Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Zero lot line homes bring considerable danger

Zero lot line homes have gained in popularity in the last couple of years, but the alleged benefits of close living brings a significant increase in the level of danger inherent in the property design. The concept has gained in popularity with home owners that don't have time or don't want to maintain a large yard. The method also provides builders with yet another way to maximize profit and pack more homes onto a given piece of property during development.

Most zero lot line sites permit a home to have one side on the property line and often are built almost as large as the lot. Sometimes two adjacent homes will be built with a firewall between them. Either way there is built in risk that comes with the close proximity of homes built with this construction method.

On two separate occasions, multiple homes have been destroyed or greatly damaged in the same neighborhood in Rolesville, NC, as a direct result of having been built so close together. Early in 2007 and again in August, 2007, two homes were completely destroyed because the intense fire in one caused the other to catch fire and burn to the ground. In both cases additional houses close to the ones that were burned had substantial damage as a direct result of being so close to the houses that were destroyed.

In many cases the homes are so close together and the fires are so intense that firefighters are unable to get close enough to put out the primary fire. And when such a fire breaks out there is almost always significant collateral damage for the homeowners on either side. Adjacent homes will likely have siding melted or burned off the end next to the main fire and will often have further damage requiring major repairs.

In the Town of Apex, you can voice your opinion to help reduce or ban zero-lot-line building techniques by contacting your local Planning Board or Town Council members and telling them to not allow this form of construction. If located elsewhere look up your local community's website and search for Town Council or Planning Board.
News 14 Carolina
August 22, 2007
Ann Forte

ROLESVILLE, N.C. -- Three families are homeless after a fire ripped through their Rolesville homes Tuesday evening. The blaze happened on Ashbrittle Drive in the Village of Rolesville development.

"I was petrified. It was right across the street," recalled neighbor Jeanette Whalen.

Whalen said she heard a popping sound and looked out her window to see her neighbors' homes engulfed in flames.

"Our neighbor was trying to put it out with the hose and trying to get the dogs out," Whalen explained.

The fire spared Whalen's home, but the heat from it caused her siding to buckle. Fire officials believe the fire could have started in the garage of one of the homes that is a complete loss, then it spread to one next door. A third home sustained significant damage.

“The fire got ahead of us. When we got here, it was fully involved, and it's hard to put one out like that," said Rolesville Fire Chief Rodney Privette.

No one was injured, but at least one pet dog was killed in the blaze.

This is the second such fire in the same neighborhood this summer. In June, a propane tank spontaneously combusted. That fire destroyed two homes.

"Ever since we had the fire on the next block, it's been a concern to all of us,” Whalen said, “and I think everyone's been really careful with flammables and stuff because the houses are frankly very close."

Fire investigators will be back on the scene Wednesday to try to determine what sparked the fire.

A few firefighters did get sick from the heat while battling the blaze, but all are said to be doing fine. Original story...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Three-car accident at Apex intersection with no signal

Three cars collided - 10 people injured. Yet another accident takes it's toll at the intersection of Apex's Peakway and Old Raleigh Road. Town police closed down the roads for several hours in all directions due to severity of the accident until it could all be unraveled. All 10 people were taken to an area hospital for evaluation and treatment but only two were deemed to have "significant" injuries.

The intersection is one of those along the Apex Peakway where a stoplight was needed at the outset when the road was opened to public use a few years ago. Town planners say a light will be needed "someday" and then only when the State of North Carolina says one is needed and after surveys show enough cars travel the two roads to justify the cost. No matter that hundreds of cars travel these roads each day and that the number of accident continues to escalate.

This sort of comment is frequently made by Apex Town Officials when citizens say stoplights are needed at busy intersections or that left turn signals need to be added at the Town's many overloaded crossroads. When asked about a stoplight for the intersection where this latest accident occurred, the Town Manager only a few days before this very accident stated "We've already spent more money than we should on DOT's house. We cannot continue to do it." The official response from Town representatives often indicates that adding traffic lights and improving safety is not a high priority in Town business, or the State of North Carolina's.

Town Planners and Board of Commissioners are quick to jump on and approve new development projects, all in the name of gleaning increased tax revenues, but when it comes to building enough roads and insuring there are adequate traffic signals and controls, the common practice is to get a road built, then worry about adequate traffic control and safety later after many accidents have taken place. Even later when traffic signals are added, needed left turn signals are frequently left out, claiming "the town shouldn't have to pay for stoplights and controls when it's the State's responsibility."

Perhaps a clean slate of Commissioners and Town Planners may be needed to ensure that necessary infrastructure is added to keep up with the pace of growth. The existing groups seem to be behind the times and not able to adequately plan for recent phenomenal growth or even be up to the task of keeping existing streets in safe condition.

The following report was issued August 13, 2007, about the most recent accident within the Town's borders...
News and Observer
August 13, 2007
Staff Reports

Three-car accident injures 10 in Apex

APEX - An intersection was closed for more than 2 1/2 hours after a three-car collision sent 10 people to the hospital.

Police said that about 6:20 p.m., a Ford Expedition, a Toyota Matrix and a Chevrolet Venture collided at the intersection of Old Raleigh Road and Apex Peakway.

Authorities shut down the intersection until shortly before 9 p.m.

Of the 10 taken to the hospital, police said that two were seriously injured.

