Chesterfield Village is a sleepy neighborhood north of Highway 401, with a rural feel that is not quite Raleigh, not quite Wake Forest. Many of the hundred or so properties sit on a whole acre of land. The streets are narrow and deteriorating, with no sidewalks; neighbors slow down or yield to one another as they drive by.
Although the residents of Chesterfield Village live in a no-man's land outside the corporate boundaries of both Raleigh and Wake Forest, their quality of life could be hurt by decisions made by both cities—decisions in which they may have no say-so.
The city plans to rezone the densely wooded 80 acres, sandwiched between Chesterfield Village and Forestville Road, for high-density development. That parcel between Hartham Park Avenue and Lillie Liles Road is owned by the Wake County Board of Education. The school system had intended to build Rolesville High School there in 2008, but later changed its mind.
Raleigh City Council will hold a public hearing on the rezoning on Jan. 6.
Chesterfield Village residents' major concern is that Canyon Drive, a proposed connector street directly linking Taylors Ridge Road in their neighborhood to the new development, would add 500 daily car trips to the small streets. This influx of traffic is in addition to the heavy traffic that would route through Greenville Loop Road in Chesterfield Village to the adjacent Stonegate neighborhood located within the town of Wake Forest.
A traffic study by Stonegate's developer estimates that 24 percent of Stonegate traffic, or 1,200 extra trips a day, will funnel through Chesterfield when Greenville Loop opens. The combination of the two developments creates a nearly three-fold increase to the 600 daily car trips taken in Chesterfield now.
"This is the bigger story of what [Raleigh and Wake Forest] are doing and will do to us in this small, older community in the name of a connector road," says Chesterfield resident Larry Matthews. "These are two municipalities that I don't have a vote in, and don't pay taxes to. We will be prisoners in our own yards if they open up this street."
In November, the Raleigh Planning Commission recommended that City Council allow the rezoning. Concerned county residents spoke against it at a Dec. 2 Council hearing, citing their concerns about traffic and the potential for the flooding of Tom's Creek, which could occur when the wooded area around the future Canyon Drive is cleared. They also worry that storm water runoff from the Highland Creek neighborhood south of the property will no longer be absorbed once the land is deforested.
"When it storms, the trees are literally drowning," Don Carrick told Council members. Kerig is a Chesterfield resident whose property sits directly across from where the Canyon Drive connector street will empty out onto Taylor's Ridge.
Earlier this month Michael Birch, an attorney for Morningstar Law Group working on behalf of the developer, told city and county residents the developer has agreed to build three residential units per acre on the land, instead of the four originally proposed.
In a vote at the Forestville Citizen's Advisory Council meeting Dec. 16, Raleigh citizens voted for the development 8 to 1. But in an unofficial poll of Wake County residents who attended the CAC meeting, 71 people voted against the proposal, and none voted for it.
Several Chesterfield residents have signed a formal protest petition opposing the rezoning request. Protest petitions legally can be signed by people who live within a 100-foot buffer zone of a proposed development. The Chesterfield petition has been deemed valid by the city, so approval of this zoning case would require a supermajority of the Council to vote in favor of it. If the rezoning is approved, residents could appeal the decision in court.
The city cannot legally prohibit the Canyon Drive extension during rezoning. Under Raleigh's Unified Development Ordinance, the city only allows such design adjustments at t the subdivision stage of the project, which is administrative and not generally open to public input.
Matthews says an attorney working on behalf of Chesterfield residents advised them to approach the County Commissioner for District 1, newly elected Sig Hutchinson, to ask him to help communicate their concerns to city leaders.
"Our only official voice is for [Hutchinson] to go to the City Council and say 'Stop, you're not doing this to our neighborhood,'" Matthews said. "But depending on where his political opinion and perspective on growth is, he could say, 'Well, I agree with the city; they should have the connector street.'"
This article appeared in print with the headline "Squeeze play"