Town Approves Obey Creek

Developer Roger Perry has been waiting on approval for Obey Creek for six years. And Monday night, he finally got his payday. The Town Council voted seven to one in favor of an agreement that would allow a 1.5 million-square-foot development to be built across from Southern Village.

The development will include housing, retail and commercial space, and it’s been a point of contention at town council meetings over the past several years. That tension was palpable Monday night as resident Arthur Finn spoke during the public hearing before the vote.

“How can a person who makes a living putting up 90-foot buildings talk about what’s good for Chapel Hill?” Finn asked.

The town has been working with an independent consulting firm and a council-appointed compass committee to vet the development agreement. But despite these efforts, many citizens at the meeting, like Esther Miller, shared lingering concerns about size, building heights and traffic mitigation.

“Traffic is bad, and it’s going to get a lot worse,” Miller warned.

The council members who voted for the agreement expressed a shared belief that Obey Creek had been thoroughly vetted and would provide needed housing and retail.

“I believe that the balance has been struck between a really dynamic wonderful, new area of Chapel Hill that supports many of our goals that have been mentioned, including new housing,” Councilwoman Sally Greene said.

Councilman Ed Harrison was the only member voting against. He said Obey Creek was a well-designed development, but still had concerns about traffic and size. He also felt several changes to the document made during the meeting had not been sufficiently reviewed.

“Even if I don’t agree with every point they’ve made,” Harrison said, “I would like someone to represent the folks who have had concerns about this that haven’t been alleviated. And I’m willing to do that. If that means I vote tonight then I do. In that case, I can’t vote for this. I certainly can’t vote for it if I haven’t seen the whole contract.”

While Harrison did not vote in favor of the development agreement, he did vote in favor of other provisions that allow Obey Creek to go forward—namely, the creation of a zoning amendment that allows for a development agreement to be used, the actual rezoning of the Obey Creek site and a land-swap between the town and the developer.

Several other council members shared a desire to see the final draft of the agreement, but were comfortable adding an article that would give the town until July 1 to make minor changes.

Perry says he isn’t certain when construction will begin, but it probably won’t be this year.

Chapel Hill Town Council Delays Obey Creek Vote

The Chapel Hill Town Council chose not to vote on the approval last night of the 120-acre Obey Creek development near Southern Village. Instead, the council used the meeting to hear further public comment and pushed the vote until next Monday.

The council’s decision not to vote seemed to come as a shock to Obey Creek’s developer Roger Perry.

“Damn! I got all dressed up,” Perry said.

Town staff had recommended the council approve the rezoning and development agreement, which would clear the way for construction to begin. But at the meeting, the council said it needed more time to review recent information from the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The town spent last week in negotiations with the DOT over Obey Creek’s impact on traffic.

“There’s been a lot of questions from all of you, back and forth with the staff, getting and  seeking clarity,” Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said. “And so I think that having worked with these folks for a while, I think that they need to stew. And I think it’s reasonable because, much of what some of us have heard and learned, and the clarity we’ve sought on some issues, was hours ago.”

Despite successful negotiations with the DOT, some residents who spoke at the meeting expressed concern that the development agreement doesn’t ensure adequate traffic calming measures for south Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill resident Susan Lindsay said she wanted a stronger commitment to such measures for her area.

“You can’t get much more direct than the impact that Dogwood Acres Drive will feel from this development,” she said.

A few residents at the meeting also reiterated concerns about design, the amount of retail space, and a desire for an overall smaller footprint. Monte Brown was one proponent of a scaled-down development.

“To me it’s clear: You either value the life of the southern Chapel hill residents and your various boards, or you value the bunch of investors from Maryland,” Brown told the council.

Several council members signaled their support of the project at its largest scale: 1.5 million square feet. Councilwoman Maria Palmer said she supports a larger footprint because it means more housing for more people.

“We actually need housing in Chapel Hill. We need places for people to live. We have thousands of people commuting to Chapel Hill because there is no adequate housing for them. We have a lack of certain types of apartments, of housing for older residents, of affordable housing, of everything that is going into this development,” Palmer said.

The council plans to resume discussion and come to a vote on Obey Creek at its meeting next Monday night.

No Appointment to the Chapel Hill Town Council…Yet

Candidates hoping to be appointed to the vacant seat on the Chapel Hill Town Council will have to wait another week before any decision might be made.

A vote on whether or not the council would vote to appoint another candidate to the Town Council failed to pass by a vote of four to three at the council meeting on Monday night.

Chapel Hill resident Nancy Oates petitioned the Town Council to put off any consideration of appointing a new member until a full council was present.

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt says, regardless of council population, any candidate would need to hit a certain mark in order to receive an appointment.

“The Town Council has to have five people voting the same way in order for that to happen,” Kleinschmidt says. “Even if there are only five council members here, all five of them would have to [vote] in the same direction.

“So it doesn’t really matter whether we have everyone here or not.”

