So. Village Residents Skeptical Of New Obey Creek Plan

By Elizabeth Friend Posted October 10, 2013 at 12:02 am

CHAPEL HILL- Residents living near Obey Creek got a look at a new development plan on Wednesday, but many still think it’s too much.

When developer Roger Perry presented a revised site plan to the Obey Creek Compass Committee, he told them that review by the town’s technical team had done much to improve it:

“It is a much better plan than the one you saw on Monday night,” said Perry. “We’re especially excited about figuring out a solution as to how to not turn our back on 15-501, but to integrate this project into the fabric of Southern Village and into town, instead of being an isolated place on its own.”

The revised plan is based on one presented to the committee earlier this week. It features a mixed-use complex with building heights ranging from three to six stories, with underground parking.

Obey creek concept

Revised Obey Creek Development Proposal

A team of consultants lead by Victor Dover reviewed the plan and made recommendations to the developer. 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.

“I think that’s one of the major breakthroughs in the last two days,” said Perry. “Now what we’ve designed is a streetscape along the creek that is really very much of a human scale. Three story townhomes where you could really create quite a pedestrian experience.”

But some committee members, as well as many of the three dozen audience members, said the plan did not address one of their fundamental concerns, that of scale. Robert Strauss questioned why the plan calls for a development footprint the same size as Durham’s Southpoint mall.

“I don’t feel like I have a good understanding, I don’t feel like there’s been a thoughtful approach to why it is the size it is,” said Strauss.

In fact, the revised plan is slightly larger that those the committee critiqued on Monday, though Perry said he’d be willing to scale it back to approximately 1.5 million square feet.

Dover warned the committee not to aim too low, saying the project must reach a critical mass of residential and retail density to succeed.

“You usually think about density like it’s a toxic substance, and that the thing to do is to reduce the dosage so you don’t overdose on it,” said Dover. “I don’t think that’s the situation that you have right here. You actually want to achieve a livable density, which means one that supports transit, one that puts enough souls close together to support neighborhood retail, to support neighborhood congregation. Those are public benefits and you don’t get to those by just taking density out.

Perry agreed.

“You want us to be successful. The last thing you want is a failure here,” said Perry. “So you want us to be successful, we feel like this is a scale that is in the best interests for us being successful and the town.”

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 along 15-501 across from Southern Village.

The newly revised Obey Creek map will be presented for public comment at a forum on October 16, from 7- 9 p.m. at Extraordinary Ventures on Elliot Road.

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