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Zoning Issue Delays Restaurant, Retail, Manufacturing Development in Carrboro

By Danny Hooley Posted March 26, 2014 at 3:16 am

CARRBORO- A group of local developers wants to bring restaurants and retail to a long-abandoned property on South Greensboro Street in Carrboro.

But first, there’s a sticky zoning issue that needs to be worked out.

“It’d be nice to get some development there, because right now we look into a giant sinkhole, rotting warehouse.”

That’s Kurt Gray, a Park Slope resident who lives near the long-dormant property at 501 South Greensboro Street in Carrboro.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, Gray spoke in favor of a proposed commercial development on the property, which was applied for back in May of last year.

Runyon Woods is a partner at Woodhill LLC, which purchased the property. He spoke to WCHL after the Board of Aldermen had discussed Woodhill’s development application at the public hearing.

“There’s an enormous number of really expensive corrections that this very distressed property needs,” said Woods. “And in order to help pay for those development costs, we need to have some uses that will return us well – restaurants in particular.”

Woods told the Board that all of the restaurants Woodhill has been courting are local.

But restaurants are not included in the property’s M1 zoning, which allows for a limited industrial use, and commercial uses that include wholesaling, storage, mail-order, auto-related businesses, offices and retail.

Free-standing ATMs are also not included, and that’s another feature Woodhill would like to put on the property.

On Tuesday night at Town Hall, the Board could have voted to approve amendments to the land use ordinance that would have allowed additional uses for an M1 development in this case, with conditions.

The conditions included a trade-off plan of 15-percent site improvements for every 15 percent of new land use.

Woods told WCHL that developers have that covered.

They say they’ll deal with the flooding issue that drove away the previous occupant, electric motor manufacturer Triem Electric, back during the nineties.

According to Woods, the developers would raise the grade on the property as much as 10 feet in some places, as well as repairing a massive amount of underground infrastructure.

One solution Woodhill is not interested in, according to Woods, is getting the property rezoned in a way that takes manufacturing out of the picture.

Woods noted that when Triem Electric left Carrboro, the town lost more than 100 blue-collar jobs. He said Woodhill would like to help create such jobs again.

Some alderpersons expressed concern that other M1 properties in town could be affected in unintended and unwanted ways if the rules are changed for Woodhill.

Alderperson Damon Seils dismissed that notion.

“It is simply not the case that this is a one-size-fits-all approach to M1,” said Seils. “We keep the same M1 we’ve had for however-many decades now. But we’re adding to it this opportunity for some developers who are able and interested in making substantial improvements to the property.”

But Seils, and Woodhill, will have to wait a little longer. With Seils as the lone dissenting vote, The Board of Aldermen voted to direct town staff to initiate the process of creating a new M2 district, with site improvement trade-offs by the developer to possibly be considered on a scale system.

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