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.