The Garner Town Council approved a rezoning request that will allow development of a Drury Inn hotel, the first step to prepare land for development on the three undeveloped corners of U.S. 70 and Jones Sausage/White Oak Road.
The town also scheduled an Oct. 7 public hearing to allow changes to regulations on signage and to raise allowable building height at the site to 85 feet.
“It’s huge. It’s something we’ve been anticipating, it’s a long time coming,” said Mayor Ronnie Williams, who called the potential seven-story hotel a “red letter day” and a “good addition to Garner.”
In 2004, the hotel’s development corporation bought about half of a nearly-25 acre tract bordered by Jones Sausage Road, U.S. 70, I-40 and railroad tracks to the north. Sherman Yeargan owns the rest of that land.
Core Properties has been planning commercial projects on all three undeveloped quadrants of the intersection. White Oak Crossing shopping center is on the fourth. Most of that land is owned by Yeargan. The total planned investment has been pegged in the $70-80 million range, according to Garner economic development director Tony Beasley.
Beasley said the hotel will be a huge boost to the town, from tax base to marketing appeal to businesses looking to locate to nearby industrial sites as well as ones already there.
“The fact that the hotel is willing to commit to a seven-story motel is a great thing, because that will start to give us a skyline presence coming in from Johnston County,” Beasley said. “(Companies like) Butterball and Pergo, they all lease apartments instead of motels, since we have no motels in that area.”
Town planning director Brad Bass said the town expects to receive site plans on the tracts in the near future. Core president and owner Richard Barta said work on the infrastructure would likely be timed with the start of the town’s road project on U.S. 70 in the area.
“We need to and will time our efforts with roadway construction, and they’re looking at commencement in November,” said Barta, who has also said businesses won’t want to open to road construction. “We need to know that they are underway; it’s expensive to idle or get ahead of them.”
At Tuesday’s council meeting elected officials thanked Barta and Core Properties for their effort in planning the development over the years. The council noted that Core had stuck with the area despite being slowed by the recession. Core, for its part, didn’t receive any objections to the zoning change and didn’t expect any major hurdles at the Oct. 7 public hearing.
“We’ve worked a lot of issues out over an extended period of time with staff and the town,” Barta said. “Usually we try to eliminate those problems ahead of time, and not for any other reason than to be good neighbors. We don’t like to go into contentious situations.”
The northeast quadrant had four zoning distinctions; the town agreed to zone the land as solely Service Business Conditional Use. Sign regulations and height limitations have also changed to allow for a hotel up to 85 feet tall.
In order to begin upgrades to street, water and stormwater infrastructure, Core will still need other permits, including soil erosion approval from Wake County. Those permits are “administrative” permits, Bass said, presenting little difficulty and low fees. Site plans and building designs have not been presented.
The planed road improvement project at the confluence of I-40, U.S. 70 and White Oak Road remains crucial to future investment.
The state Department of Transportation recently signed off on the project; the Federal Highway Administration has received paperwork for final approval. If approved, the town can begin a bidding process. Bass said he hopes construction could start in late 2013 or early 2014.
Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland