Obey Creek Developer Says Project Plan Incorporated Residents’ Concerns

By Rachel Nash Posted October 22, 2013 at 8:30 pm

CHAPEL HILL – Ben Perry, project manager for the proposed Obey Creek development, said Tuesday that the revised plan for the project has addressed many of the issues over which neighbors have voiced concern.

Perry said that the plan, which calls for mixed-use development to be located across 15-501 from Southern Village, had not been updated since it was presented at the Oct. 10 meeting of the Obey Creek Steering Committee, despite many residents; opposition to the project.

A public forum was held the following week, where some people also voiced frustration to the proposed plans.

“This is only phase one. Yes, there are a lot of questions that are unanswered,” Perry said. “All of those will be answered in phase two. Most of the concerns were, ‘Well, I haven’t seen this yet.’ Well, you will. It is coming, and we’re certainly not getting anything approved before it does.”

A team of consultants reviewed the plan before the Oct. 10 meeting and made recommendations to the development team. The changes include breaking streets and buildings into smaller blocks, buffering 15-501 South with trees, and adding slow-speed circulator roads around the perimeter of the development.

“It didn’t reduce the square footage, but it went a long way to taking away some of the imposing visual elements of that. It softened the edges,” Perry said. “It hid parking garages.”

The Obey Creek Compass Committee met Tuesday, as Perry listened in on the various discussions.

Members broke into three working tables. Each table had a theme: on-site principles and criteria related to design; mobility and connectivity; and uses and impacts.

Members brainstormed and formulated guiding principles they envisioned for each theme, meant to be realized in the overall plan at a later time.

After the workshop session, team leaders at each table made a presentation based on what was said, with the understanding that a report would be proposed as well.

Committee members said that pursuing LEED Certification was not a priority, though they did want to adhere to environmentally friendly standards. To this, Council member Jim Ward cautioned that achieving LEED Certification could prove to be beneficial for the project in more ways than just practicing green building standards.

“I think it is not always seen by a developer as a financial burden. In fact, it can be an asset for promoting a project,” Ward said.

During the public comment session, Terri Buckner asked the committee to consider all residents living near the development, not just those in Southern Village.

“There are people living on Zapata Ln.; there are people living on the other side of Mt. Carmel Church Rd.; there are people living in Dogwood Acres; and Culbreth Rd. I would assume you would want connectivity with them,” Buckner said. “It would be really nice for this plan to acknowledge their existence.”

The Obey Creek Compass Committee is in the first phase of the negotiation process for a development agreement. The committee’s report, due to go to the Town Council in November, will help the Council decide whether to enter into the second phase of the process, in which town leaders would negotiate directly with the developer to hash out a long-term building plan for the 124-acres site.

The committee next meets on Oct. 28 at 4 p.m. in the Chapel Hill Public Library.

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