A project slated to become Morrisville's biggest mixed-use development was approved by the town's board Monday night. Anticipated to bring in an estimated $800,000 in tax revenue, Park West Village is hailed by supporters as the town's answer to Raleigh shopping draws such as North Hills and Cameron Village. But many residents in Morrisville and nearby Cary fought its approval, saying the 700,000-square-foot development will exacerbate traffic and other problems.
The proposal by Casto Lifestyle Properties and 1st Carolina Properties passed the town board 5-2, with board members Linda Lyons and Pete Martin voting against.
The plan includes a 3,000-seat movie theater, up to 350 apartments, a five-story hotel, 50,000 square feet of office space and an 180,000-square-foot big-box store with grocery.
Town engineers anticipate it will generate more than 20,000 additional car trips per day through the already congested intersection of N.C. Highway 54 and Cary Parkway, where it will occupy the 95-acre site of the old Bristol-Myers Squibb plant. While the proposal does call for significant road improvements to that intersection, opponents say they won't help enough.
"I am deeply disappointed," said Jackie Holcombe, a former commissioner who led the protest.
About 800 Morrisville and Cary residents signed a petition asking the commissioners to vote against the project, citing safety, water usage and other issues. Protesters also packed public hearings in October and November, but Holcombe says the board and the mayor never addressed the issues they raised. "You have to wonder why—and is the process broken?"
Park West will lie at Cary's doorstep, and only a mile and a half from the intersection of Davis Drive and High House Road, where another controversial mixed-use development was approved by Cary's Town Council last year. Outraged residents formed DavisandHighHouse.org to oppose it, and a handful filed suit to overturn the decision.
Members of DHH have also organized citizens to oppose Park West. Holcombe is not a member of DHH's steering committee, but she says she supports their efforts.
The project also has its supporters, though: Of the more than 200 people who showed up at Morrisville Town Hall Monday night, about two-thirds of them were wearing green T-shirts printed with "Vote yes Park West."
This unprecedented development is likely to send ripples through Morrisville's town politics. Holcombe left the board in 2006 for health reasons after serving less than a year. But she says the Park West vote has inspired her to consider another run in 2009. "Oh, absolutely," she said.