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Cary Family Making The Most In The Name Of Progress

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CARY, N.C. — Faced with incredible growth, the town of Cary has gained a reputation for putting tight restrictions on development. But, so far, the town has put out the welcome mat for a plan to build one of the southeast's largest retirement communities.

With the Sears family's century-old farmhouse set to be demolished by the widening of Davis Drive, the family has tried to make the best of the situation.

"If we had our way, we'd prefer to leave it just like it is the rest of our days," said owner John Sears.

Since that will not happen, the Sears family plans to turn the rolling hills of their 76-acre tobacco farm into an all-purpose retirement community. The Sears' son, Bill, has designed the project complete with 82 single-family homes, 23 condos, 232 apartments and skilled nursing facility.

The homes would complement a five-acre lake, a hotel, specialty retail shops, plus a public conservatory filled with plants native to North Carolina.

"They don't have to go anywhere in order to have all the things that make them healthier, make them live longer and make them more enthusiastic about the things that they're doing," he said.

So far, the only organized protest to the project has come from neighbors in nearby subdivisions like Preston Forest. They have raised concerns about traffic, stormwater runoff and the elevation of the apartment buildings.

The Sears family plans to float a balloon five stories high to test the line of sight. They contend the lake will handle most of the runoff. They are also dealing with traffic issues that may arise.

"A retirement community as compared to a normal residential community is only 20 percent traffic-wise," said traffic engineer Dick Moore.

The Sears family said 60 percent of their farm would remain open space. Plus, 60 percent of the parking would be covered or underground. The plan goes to Cary's planning and zoning board in February.


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