CHTC Outlines Development Agreement Process For Obey Creek

By Elizabeth Friend Posted March 18, 2013 at 5:01 pm

CHAPEL HILL- The Chapel Hill Town Council approved a plan to explore a new type of planning process for three large projects, including the controversial Obey Creek development.

Though they haven’t always agreed in the past, developer Roger Perry and southern Chapel Hill resident Jeanne Brown told the council on Monday that they are ready to work together to plan the future of the proposed Obey Creek project.

“What we’re saying is, this is a positive pathway to resolving what should go on this site,” said Roger Perry. “We’re saying, let’s begin it.”

Brown has long been a critic of Perry’s plan to build a 1.5 million square foot high-density mixed use development across from Southern Village.

But she and other residents say they’re willing to engage in a new planning process, one that sidesteps the traditional Special Use Permit approval in favor of a longer period of back and forth negotiation between the council, citizens and developers.

Brown asked the council to prioritize public participation in the process, saying community dialog needs to happen before any technical review of site plans.

“While I recognize that public participation will be part of the proposed two-phase process, there has not been an agreement between all parties about a starting point for Obey Creek, a fact that suggests the need to begin with dialog, not just data collection,” said Brown.

But council members suggested the data gathering and public planning can happen simultaneously.

“My experience is that people start talking and they’re like, ‘hey where’s the data on traffic?’ said Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. “It would be really great if it’s on its way.”

The council unanimously approved a two-part planning process to evaluate if pending projects would be suitable for development agreements.

The Glen Lennox redevelopment, the expansion of the Southern Human Services Center and the Obey Creek development could all be candidates for the process.

The six month exploratory phase will combine public dialog about a proposed project with technical review of the possible impacts. If all parties reach consensus on the need for a development agreement, the council would enter into a six-to-nine month negotiation phase with the developer to establish mitigation plans.

Developers would foot the bill for any consultants hired to provide technical expertise. Town planners estimate it could cost developers up to $150,000 to complete the process, nearly twice as much as a Special Use Permit application fee.

With the council’s blessing, the Town Manager’s office will launch the technical review and public outreach efforts for both the Glen Lennox and Obey Creek projects, as well as approach county officials to discuss if the Southern Human Services Center expansion meets the criteria for a development agreement.
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