Details of the accident and the names of the drivers and injured were not available Sunday.

Apex police said they plan to file charges against one of the drivers. Original report...

Monday, August 6, 2007

Villages of Apex takes off

Development of the last remaining large parcel of land in Apex is about to get under way. A 170 acre parcel stretches from across the street from the Town Hall on Hunter Street to NC 64 north of town. Town Planners and the Board of Commissioners had previously reviewed and approved the expansion under two major plans known as "trackside north" and "trackside south".

Under the new name "Villages of Apex", the combined project is said to include plans for 1,300 condos, townhouses and homes, a private elementary school, a 13-acre park, 35 miles of walkways, 220,000 square feet retail shops and 80,000 square feet of office space. Work will probably begin immediately since the projects had been approved by the town and may take five or more years to complete.

The development is being described as an extension of the existing downtown area and that it bring more new businesses to the central part of town. It is not clear if the development will complement newly established businesses in the "historic downtown district" or if it will slowly drain businesses away as often happens with new developments.

Little has been said about how the significant surge in traffic will be handled by town planners. Recent projects all around town have brought a huge increase in daily commuter traffic and existing streets are already clogged much of the day from large numbers of cars passing through town along with a significant increase of construction and commercial traffic. Eighteen wheeler flatbed trucks, cargo haulers, gasoline tankers, concrete carriers, commercial dump trucks with trailer carrying road construction equipment constantly pass through the older parts of town making daily trips to construction sites and problems will get even worse with the new Villages of Apex project.

Town Planners consistently claim that new developments will not add significantly to traffic volume and include a comment in most project review reports on the Town's website that each project will bring only small increases in traffic and existing infrastructure will adequately handle the growth. Unfortunately the small increases have now accumulated to a point where driveways in much of the area are blocked for hours each day as commuters travel to and from outlying areas of employment. Years ago part of the town was declared a "historic district" in order to preserve the "small town look and feel" but neglect of traffic planning and control has turned most of the area into the equivalent of an interstate during work hours each day.

A new "Peakway" road was started several years ago by the town but limited construction has been done and the town has built only one side of segments of the parkway and the work has resulted in a hodgepodge of disconnected sections that don't provide a good route for commuters to use. If things continue as with prior developments, the Town will wait until after the new project is well under way to avoid investing in adequate roads to get ahead of problems before traffic has gotten too bad and hoping to force builders to provide the roads or cover cost of additions.

As noted in the following report, Apex has been experiencing a growth spurt, jumping from 7,257 residents in 1990 to 26,311 last year. Its population is predicted to climb to 31,430 by 2011.
News & Observer
August 2, 2007
Sue Stock, Staff Writer

One more big development for Apex

The largest remaining tract of undeveloped land in Apex won't remain that way much longer.

Construction could begin as early as this month on 170 acres in northeast Apex that connects the downtown area with U.S. 64.

Plans for the Villages of Apex, include 1,300 condos, townhouses and homes, a private elementary school, a 13-acre park, 35 miles of walkways, 220,000 square feet retail shops and 80,000 square feet of office space.

"It is the last project of that scope that will be possible in our town," Mayor Keith Weatherly said.

But the size of the project is raising some concerns about traffic, stress on Apex's already strained school system and cannibalization of the town's historic downtown, which has been experiencing a revitalization of its own.

Beverly and Bob Fuller own Out of the Kiln, an art studio and craft gallery on downtown's main drag, Salem Street. They also opened a gift shop, Traditions on Salem, next door in June.

"We just opened up a second store, so we weren't real, real worried about business dropping," Beverly Fuller said. "I think the thing is that people aren't afraid of the growth if it's done right. But have we yet to see it done right? I don't know."

Apex has been experiencing a growth spurt, jumping from 7,257 residents in 1990 to 26,311 last year. Its population is predicted to climb to 31,430 by 2011.

Retailers have been following the boom, with the addition of Beaver Creek Commons off U.S. 64 and the still-under-development Beaver Creek Crossings nearby. Together, the centers encompass more than 1 million square feet of retail space.

And there is more demand that makes the Villages of Apex viable, said developer Mike Howington.

Howington is half of Apex First Development LLC, and also owner of Apex Electric. His business partner is a friend and Maryland developer named Warren Halle. Together they plan to invest at least $327 million in the project.

Already, retailers are trying to become a part of the project, said Calvin Ramsey of Coldwell Banker Advantage, a Raleigh-based company helping to lease the space.

"We haven't even marketed this thing yet, and we've just been inundated with calls about this thing," he said. "We're already being courted by several major upscale grocery stores."

Work on the Villages of Apex will begin this month or in early September, Howington said. The entire project could be built in as little as five years.

"It's going to change the whole area," Howington said. "We're actually building a new city."

Weatherly, Apex's mayor, said town planners are doing what they can to encourage developers to include new schools and infrastructure with their plans as Apex grows.

The town is planning road improvements, including the extension of Apex Peakway and a bridge over the CSX railroad tracks to help ease traffic, he said.

"We can't force the school district to acquire property, but certainly we're facilitating the discussion," Weatherly said. "We really intend to keep our growth rate at 3 to 4 percent [annually] on average."

Staff writer Sue Stock can be reached at 829-4649 or

Original article...
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