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
123 West Franklin (University Square) - http://123westfranklin.com/. Be sure to follow progress on University Square. There was a meeting on September 8th, 2011 that described progress on the redevelopment design as well as this article in the Chapel Hill News http://www.chapelhillnews.com/2011/09/11/66732/saying-all-the-right-things.html. This property is now owned by the University Foundation and so heavy UNC influence is anticipated. Continue reading
Charterwood a mixed-use development proposed for Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. and Weaver Dairy Rd. Extension. This 13+ acre site has been to Council several times in 2011. The developer is returning with yet another revision at the September 26th Council Meeting. Materials are on the Town’s website or contact me for more information on how you can participate. Issues raised include appropriateness of this development for a major town entrance, transportation impacts, proximity to the adjacent neighborhood and fire department burn buildings, destruction of 150+ year old trees and Booker Creek headwaters impacts. Please let us know your thoughts and join us at the Council meeting on September 26th.
The developer for Aydan Court proposes to build 90 condos on a Natural Heritage site on the edge of the eastern entrance way to Chapel Hill on Highway 54, east of Meadowmont. The Council denied a rezoning two years ago. On June 20th the Town Council will again decide whether to rezone this land. Please urge the Council to deny this rezoning for these reasons.
This property is part of a much larger Significant Natural Heritage Area and is adjacent to the Upper Little Creek Wildlife Impoundment, on the edge of the eastern entranceway to Chapel Hill on Highway 54, east of Meadowmont.
- Approving this proposal would set a precedent that any property in Chapel Hill can be rezoned to meet a developer’s goals, including Charterwood, Obey Creek, or your neighborhood.
- The Town’s land use map zones this property for low density, or “open space,” which should remain until the Town’s comprehensive plan is revisited later this year;
- The property contains critical wildlife habitat and is adjacent to sensitive wetlands and public game lands for hunting and fishing; The Wildlife Commission recommends a 150 yard buffer and the proposed condos would be less than 100 feet from the state hunting areas;
- Removing 70% of trees will cause erosion and runoff that affects an already impaired Jordan Lake, which supplies drinking water to half a million people;
- The proposed development does not comply with the Town’s steep slopes ordinance;
- The market for condominiums in Chapel Hill is already saturated.
For all these reasons, we encourage you to send a message to the Town Council requesting the Town to deny the rezoning and to sign the petition on this page. Please forward this link to your friends.
At the end of a grueling six hour meeting, Council ran out of time and energy to hear the Aydan Court agenda items which were then continued to Wednesday, May 25th. If you’re not familiar with this important development, click here to learn more about the positions, from the developer and from citizens.
The Town is once more faced with the dilemma of acceding to a developer’s demands for rezoning and special use permits that are not consistent to existing zoning and the Comprehensive Plan. This area, like Charterwoods and Obey Creek, could be developed with consideration to the expressed wishes of the citizens through the Comprehensive Planning process, the environment, the natural habitat they provide and their prominent positions as gateways to Chapel Hill. We’re hopeful that the developers will either revise their proposals to be consistent with existing ordinances, zones and regulations or that final approvals for these proposed developments, Aydan Court, Charterwoods and Obey Creek, will be voted down or deferred until the Town has the opportunity to consider them with an engaged public as part of the newly launched Comprehensive Plan.
Increasingly we are seeing developers’ proposals that fail to consider important town ordinances; tree, steep slopes, RCD. Council is desirous of increasing the tax base and is caught between the press to develop and harvest taxes and being responsible to the citizens by enforcing the ordinances that are so important to them. Unfortunately, granting these many exceptions undermines the validity of the existing ordinances and Council’s credibility. Ultimately, following our ordinances consistently is a basic principal of our organization and we believe for the entire community.
A public hearing on the Charterwoods Special Use Permit and Zoning Amendments will be held at Town Hall on Monday, May 23rd at 7 PM. This application for a mixed use development on the west side of Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd near Weaver Dairy Road Extension has many deficiencies which require remediation before it should be approved: e.g. insufficient neighborhood protection buffers, state retention pond maintenance, too many impervious surfaces on an area of small streams, uncertain uses (will it be a hotel? a church? or maybe a medical facility?), and a questionable financial analysis. Perhaps the most damning thing about it is the fact that 83% of the land will be cleared of specimen trees that have been growing there for more than 100 years. Our take on this project is that the basic elements need an overhaul before it is approved to move forward. This differs from the information provided in the Chapel Hill News article that appeared on Wed. April 6th http://www.chapelhillnews.com/2011/04/06/63583/mlk-boulevard-project-to-get-hearing.html
The land to be cleared includes 59 rare trees most of which are white and red oaks, as well as some maples and chestnuts plus 125 specimen trees. Specific to this property. A rare tree is a pine with at least a 36″ dbh (diameter at breast height) or other trees with at least a 24″ dbh. A specimen tree is a pine with a minimum 18″ dbh or any species that has a dbh of 12″ or more. Twenty-six of the trees to be cut are 36″ – 49″ dbh. It takes a white oak more than 100 years to reach this size. One has to wonder what the intent of the newly effective Tree Ordinance can be if such beauties can be leveled for a few homes and stores. It is possible to develop this land in a more considerate fashion.
More careful attention to design specifics is needed to these proposed plans. Much of this land is not level and is filled with small ephemeral streams. The land dips from MLK Blvd down to a low lying RCD area before leveling out. The Commercial spaces and dumpsters front very directly on the established neighborhood next door. Generous buffers are needed for this new commercial development when most of the woods will be removed. Parking could be structured to preserve some of the large canopy oak trees. The access to a proposed single family neighborhood which winds around behind the Town’s fire station ending in a cul de sac is awkward and the curb cut would cause dangerous turning movements very close to the busy Weaver Dairy intersection.
Saving more of these valuable trees would improve the attractiveness of the development property as well as increase the commercial value long term. Franklin Park on East Franklin Street across from Whole Foods gives an excellent example of how large old trees were preserved in a commercially viable project.
And one additional point about the financial analysis should be mentioned. During the discussion of moving the library to Dillard’s we learned that the town receives a bit over $43,000 per year in property and sales tax revenues from Dillard’s. The Charterwoods development projects $250,000 in sales tax revenue from retail. It is hard to imagine that a bank, a barber shop/beauty salon, a day care center, plus a place of worship and a clinic (neither of which pay taxes) would generate such generous revenues! It is right that we should question these plans and underlying assumptions so we achieve the best outcome for the Town, the neighbors and the property owner. Once this property is bull-dozed we can never put it back the way it was.
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.
Town Council held a working session on the Comprehensive Plan on Thursday, March 17th at 7 PM at the Library. Consultants from the National Civic League and Deliberative Democracy presented the process approach that will be employed. The Meeting Agenda is found here. Council will hold a follow-up meeting to further discuss formation of the Initiating Committee, who will have responsibility for defining the planning process and forming the Stakeholder Group. The intent is to have broad public representation and participation in the development of the Plan. The targeted Plan completion date is June 2012.
According to the Town website, “the Chapel Hill Comprehensive Plan guides the future of the community. The current Comprehensive Plan was adopted on May 8, 2000, and is supplemented by various small area plans and other documents that guide the vision for Chapel Hill. The community and the Council have asked for a new Comprehensive Plan to bring these documents together, to reexamine the vision and to plan together for our community’s future.”
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.