Clayton opts for development over Natural Heritage Area

Environmental, Neuse River Watershed, Sound Rivers, Stormwater Issues, Stormwater Runoff, Water Quality

Posted on May 23rd, 2024

On Tuesday night, Clayton City Council voted to rezone 300 acres of land along the Neuse River to make way for the Carolina Overlook development.

“This was a disappointing and a bad decision,” said Neuse Riverkeeper Samantha Krop. “There were over 40 people in the room who were opposed to the development, most of them neighbors. In one illustrative moment, the council had everyone opposed to the rezoning stand up, and it was almost the whole room.”

Samantha called the approval to rezone a “missed opportunity.”

“The developer could have done more to protect water quality and has the ability to use more creative conditions that go beyond just doing the base requirement,” she said. “The main thing here is that these cities — like Clayton, like Durham — have comprehensive plans, where they got together and got community input and mapped out how they want their cities to look, what’s important to preserve, but these plans have no teeth.”

Samantha said the 300 acres of the Carolina Overlook development has numerous stream crossings and is in the middle of Clayton’s only mapped Natural Heritage Area, a designation given by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program for sites (terrestrial or aquatic) of special biodiversity significance due to the presence of rare species, unique natural communities, important animal assemblages or other ecological features.

“This development will directly undermine at least four goals in Clayton’s comprehensive plan,” Samantha said. “There’s room for change but because it’s just a visioning document, without the council to uphold it, it’s never going to become an actuality.”

Samantha said she will be monitoring the site as construction proceeds, and already has a jumpstart on water-quality date, as one of Sound Rivers’ existing Swim Guide sites is located there.

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