Author Archives: jsmith

Voice your concerns about the Central West Focus Area

The Town Council will meet on Tuesday, November 26 at 6 pm to make the final decision on long-range plans for areas surrounding Estes Drive and MLK.

We are asking three things of everyone who wants to ‘have a say’ in the plan for this area before the Council votes on Nov 26th.

•   Sign the petition to the Town Council to support the Citizens’ Alternate Plan by clicking here:   http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/support-the-citizen-plan/sign.html.

Compare the plans.  You can read the Citizens’ Small Area Plan by clicking on it from the Central West Citizens website: http://centralwestcitizens.wordpress.com/data/citizens-small-area-plan-for-central-west/and compare to the Committee’s Proposed Small Area Plan http://centralwestcitizens.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/committee-central-west_draft-small-area-plan_10-11-2013-copy.pdf. The Citizens’ Alternate Plan will add half as much traffic to Estes Drive, already a heavily traveled cross town connecting road that backs up for over a mile at peak times.

•   Write a letter to the Town Council. One email address will get to the entire Council:   mayorandcouncil@townofchapelhill.org Ask the Council to approve a plan that limits new traffic on Estes and commits the Town to doing basic studies before rezoning occurs.  Read the petition to the Planning Board on the Central West website here:  http://centralwestcitizens.wordpress.com/data/petition-to-planning-board/.

•   Attend the Council Public hearing at 6 pm on November 26th at the Southern Human Services Center (located behind the Seymour Center on Homestead Road.  The Town Council voted to put the Central West item on a separate meeting night to ensure seating (unlike the October 21 hearing where there was little room). Your attendance makes a difference.

Candidates’ Forum Video

Please be informed and vote on November 5. Early voting is from October 17 – November 2. See Board of Elections website for more information.

Read what the Chapel Hill Council Candidates wrote in answer to our questions.

Council candidates were asked to provide written answers to questions posed by NRG and Friends of Bolin Creek prior to the October 2nd Candidates Forum.  You can read their responses here:  http://bolincreek.org/blog/news-releases/2013-chapel-hill-council-canditate-responses/

The video of the event will be available soon and we’ll post that link as well.

2013 Candidates Forum – Wed. Oct. 2nd 7-9PM – Extraordinary Ventures, 200 South Elliott Road

Please join us on Wed. Oct. 2nd from  7-9 PM for a community forum for candidates for Chapel Hill Town Council.   The event, titled, “The Future of Chapel Hill and You,” is presented by Friends of Bolin Creek and Neighbors for Responsible Growth, and supported by many neighborhood and community groups.

You and invited experts will pose questions to the Mayor and Candidates for Chapel Hill Town Council around these topics.

  • As density is added Downtown and in the six focus areas, how do we ensure the vitality of neighborhoods?
  • How do we protect our famous green environment as we grow?
  • How do we ensure fiscally and transit sound development?
  • How do we increase affordable rental and workforce housing?

Come join us for an enjoyable and interesting evening.

Join us at 7 pm for refreshments and informal conversation with the candidates.  The program starts at 7:20.

Where have all the bicycles gone?

Apparently the Bicycle Apartments have been rebranded as Lux at Central Park according to an ad in the Sept. 21, 2013 edition of the Daily Tar Heel.  You can check it out on their website http://www.luxchapelhill.com/.

And, as predicted, the Grove Park condominium development next to the Lux at Central Park is rumored to be sold/selling and will become student apartments as well.  hmmm.  Let’s see how many students we can pack into this tight little area that has conveniently been dropped from all the 2020 planning activities.

Bicycle Apartments Groundbreaking – Where were the Mayor and Council?

On May 7th, 2013, Trinitas Ventures held the ground-breaking ceremony for the Bicycle Apartments. Demolition will begin in June. Janet Smith attended on behalf of the neighbors as a good will gesture to show that we wish Trinitas success with this project. They have gone out of their way to address the neighbors’ concerns and have demonstrated a willingness to work with the neighbors to ensure that the project is acceptable. We appreciate their sincere efforts and the changes that were made in response to concerns raised (fencing to prevent cutting through private property, removing balconies on the east side of the building close to Hillsborough Street homes, moving the development 50 feet into the RCD to provide a bigger buffer for neighbors, hiring a local landscaper to provide the buffer planting plan and offering to place plantings on neighbors’ properties if additional screening is needed). These are good guys and likely the best developer we could have to work with.  The Council seemed to want this project to be approved very badly. They were clearly responsive to pressure from the Downtown Partnership, the Chamber of Commerce, and students.  They rebuffed all requests from residents to take a step back and look at the impacts of this huge (608 bed) student development on the larger area.  Clearly they did not wish to lose this opportunity.  So, my question is – where were they at the ground-breaking? I should think they would have been anxious to attach their faces to a project they felt was so important. And, if they weren’t willing to show their support for the project after they approved it, then why were they supporting it so strongly before? The mind boggles.

