the natural resources and environmental quality of the Town and its environs;

d) Screens and softens the impact of construction and buildings and balances the scale of buildings;

e) Preserves wildlife habitat, controls surface water runoff, and moderates temperatures; and

f) Conserves water due to increased absorption ability and reduced heat effects.”

 

 

This request should be considered by Town Council pursuant to Section 3.19.1(C)(2) of the LDO, which reads as follows:

 

The Town Council may initiate or approve a minor modification allowed under this section at any time before it takes action on a development application. The Town Council may approve the minor modification only if it finds, after conducting a quasi-judicial hearing, that the modification advances the goals and purposes of this Ordinance and either results in less visual impact or more effective environmental or open space preservation, or relieves practical difficulties in developing a site. In determining if "practical difficulty" exists, the factors set forth in Section 3.20.5, "Approval Criteria" (for Variances) shall be considered. In granting a minor modification allowed under this section, the Town Council may require conditions that will secure substantially the objectives of the standard that is modified and that will substantially mitigate any potential adverse impact on the environment or on adjacent properties, including but not limited to additional landscaping or buffering.

 

Applicant’s Statement: The proposed use is institutional, public middle school, and by nature requires standard program elements such as fire and public safety requirements, ingress/egress requirements, NCDOT MSTA onsite stacking requirements, town code parking requirements, facility size requirements to accommodate the required student population, outdoor recreation requirements, service area requirements, program element adjacency and separation requirements, and accessibility requirements. Other factors affecting the ability to preserve the identified trees to be removed are code required buffers, environmental buffers, existing wetlands, steep topography, poor soils and shallow rock.

 

All factors listed above have been taken into consideration to site the proposed site elements in a configuration to effectively reduce the amount of grading, reduce the amount and height of retaining walls and to minimize the disturbance to existing wetlands. Achieving these items will compact the development footprint, reduces the amount, height and need for costly retaining walls, considers the reduction of potential rock removal and construction schedule to open the school on time. Staff has asked the design team to consider saving the 40” Willow Oak in the middle of the proposed softball field. This cannot be achieved due to the softball field being a middle school program element with adjacency requirements to the building. The proposed softball field is located on the ridge and flatter portion of the site to reduce the amount of retaining walls and impact to steep slopes. The 42” and 48” Willow Oaks are directly in the middle of the required parent stacking/queuing drive and code required parking. These trees have not been asked to be saved by staff. Staff has asked the design team to consider saving the 32” Red Oak and 33” White Oak near the proposed basketball court. These two trees, if saved, would be 9 feet above the proposed finished floor elevation of the building. A retaining wall would be required the entire length around the critical root zone of both trees. The trees would then be on an elevated constructed island with their natural microclimate and drainage removed. The basketball court would need to be relocated affecting the required program elements of adjacency, accessibility and if relocated could require the addition of costly and extensive retaining walls.

 

We respectfully ask Town Council to approve the request to remove the 5 identified champion trees to provide a new public middle school to serve the entire community.”

 

Staff Observations:

 

§         The minor modification request for the removal of the five champion trees requires council action as the applicant did not successfully demonstrate compliance with the approval criteria of section 7.2.5(D) of the LDO regarding administrative removal of champion trees.

 

§         Town staff encouraged the applicant to save a 33-inch oak tree just west of the bus access drive, which was originally proposed for removal. The applicant redesigned the site and is now proposing to save the tree (impact less than 25% of the critical root zone).

 

§         Each of the champion trees proposed for removal is a tier 1 tree, either due to the size of the tree (greater than 40-inches DBH), or being located in a grouping (defined by overlapping critical root zones). The LDO assigns a higher priority for preservation for tier 1 champion trees.

 

§         Four of the five champion trees requested for removal are located in two separate groupings. Champion trees A2 and A3, both Willow Oaks, are located in close proximity to each other near the proposed parking area, approximately 200 feet west of the school. The other pair, A4 and A5, a Red Oak and a White Oak, are located near the proposed basketball court just west of the school.

 

§         The applicant is required to provide replacement trees for the removed champion trees such that the total caliper inches of trees planted is no less than the caliper inches of the trees removed. The five champion trees that the applicant proposes to remove include a total of 195 caliper inches. If the requested modification is granted, a replacement planting plan would be required along with the full site plan submittal.

 

§         The removal of the five champion trees could be considered to advance the goals and purposes of section 1.3.6 of the LDO, which lists the adequate and safe provision of schools as a general purpose of the Ordinance, if the applicant can demonstrate that the removal of the trees is necessary to meet the programmatic needs of the school.

 

 

2.      Does the plan adequately protect other property, or residential uses located on the same property, from the potential adverse effects of the proposed development?

