CHAPEL HILL-Neighbors living near the proposed Obey Creek project will play a formal role in evaluating the site for development, now that the Chapel Hill Town Council has approved a 17-member compass committee.
In a town where angry neighbors often find themselves pitted against wary developers, it’s rare to see a duo like Jeanne Brown and Roger Perry standing side by side, sharing a podium to address the town council together.
“I think Jeanne would agree with this, and I don’t know that we’ll achieve it, but our goal in November is to come back with a plan that we all endorse for your consideration,” Perry told the council. “We’re going work as close as we can as we can to bring back a unified proposal. Even if there are discrepancies in that, or disagreements, we hope that they are narrow and small.”
Roger Perry represents East West Partners, who three years ago proposed Obey Creek, a large mixed-use complex on 15-501 across from Southern Village.
Jeanne Brown represents neighbors in the area who worry that the original proposal was too big, too dense and would bring too much traffic to an already busy road.
The original plan for the 124-acre lot called for a high density retail and residential development, but Perry agreed to start from scratch in order to explore a development agreement process for the project, an alternative to the often contentious Special Use Permit approval process favored in Chapel Hill.
On Wednesday night Brown and Perry came together to ask the council to form a 16-member compass committee to consult with a technical team and town staff to create a shared vision for how that property should be used.
“We’ve heard from you that you want community and developer dialog; we’ve heard that you want us to build trust. We’ve heard that you want a vision,” said Brown. “Mr. Perry has asked many times for a vision and an opportunity to speak to the community. He’s asked for this to move forward. The community has asked for a fair and unbiased process and we’ve asked to be included in the process. So we think that this committee balances out those very goals.”
Town staffers began crafting the committee following a petition from residents in April. At Wednesday’s meeting Perry and Brown suggested enlarging the group from 10 to 16, with residents living near the property accounting for about half the group. Perry said the proposal struck the right balance between commercial and neighborhood interests.
“We would ask you, with all respect, to not tamper with it because we’ve hammered out a balance and there’s a fragility in this that can be easily disrupted, which would seriously undermine the process,” Perry told the council.
The council agreed, suggesting only the addition of a greenways advocate to bring the total number to 17.
The compass committee will work through the summer to come up with recommendations for the council about the appropriate size, scale and usage might be for the Obey Creek property.
The application period for the Obey Creek compass committee opens on Friday and runs through June 10. The council will appoint committee members on June 24.