Collins Ridge preparing for residential construction within two years

Land clearance for the proposed 1,038-unit Collins Ridge development in Hillsborough is expected to begin soon. It will take approximately a year and a half for the land to get cleared, along with roads to be cut and sewer and water lines to be installed, before residential development can begin. In a recent joint meeting with the Town of Hillsborough Commissioners and Orange County Commissioners, a timetable of 18 months was discussed as when residential construction could potentially begin. 

The stage is being set for Collins Ridge, a large new development in Hillsborough, to begin  residential construction by the end of the decade. That’s the word from Hillsborough town management as they recently provided an update on the proposed 1,038-unit neighborhood to local elected officials. 

“I think everybody is anxiously anticipating the start of construction at Collins Ridge,” Margaret Hauth, Hillsborough’s Assistant Town Manager and Planning Director, said at a late February joint meeting of the Town of Hillsborough Commissioners and the Orange County Commissioners. 

The initial clearing of land for infrastructure development within the approximately 125-acre tract is scheduled to begin in the coming weeks, with vertical construction of new homes beginning in late 2019 and early 2020.

“They haven’t quite started (moving dirt) yet,” Hauth said. “But probably the minute when it dries out well, they’re probably gonna start moving dirt. But there’s a lot of dirt to move. And they’ve got roads to build, and water and sewer lines to put in, and stormwater to deal with, before they ever think about going vertical. So 18 months before there’s vertical construction.”

“So we’re looking at two years, roughly, you’d start seeing Certificates of Occupancy, and people moving in. An an estimate?” Orange County Commissioner Chair Mark Dorosin asked. 

“Yes, based on today,” Hauth replied. “That’s a ballpark. It’s all a matter of when do you say they’ve start building a house. To me, it’s when the foundations start to go in, and the walls start to go up. I expect that in 18 months.”

The Town of Hillsborough approved water and sewer extension contracts, annexation, zoning and a master plan by the applicant, Caruso Homes of Crofton, Maryland, for the proposed Collins Ridge project by a 3-2 vote on March 14, 2016. 

According to the Town’s official website, the initial master plan for the Collins Ridge application requested 100 single-family detached houses, 400 townhouses (mixed two-story and three-story) and 650 apartment units (mixed senior and market rate). The application has been modified to contain 950 dwellings of different types and market targets (houses, townhouses and apartments) and 88 affordable rental units, reducing the maximum total dwelling units count to 1,038. This is a sizable infusion of new residential housing in Hillsborough, as Hauth indicated that Hillsborough is currently building approximately 12 new houses a month.

Over the past couple years, Caruso Homes has proceeded with formal design of the project, in preparation to submit construction drawings for the primary site infrastructure (roads, water and sewer), along with Special use permit applications to seek development approval for specific sites. The master plan is valid for five years.

Hauth informed the elected officials that the developers have received an erosion control permit to begin some of the initial grading.

“The developers are working their way through the Town of Hillsborough’s processes on construction drawing approval for a small portion of the first phase,” Hauth said. “They have understood the direction and suggestions given by the Orange County Erosion Control staff, that maybe they want to not move the dirt around quite so much, or as many times as might be necessary on such a challenging site.”

The first phase Special use permit has been approved as well. According to the Town of Hillsborough’s website, Caruso Homes filed a special use permit application for approximately 100 acres of the Collins Ridge project property to create phase one. This area is north of I-85 and south of the overhead electrical lines. The application requests approval for 674 dwellings: 326 apartments, 152 townhouses, and 196 single family detached houses. 

The Collins Ridge application also includes a community center for the use of project residents and a perimeter walking trail to be dedicated to Hillsborough for public access. This dwelling unit mix and other requested components also creates a modification to some of the master plan components, so this was processed as a master plan amendment and special use permit.

County Commissioner Penny Rich inquired as to how the Collins Ridge construction will affect traffic pressure along Churton Street, which is already taxed as the primary north-south artery in and out of downtown Hillsborough.

There are long-term plans by the North Carolina Department of Transportation to widen Churton Street along the stretch connecting from I-40 to I-85, along with upgrades to the current intersection at I-85 and Churton Street (Exit 164) approaching downtown. But that work is not expected to be completed until sometime between 2024 and 2026.

“Are they going to stop traffic to let trucks in and out? Are they going to work it early in the morning, or avoid rush hour kind of thing?” Rich asked. 

“I believe they actually intend to pretty well balance the site, and keep the dirt onsite,” Hauth replied. “So there shouldn’t be a lot of moving in and out until they start moving in and out building materials (in 2019). And hopefully by then, they’ll have a second point of access.”

There is a requirement that Collins Ridge will have a secondary exit aside of the anticipated Collins Ridge Road, which would cut through a segment of what is now the Daniel Boone Village property. The applicant also has an acquisition contract on 58 acres of the Daniel Boone Village property, which is expected to close no later than April, according to the Town of Hillsborough's website. 

That secondary exit would be the proposed extension of Orange Grove Road, crossing Churton Street and running through the Collins Ridge neighborhood to connect along U.S. Highway 70, to the immediate northeast of the development. 

Although the NCDOT proposes that the Orange Grove Road/U.S. Highway 70 could be built as soon as 2023, that timetable could move up if the developer is motivated to help get it completed sooner. The proposed site access within Collins Ridge from the Orange Grove extension will be paid for by the developer. 

“They’re not required to have it that early,” Hauth said when asked if Caruso Homes must have the extension completed by the start of vertical construction in 2019-2020. “But the developer’s intent aligns with our interest. They desperately want their second point of access sooner, not later.” 

A nearby ballfield, which is on land owned by the Town of Hillsborough, is the location of a future train station.  

“They will continue playing there until we are ready to move forward with the train station,” Hauth added.