 

Applicant’s Statement: The plan proposes a middle school in the Town of Cary R-40 zoning district.  This is a permitted use in this district.  Considerations given for protecting the neighboring properties are; to maintain the existing buffers along the perimeter of the site.  These buffers consist of mature vegetation and will give instant screening from the school to the adjacent properties.  The parent queue traffic is going to be controlled on-site.  Approximately 3,150-lf of car stacking is provided on-site for drop off and pick up operations.  This should help alleviate any traffic concerns on Green Level Church Road.  Parents will be directed to a proposed northern public road which will keep parents out of the existing residential subdivision to the east.  Bus and service vehicles will be limited to Winding Pine Trail.  Athletic fields are located on the opposite side of the site from neighboring residential lots.  Lastly, the service area with dumpsters will be completely enclosed by a masonry enclosure with an opaque gate so it is completely screened from off-site views.

 

Staff Observations:

 

§         The proposed school use is a permitted use, however the LDO requires Town Council consideration due to the size of the proposed building (being larger than 100,000 square feet of floor area).

 

§         The sketch site plan provides the required 40-foot type-A landscape buffer along the interior property lines of the site. The existing vegetation will be preserved in these buffers, and supplemented as necessary to achieve a type-A planting standard.

 

§         The majority of the site abuts property that is either vacant or large-lot residential property, including the entire northern and western property lines, which may reduce the likelihood of any potential impacts to those properties.

 

§         As stated by the applicant, the plan locates the outdoor recreational areas on the north and west side of the site, away from the property line shared with Waterford Estates, the adjacent residential subdivision.

 

§         The drive aisle on the east side of the proposed school is proposed as a fire lane with access restricted by a gate. Queuing lanes and drive aisles for general traffic circulation or bus traffic are located on the north, west and south sides of the proposed building, providing greater separation between that traffic and the adjacent Waterford Estates subdivision.

 

§         There are no other uses proposed for the property, and the existing residential dwellings will be removed from the site prior to construction of the school.

 

3.      Does the plan provide harmony and unity with the development of nearby properties?

 

Applicant’s Statement: The new middle school will complement the surrounding area.  The building masses are congruent with existing development in the area.  Landscape buffers surrounding the site have been retained with existing vegetation and streetscape plantings will be provided to reduce the visual impact form the road and adjacent properties.

 

Staff Observations:

 

§         The proposed building is a three-story building with 230,000 square feet of floor area.

 

§         The buildings located in proximity to this site are houses located within the Waterford Estates subdivision, as well as houses on property just south of the site. It is very unlikely that a middle school building could be designed that would both meet the functional needs of the school and be of similar scale to the nearby houses.

 

§         While the proposed three-story building, with a floor area of 230,000 square feet, does not have a similar mass to the surrounding houses, the size and height of the proposed school are partially mitigated by the distance of the building to the adjacent property lines and the provision of type-A landscape buffers along the interior property lines.

 

§         The default building height limit for this site is 35 feet. However, the LDO allows an increase to this height limit with a corresponding increase in the required setback. The proposed building includes three-stories with a fourth floor mechanical penthouse. To accommodate the proposed height, the required building setback from the eastern property line (abutting Waterford Estates) would be 41 feet. The sketch site plan depicts the proposed school building as being located 137 feet from the eastern property line.

 

4.      Does the plan provide safe conditions for pedestrians or motorists and prevent a dangerous arrangement of pedestrian and vehicular ways?

 

Applicant’s Statement: A significant amount of sidewalks and pedestrian plazas are proposed to provide pathways to and from the parking areas and right of way to the school building.   Pedestrians can safely move about the campus because of these factors with limited pedestrian and vehicular conflicts.

 

Staff Observations:

 

§         The proposed plan separates bus and automotive traffic.

 

§         The plan proposes numerous sidewalks from the vehicular uses areas to the proposed building, as well as sidewalks from the adjacent public streets to allow pedestrian traffic safe access to the school building. 

 

5.      Does the plan provide safe ingress and egress for emergency services to the site?

 

Applicant’s Statement: The plan provides safe and direct ingress and egress routes for emergency services.  A significant amount of fire lane striping is proposed to restrict parking and allow a clear travel lane for emergency vehicles.  In addition a fire lane has been designed to get adequate fire coverage around the entire building.

 

Staff Observations:

 

§         The Town of Cary Fire and Police Departments have been made aware of the proposed project. At this time, they have not expressed any concerns regarding the proposed improvements shown on this plan, including the proposal for an access restricted fire lane on the east side of the school.

