Jeanne Brown delivered this thoughtful petition before the Council broke for the summer. Food for thought.
June 27, 2011
Mayor Kleinschmidt and members of Town Council:
Good Evening: It is exciting to hear that the Initiating Committee report will be reviewed tonight – setting the stage for public discussion and formulation of Chapel Hill’s new Comprehensive Plan.
This year Council has faced many ad hoc development decisions. Based on recent comments by developers, council members and citizens, I believe that everyone agrees that the new Comprehensive Plan will provide an updated guiding document for council, developers and citizens.
But creating a new Comprehensive Plan is not all that is needed. As citizen groups watched Aydan Court and similar development decisions unfold, it has become clear that the Concept Plan and Development Application Review processes need to be improved and strengthened in order to avoid similar situations in the future.
To begin with, a publicly created and vetted Comprehensive Plan is only effective if it is used as the basis for guiding staff, council and developers from initial Concept Plan discussions through building of approved projects.
Council Woman Donna Bell expressed the concerns many of us share when she observed that the Aydan Court project had first been proposed as a project that “spanned the entire property” and then had been “whittled down” from there. Continue reading
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.