Mayor Kleinschmidt’s Comments on Zoning

Here’s the link to Mayor Kleinschmidt’s comments on zoning excepted from the  February 27, 2013 Council Meeting:  http://youtu.be/G4KM6DIcnZc

Mayor Kleinschmidt on Zoning and the Bicycle Apartments

On Wednesday, February 27th, Town Council voted to approve a rezoning (7-0 vote) and Special Use Permit (6-1 vote – Ed Harrison dissenting) for the Bicycle Apartments ‘by-design student housing’ development at 602 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.  This development will house 608 students in 194 apartments and have parking for 241 cars.  It is intended as a bikeable, walkable student community in close proximity to town, providing all the amenities that students today are looking for…pool, volleyball, gym, lounge, sponsored social activities, private bed and bathrooms, kitchen and living room. The price, while competitive with other apartments in the area, is nonetheless, not cheap, ranging from $600-$737 per bed. The buildings will range in height from 4- to 6-stories, with the closest 4-story section 147’ to the Historic District.  The construction is all wood, a safety concern for a young population.  A height variance was granted to allow the mean height above grade to exceed the zone by 5 feet.  However, due to the topography of the site, the tallest section of the building will be 95 feet high.

The Planning Board voted against this by 7-0 and 6-1 votes, stating that this use, student housing, is too dense and intense a use so close to the neighbors in the Historic District.   It lacks adequate transition and buffer.  Light and noise pollution from this effectively unsupervised dormitory will negatively impact the quality of live and ‘quiet enjoyment’ that neighbors are entitled to.  Adjacent neighbors successfully advanced a protest petition, that requires a super-majority (7 votes) of Council for the project to proceed.  Many citizens spoke against this project in two public hearing sessions before Council.

Here are some of the objections:

Inconsistent with the 2020 Comprehensive Plan:

  • fails to engage the University and town in meaningful discussions as to the reasonable number of students in neighborhoods
  • does not allow for the Focus Area 3 discussion, prescribed in the Comprehensive Plan, that would determine the best uses and forms for this neighborhood.
  • displaces affordable housing in a location that would be ideal for an increase in workforce housing
  • fails to protect neighborhoods.  The 5-fold increase in students will create noise- and light-pollution and both vehicular and foot traffic, especially through Cobb Terrace, that will adversely impact the quality of life in adjacent neighborhoods.
  • fails to protect the Historic District – a treasure the Town has pledged to maintain
  • does not increase net tax revenues as the cost of services provided will offset increased taxes from the property
  • will not increase business with area merchants, as students already reside in town and in proximity to campus, and there will be no increase in UNC’s student enrollment in the foreseeable future.
  • will not alleviate student pressure on Northside as students living in houses with cars will not desire a move to a dorm-like setting with limited parking

At the close of the public hearing on February 27th, Mayor Kleinschmidt gave the citizens a lesson in zoning in Chapel Hill that was certainly enlightening.

You can find the video from the meeting here http://www.townofchapelhill.org/index.aspx?page=958.  Starting at 3:36:20 of the video. His words are transcribed below:

Mark K: – “I can remember passing the LUMO and then the question came to us – now it’s time to do a new zoning map – and we deliberately said ‘no we’re not.’  We are deliberately NOT rezoning the town to have it look like what we say we want it to look like and that was just after the Comprehensive Plan had been adopted in 2000 because for one important reason, we wanted the LEVERAGE.  And, we purposely gave up the predictability, we purposely, as a community said, ‘we don’t want zones to tell people what they might be living next to.  We want them to be down-zoned so we can leverage it for other uses.’  And those are specific words that came out of specific council members mouths and that was the specific intention of the Council.  And, we all know that.  And that’s why every project we have (except one I think on Eubank’s Road that didn’t) comes with a rezoning application.  It was designed that way.  That’s how we got the Affordable Housing Program to begin with.  That’s how we extract anything that we’ve ever asked from developers.  We say [holding his hand as if dangling a treat] ‘Oh, zone.  You want it? Jump higher.’  Because we can’t do that with a Special Use Permit.  And so that’s just the way it’s been and I’m not telling anybody anything they don’t know.”   [emphasis added to reflect what was actually said]

Such statements call into question the efforts of so many citizens that worked hard to  develop the 2020 Comprehensive Plan.  Now we are currently engaged in the Design 2020 Focus Area studies that are intended flesh out the details of the Plan and layout future uses and forms for zoning areas targeted for development or redevelopment.  If all zoning is subject to the whim of Council, then any effort citizens devote to defining what fits and what doesn’t is wasted.

Read the final draft of the Comprehensive Plan

Here is the link to the final draft of the 2020 Comprehensive Plan http://www.townofchapelhill.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=14205.  This will be presented to Town Council on Monday, May 21st at 7 PM in Council Chambers.  You can (and are encouraged to) submit comments on the plan via the 2020 Website http://www.egovlink.com/chapelhill/action.asp.

Neighborhood initiative

On Wed., November 16th a meeting was held by residents of the Franklin-Rosemary Historic District regarding recent conversion of a single-family home on North Street into a student-occupied duplex with eight units.  Another property on the street has been bought by the same developer and is expected to be similarly converted.  While student rentals throughout the central Chapel Hill community are common, there is a point at which a residential area becomes student dominated and loses its residential character.  Examples of this are seen in the on-going battles in  Northside and the Cameron-McCauley area as well as Davie Circle.  While we all love having students around, too much of a good thing leads to neighborhood decline with excessive parking, poor maintenance, trash and loud parties.  The meeting generated interest in neighborhoods working together to address this issue with the Town, both through improved enforcement of existing ordinances as well as seeking additional ways in which the character of these in-town neighborhoods can be preserved.   Continue reading