CH Planning Board Raises Concerns About Zoning Code For Ephesus-Fordham Area

By Rachel Nash Posted February 25, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Potential plans for the redevelopment of the area around the Ephesus-Fordham Boulevard intersection in Chapel Hill might be delayed until zoning code concerns are addressed.

Neal Bench, Chair of the Chapel Hill Planning Board, presented a petition to the Town Council Monday about the issues surrounding form-based code, which is a type of zoning new to the Town.

“The northern part of this area is the gateway to Town. The code should specify, in more detail, the character that the community would like to see in this area around the Fordham [Boulevard]-Franklin [Street] split,” Bench said.

Using form-based code, the Council will set parameters for development including building height, setbacks and parking guidelines for each zone, but once these are in place, individual developers will not need to bring their projects before the council if they meet the established criteria.

The Ephesus-Fordham renewal plan is the result of nearly a decade of planning to revitalize an area currently known for vacant lots, confusing intersections and traffic tie-ups.

Bench said that while the Board believed that form base code is appropriate for the area, the current code document is not yet ready to be adopted. He presented a list of suggested amendments and supplemental recommendations to the Council.

“We would also like RCD [Resource Conservation District] regulations, tree planting caliper standards, green building and energy efficiency standards, and steep slopes regulations and other environmental regulation from the Land Use Management Ordinances [LUMO],” he said.

Additionally, the Board recommended incorporating items into the code such as storm water management regulations, improvements to street crossings in conjunction with the Booker Creek Trail, the development of an open space green plan, and consideration of an affordable housing plan.

Bench also said that it should be amended to include a mandatory evaluation of the effectiveness of form based code three years after it has been implemented.

The Planning Board’s stance is that if those concerns are addressed, then form-based code will provide an acceptable guide to redevelopment in the Ephesus-Fordham area and will benefit the community, Bench said.

Upon revision, the Board will then support form-based code for the Ephesus-Fordham area to be included into LUMO, the current set of development regulations for the Town.

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said that the Council wasn’t prepared to comment on the Planning Board’s petition, but did state that a work session addressing the issue is scheduled for March 3.

The Council is slated to take a formal vote on the redevelopment plan in late March.

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