 

6.      Does the plan provide mitigation for traffic congestion impacts reasonably expected to be generated by the project?

 

Applicant’s Statement: A Traffic Impact Analysis was conducted.  The Traffic Impact Analysis is currently in review by NCDOT and the Town of Cary.  Once the review is completed and all parties are in agreement on the proposed improvements, those improvements will be “committed” and become required improvements as part of approval for the proposed middle school. 

 

In addition, committed improvements at this time are: the proposed northern public access road, Alston Ridge Elementary entrance drive modifications and intersection improvements at Cartecay Drive. In addition to the off-site improvements, approximately 3,150 linear feet of vehicle queueing is provided on-site to avoid parents queuing on the new proposed northern public road.  Only bus and service vehicles will access the site from Winding Pines Trail.

 

Staff Observations:

 

§         The plan proposes to route the school bus traffic along Winding Pine Trail, through the existing Waterford Estates subdivision.  Wake County Public School System has agreed to investigate the existing pavement structure on Winding Pine Trail and will reconstruct the roadway if the additional bus traffic loading warrants a thicker pavement structure.

 

§         Access to the site for parents, school staff and visitors is proposed to be restricted to the northern street, which would be constructed to collector street standards.

 

§         The bus parking and loading area is physically separated from the general vehicular circulation for the rest of the school, with the only connection being a gated fire lane.

 

§         A Traffic Impact Analysis was performed by SEPI Engineering & Construction has been reviewed by Town staff and NCDOT.  The report analyzed 8 intersections and suggests improvements at 3 intersections consisting of the following:

 

1.      Green Level Church Road at Kit Creek Road

§         Construct second northbound travel lane on Green Level Church Road (that becomes right turn lane at intersection) between Kit Creek Road and Cartecay Drive. 

§         Construct ‘pork chop’ island to create northbound channelized right turn.

§         Modify traffic signal.

 

2.      Green Level Church Road at Cartecay Drive

§         Restripe existing Green Level Church Road northbound pavement to add second through lane. 

§         Extend the existing northbound left turn lane to provide 500 feet of storage.

§         Rebuild existing Alston Ridge Elementary School Driveway as the extension of Cartecay Drive to provide a single lane ingress and a dual lane egress on Cartecay Drive at Green Level Church Road.  The eastbound approach would have a shared left-thru lane and exclusive right turn. 

§         Construct additional approach lane on Cartecay Drive westbound. The westbound approach would have a shared thru-left lane and an exclusive right turn.

§         Install new traffic signal at the intersection.

 

3.      Green Level Church Road at O’Kelly Chapel Road

§         Construct second northbound thru lane on Green Level Church Road between Rosepine Drive and O’Kelly Chapel Road.

§         Modify traffic signal.

 

NCDOT has reviewed the above items and has indicated they are acceptable.  These improvements are noted as conditions on the sketch plan cover sheet.

             

APPROVAL CRITERIA AND SUGGESTED COUNCIL MOTIONS

 

Staff has prepared a concise summary of approval criteria, as well as provided suggested conditions as follows:

 

SUMMARY OF APPROVAL CRITERIA for Modification Requests A1- A5

 

1.                                                        Does the removal or adverse impact to more than 25% of the critical root zone of the five champion trees advance the goals and purposes of the Ordinance?

 

2.                                                        Does the removal or adverse impact to more than 25% of the critical root zone of the five champion trees result in less visual impact or more effective environmental or open space preservation or relieve practical difficulties in developing the site?

 

TEST SATISFIED? __ YES __ NO

 

SUMMARY OF Site PLAN APPROVAL CRITERIA

 

1.      Does the plan comply with all applicable requirements of the LDO, including all applicable Town specifications and official plans and manuals or documents adopted by the Town?

 

TEST SATISFIED? __ YES __ NO

 

2.      Does the plan adequately protect other property, or residential uses located on the same property, from the potential adverse effects of the proposed development?

 

TEST SATISFIED? __ YES __ NO

 

3.      Does the plan provide harmony and unity with the development of nearby properties?

 

TEST SATISFIED? __ YES __ NO

 

4.      Does the plan provide safe conditions for pedestrians or motorists and prevent a dangerous arrangement of pedestrian and vehicular ways?

 

TEST SATISFIED? __ YES __ NO

 

5.      Does the plan provide safe ingress and egress for emergency services to the site?

 

TEST SATISFIED? __ YES __ NO

 

6.      Does the plan provide mitigation for traffic congestion impacts reasonably expected to be generated by the project?

 

TEST SATISFIED? __ YES __ NO

 

recommended conditions FOR Site PLAN approval

 

1.      The applicant must satisfactorily address all remaining Development Review Committee comments.