The Town Council’s Aydan Court vote set for March 28th has been postponed to April 25th at the developer’s request.
The property is located within the boundaries of a state-designated Significant Natural Heritage area containing critical wildlife habitat, sensitive wetlands and a major public drinking water supply. If the Council remains committed to our ordinances, including those protection our environment, this application, as proposed, cannot be approved.
In May 2009, when Mayor Kevin Foy discussed the initial denial of this project during a Town Council meeting, he indicated that the decision to deny the proposal was made because council was “ taking our responsibility to direct the growth of this community.” At the time, the biggest issue raised by the council with regard to the project was density. And density continues to be a problem, not just for council but also for the developer who concedes that it has been very difficult to fit such a large project on this piece of property while meeting the necessary environmental protections. Here are the key reasons why the rezoning should be denied:
- Development approvals should observe our existing ordinance
- Approving the application would drastically affect a Significant Natural Heritage Area.
- Rezoning would result in clearing and leveling over 70% of the Aydan Court tract, effectively eliminating the buffer to the refuge
- Wildlife Commission recommended a 450-foot buffer between development and game lands. Incredibly, the current Aydan Court plan puts residences only 26 feet from game lands
- Site is adjacent to Little Creek which flows into Jordan Lake, providing drinking water to almost half a million Triangle residents.
- The Town’s steep slopes ordinance, enacted before this lot was purchased, limits disturbance of steep slopes to 25% to control erosion. The Aydan Court application exceeds these rules by 60%.
- Land Use Map under our current Comprehensive Plan shows this area as open space. There is not public purpose to justify this zoning change. Read Madeline Jefferson’s op ed representing NRG’s opinion in the March 27 Chapel Hill News here.
The proposed Orange County Unified Development Ordinance affects all of the County outside municipal control. The County’s Planning Board has led the way on the plan to consolidate ordinances rather than the Commission. Alice Gordon has been the commissioner who is the most knowledgeable about the ordinance and its most perceptive critic.
Orange County Voice sent statements to the Commission. Both the Town of Chapel Hill and Carrboro Resolution were sent to the Orange County Commission stating their concerns with the proposal, as well as NRG.
In the County’s zeal to move from “planned development” to conditional zoning, they took all forms of planned development – including heavy industrial – and lumped it into one conditional district (MPD-CZ) without condtions. In contrast, a separate district, with 10 pages of conditions has been created for mobile home parks.
Neighbors for Responsible Growth, Orange County Voice and others are seeking more specificity. See comment from Bonnie Hauser.
NRG presented this statement to the Commissioners on February 28th.
Dear Orange County Commissioners:
Neighbors for Responsible Growth appreciates the County staff making themselves available for a presentation on the proposed Unified Development Ordinance a few weeks ago. It was a useful session and enabled us to understand the proposal better. This UDO proposal is complicated and challenging to understand and the staff did their best to answer our questions.
The staff reassured us that this new proposal merely repackages the existing ordinance with new terminology. However Continue reading
A key 5.8 acre parcel containing a significant forest, steep slopes and many creeks borders the Little Creek Bottom Lands. A local developer has requested a change in Chapel Hill’s zoning ordinance from low density to conditional use which could allow 90 condos. This proposed project, Aydan Court, borders a waterfowl impoundment built by the Corps of Engineers to create wildlife habitat for bottom lands lost when Jordan Lake was made. It is designated a Natural Heritage Area for its wildlife resources.
On February 21. 2011, the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, and Neighbors for Responsible Growth, along with other citizens spoke against the rezoning.
Neighbors for Responsible Growth (NRG) asked the Town Council to reject the Aydan Court rezoning proposal. Following are the key points:
- This R-1 designation was not intended as a holding zone, but rather zoned because of its location near the Little Creek Bottom lands and Jordan Lake. Former Mayor Jimmy Wallace tried to buy the Snipes Farm for the Town years ago recognizing the intrinsic merit and importance of this property as open space.
- This parcel is part of the East Entranceway Plan which was developed before Roger Perry brought the Meadowmont proposal to the Council. The East Entranceway Task Force met for months and determined that Meadowmont would be a good place to put urban densities, while this parcel, as well as adjacent land near the water fowl impoundment, the Little Creek bottom lands, and Jordan Lake were judged appropriate for low densities.
- The Council adopted the steep slopes ordinance because the Council and staff determined that development on steep slopes was harming water quality and causing severe erosion problems.
- Urban densities don’t belong next to an area which the Natural Heritage Program says is a valued area for wildlife to migrate when the impoundment floods.
- The amount of impervious surface is inversely proportional to water quality. Low densities belong near a drinking water supply.
- The special use permit application under the new zone does not meet Town standards. There are times when the Town must make an exemption to allow reasonable use of a property such as serving the site by gravity flow sewer exiting the site. However, the 7600 square feet of additional disturbance to the 25% slope standard is not a necessity.
- It would set a dangerous precedent to approve a project that violates Town ordinances. Exemptions should be reserved for exceptional circumstances, not for 90 luxury condos on Natural Heritage land.
- There is no legitimate public purpose for allowing a zoning change or exemptions from Town rules in order to disturb 70% of this fragile property.
- If the zone is changes on this fragile property, then the Council sends a message a zoning change can occur at any time.
- This is one of the core principles of Neighbor for Responsible Growth which supports the spirit and letter of the ordinances and regulations designed to protect the core values of our citizens, e.g. environmental protection, affordable housing, open space.
Neighbors for Responsible Growth is sponsoring a question and answer session on Wednesday, February 16th from 7 – 9 pm at the Southern Human Services Building on Homestead Road. Come get informed before the February 28th Public Hearing. A copy of the Unified Development Ordinance is available at the Chapel Hill Public Library or can be read online here.
The proposed Orange County Unified Development Ordinance affects areas outside municipal control. The proposal has been presented as a reorganization of Orange County’s land management regulations into one document. However, there have been concerns expressed about overlay zones which could impact rural communities.