Council Votes to Deny Aydan Court Rezoning 5 – 4

Thanks to your help, on Monday night, June 20, the Chapel Hill Town Council voted to protect Jordan lake and to adhere to our land use ordinances.

In a 5-4 vote, Council members Bell, Greene, Ward, Rich, and Harrison rejected the proposed rezoning change for the Aydan Court 90-condo luxury development. The video tape of the many hour public hearing can be seen here.

We won this close vote because of your willingness to get involved by signing the petition and emailing their concerns to the  Council.  Our community spoke loud and clear that this was the wrong project for such an environmentally sensitive area, and our voices were heard.

We thank the Council members who recognized that this project was poorly conceived, and voted to protect our wildlife and drinking water:  Donna Bell, Sally Greene, Jim Ward (all three of whose seats are up for re-election this year), Penny Rich, and Ed Harrison (who most forcefully advocated against the rezoning).

The story in the Chapel Hill News captured the story.  However, one statement was not correct.  A second vote will not be required since the rezoning was denied.

Together we have made a difference!

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 Reprise

On the evening of May 25, just when it appeared 5 Council members were ready to deny the rezoning, the Council decided to delay the vote and continue the public hearing.  The case was made by the Mayor that since a 5 – 3 vote on a rezoning would require two votes anyway, the Council might as well wait.  In addition Council Member Czajkowski  said there was information on R1 the Council needed to see since that is the existing zone.   However the matter  before the Council is whether to grant the requested rezoning to high density.  We believe the Council must vote on the merits of the developer’s request to build 90 condos on a Significant Natural Heritage area adjacent to a water fowl impoundment.

If the developer’s zoning request is denied we think it more likely she would seek a compromise option rather than to seek a single family option.  The public hearing was continued until June 20, but there is a plan to move the hearing to Tuesday, June 21st because of the heavy Council agenda. Stay tuned.

Council to consider Aydan Court

The Town Council is considering the Aydan Court proposal tonight at 7:00pm at the Town Council chambers. A number of citizens have raised concerns about this proposal and will be speaking out against it tonight. Today’s Chapel Hill News published a guest column by Jan Smith and letters to the editor (Snavely, McClintock) outlining concerns about the proposal to develop this environmentally sensitive area near Meadowmont.

Campus to Campus Bicycle Path

A committee of NRG has worked with the town staff and UNC since 2009 to push forward a mostly off-road bicycle path between UNC campus and Carolina North.  The Carolina North Agreement memoralized the commitment that was made between Chapel Hill and UNC and outlined steps for identifying a route.  That work has been completed shown in this  Map of selected route.

What we need now is a framework and a plan outlined by elected officials to move to the next steps of design and funding.

It is disappointing to learn that this item is not scheduled for public discussion but appears on the consent agenda.   The Manager’s Memo suggests putting the Connector into the Transportation Improvement Plan, which is not destined to receive any funding given DOT funding reductions. We don’t object to this action, but we call for more public discussion.

We want the Council to make the Campus to Campus Connector a priority.

Give input on Carolina North Permit Application

In the course of planning Carolina North, the new campus planned on the Horace Williams Airport property, UNC is applying for a 50 year permit from the Corps of Engineers. The Corps has responsibility for changes affecting wetland, streams and rivers.

The period for public comment ends 5 pm Monday May 9th.  Any comments received will be considered by the Corps to determine whether to issue, modify or deny a permit for the proposal. Comments are used to assess impacts on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, and to assess the need for a public hearing. UNC must receive a permit approval before proceeding with construction for Carolina North.

Study the maps as there are many water courses affected by the project.  The permit application affects Bolin Creek and 12 unnamed tributaries, Crow Branch and 5 unnamed tributaries, and 1 unnamed tributary to Booker Creek.

Click on the file in this table to see the Corp’s public notice.  See the entire voluminous permit application at the UNC web site.

Comments can be sent by email before Monday at 5 pm to Andrew Williams, at  andrew.e.williams2@usace.army.mil

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.

Comprehensive Plan Opportunity to get Involved

The Town website has the latest information on the process to develop a new Comprehensive Plan to determine the shape of future growth in Chapel Hill.  If you are interested in participating in the process, sign up as a stakeholder.

The process for developing the new Comprehensive Plan has not yet been worked out.  The initiating committee will make recommendations to the Council about how the process will work.

Charterwoods Public Hearing to be held May 23rd

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.

2011 Creek Action Tour

Earth Action Day is April 9th!

Join the 2011 Creek Action Tour organized by Friends of Bolin Creek and the Towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro to promote healthy creeks and responsible growth.  A map with complete tour information can be found at www.bolincreek.org.  A small scale map is below.

This year’s Creek Action Tour takes place next Saturday from 10 – 12 noon, and  showcases projects that improve our water quality in our creeks, and ultimately our drinking water.You can choose from nine different free events on the Tour, including a puppet adventure at the Botanical Gardens, a demonstration rain garden at McDougle Middle School, a stream restoration project at Baldwin Park, floating islands that clean water and more.

Highlights include:

  • “The Story of the Haw” is a 30 minute Haw River Assembly adventure with puppets and song, telling  the story of our vast watershed. 10:30 and 11:30am
  • McDougle Middle School students will show a video of their rain garden and lead a “design your dream house” impact game
  • Neighbor Alex Millager designed and built a backyard rain garden.  Learn how you can build one.
  • A tree planting ceremony at 9:30 am kicks off the tour at Baldwin Park, where a large stream restoration is underway.  The work done by our two towns with federal, state and North Carolina State University support to help improve Bolin Creek, an impaired stream. The project is described here.
  • Map of Venues for Creek Action Tour