“Its not that this project is, in itself, some sort of horrible, evil project, or that somehow the town code is just totally, horribly wrong for this block, it’s just that they’re not compatible,” said planning board vice-chair Damon Seils. “This particular proposal is just not compatible with what’s available to be done on this block.”
The project would fill almost the entire block bounded by North Greensboro, Weaver, Center and Short Streets. Plans call for a two story mixed use building on the site currently occupied by a vacant building. The rest of the site would be dominated by parking lots, with a “mini-park” at the northwestern edge of the property facing Center Street.
This is the second time the planning board has voted against approval of the project. Last year the board rejected the plan due to concerns about zoning, lighting and neighborhood protection. Developers put the project on hold for nearly a year while they revised the proposal.
This time, planning board members said the applicant had responded well to community concerns about aesthetics, lighting and building design, but that ultimately the project failed to provide a smooth transition from commercial to residential areas.
And while board members embraced the high-volume 24-hour retail center proposed for the corner of North Greensboro and Weaver Street, several argued that converting two nearby mill houses into a parking lot is not a creative use of valuable downtown real estate.
“If this plan had proposed to put in two brand new mill houses there, to be used for commercial purposes that ended at midnight or even earlier, I’d be leaping up to say ‘yeah, that’s a great plan,’” said Matthew Barton. “But that’s not the plan we have.”
Should the aldermen choose to approve the rezoning, the planning board suggested that they push for reduced parking on the site. But that proposal didn’t sit well with Nathan Milian, who manages Carr Mill Mall across the road where CVS is currently located.
“Whatever you do, don’t ask them to reduce the parking they have,” Milian told the board. “This is the number two CVS in the state of North Carolina, so there’s a big difference between the volume that this store does and the volume of the local drugstore down the street, which means tremendous parking issues. Carr Mill Mall has tremendous parking issues.”
The CVS project has sparked debate and even protest over the past two years about how and where Carrboro should grow. That debate will continue next Tuesday, when the Board of Aldermen holds a public hearing on the revised plan.