Category Archives: Environment

Charterwood public hearing

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.

Why we need to protect this East Chapel Hill Natural Heritage site

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.

Aydan Court hearing postponed to Wed., May, 25th

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.

Aydan Court vote now set for April 25

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.

Aydan Court

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:

Historical context

  • 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.

Environmental 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.

Learn about the Proposed Orange County Ordinance

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.

Obey Creek Concept a Bad Idea

These comments were presented to the Chapel Hill Town Council on November 8, 2010.

In 1992 the Town of Chapel Hill developed a Small Area Plan that created zoning and development parameters for the area south of 15-501. The two year process included all stakeholders in that area of Town. The Plan balanced a dense urban development with the preservation of surrounding environmentally sensitive areas and open space.

Today, this area contains both dense urban development, Southern Village, and a largely undeveloped area east of Southern Village along Obey Creek. Neighbors for Responsible Growth (NRG) is opposed to the Town Council pursuing a radical change for this plan and to the Town undertaking a Development Agreement for the Obey Creek area which was intended to be protected with low density zoning. Continue reading

University Gets Ready to Apply for Army Corps Permit

UNC is about to apply for a 50 year permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers in preparation for when the economy improves and Carolina North construction begins. The University will convene a public meeting on Tuesday, November 16th in advance of the permit application and will answer questions about the draft application as well as the permitting process required by the Corps before development at Carolina North. The draft application of the permit can be viewed at the Town of Chapel Hill’s website. You can find out more about the application by attending the November 16th public meeting at 5:15 p.m. in the basement conference room of the Chapel Hill Public Library, 100 Library Drive.

A representative from the Army Corps of Engineers will attend the meeting and be available to explain the permitting process and how the public may participate. Attendees will have opportunities to ask questions and share comments.
Continue reading