Council member Lee Storrow was out of town for business and,therefore, was not in attendance for the meeting.

The appointment will appear on every agenda until the Town Council appoints a new member or residents elect a representative.

Town Council Delays Vote on Filling Vacancy

At Monday’s meeting, Council Member George Cianciolo argued for a delayed vote as the Chapel Hill Town Council considers appointing someone to fill the vacant seat.

“I’d like to see that we have a full council when we vote. We’re missing one council member tonight, and that’s why my motion is that we take the vote next Monday,” said Cianciolo.

Donna Bell was the council member absent from the meeting. Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt threw out Cianciolo’s motion, but the council did not pass a motion to take a vote.

The item will appear again on the May 11 meeting agenda so the council could appoint someone at that meeting.

To be precise, the Chapel Hill Town Council delayed deciding on whether to decide on a candidate to fill the vacant council seat, at Monday’s meeting. To explain, the council agreed on a two-step voting process.

First the council will vote on whether to select someone for the seat. If the council votes to select someone, council members will each cast a ballot to choose one of six applicants.  If one of the candidates gets five votes, he or she wins.

On Monday, the council delayed the first vote.

During the public comment period, a few people expressed support for applicant Amy Ryan.

“She is intelligent, rational and fair-minded,” said Laura Moore about Ryan. “She has the experience to understand Chapel Hill’s tough development issues. We need her expertise on our town council.”

Others endorsed applicant Michael Parker.

“He’s been at every meeting I’ve ever been to – committees, town council,” said Lynne Kane. “And some nights, when I’ve stayed home to watch the town council on TV, I saw that Michael Parker was in the audience. He really has a deep understanding of what would be good for all of Chapel Hill.”

The May 11 meeting will be held at 7 pm at Chapel Hill Town Hall. According to the town code of ordinances, if the council delays a vote again, the agenda item will come back at the next meeting. And it will keep coming back at subsequent meetings until the council appoints someone or citizens elect someone.

Town Council Moves Forward With $40M Bond

The Chapel Hill Town Council voted unanimously on Monday to put a bond referendum on the ballot in November.

Business Management Director Ken Pennoyer told the Council the bond will not require a property tax rate increase because the town’s debt fund already has the capacity to repay the debt.

“Although it is stated as 3.8 cents, that 3.8 cents will actually be provided by the debt management fund, and no increase is anticipated based on the referendum bonds,” said Pennoyer.

The package will total $40.3 million, with funding going to streets, sidewalks, greenways, stormwater improvements, recreation facilities and a new waste transfer station.


The resolution is the first step in the referendum process. It sets the maximum dollar amounts and assigns general purposes for the money.

Moving forward, the Council can delete projects or reduce the dollar amounts, but not add new projects or reassign funding.

A public hearing on the bond referendum is scheduled for June 22.

Applicants Vie for Chapel Hill Town Council Seat

Five applicants made their cases to the Chapel Hill Town Council for appointment to the vacant council seat, at Monday’s special meeting.

Member Jim Ward said the council should leave the seat open until the election in November.

“We are very close to the end of the fiscal year. And we are well into the development agreement process with East West Partners,” said Ward. “To bring somebody on at this point, to me, seems like it’s not the right decision.”

The seat became vacant after Matt Czajkowski resigned last month. If the council selects someone, the appointee would serve the remainder of Czajkowski’s term, which expires in December.

Member Donna Bell, who started on the council as an appointee in 2009, argued for appointing someone to the seat.

Some are concerned that selecting someone would give the appointee an unfair advantage in the November election. Bell said this person would be in the public eye, which could actually be a disadvantage.

“It is also a space for people to have vulnerabilities that you would not have otherwise,” said Bell.

The council decided on a two-part voting process for the May 4 meeting. First the council will vote on whether to select someone for the seat. If a majority of the council decides to appoint someone, the council will vote on candidates. If one of the candidates gets five votes, he or she wins.

Applicant Amy Ryan serves as the vice chair and community design champion on the town’s planning commission.

“By profession, I’m a book editor, a solitary job where you spend your time with texts that don’t argue back,” said Ryan. “When I got involved in town affairs, no one was more surprised than I was, how much I enjoy working with diverse and sometimes oppositional groups to create a space where everyone can be heard, to facilitate open and productive debate and to resolve the views of the many into a single decision for the good of the town.”

Applicant Kevin Hicks serves on four boards in The Triangle that focus on youth, bicycling and greenways.

“In addition to the youth initiative, I am passionate about funding for the Rogers Road sewer plan, solid waste issues for the town, implementing a bike plan and initiating a pedestrian plan,” said Hicks. “I would like to apply the same energy and focus I have working with youth to the duties of town council.”

People can voice support for candidates during the public comment period early in the May 4 meeting at Chapel Hill Town Hall.

Applicant Paul Neebe did not come to Monday’s meeting. In addition to the three mentioned, Adam Jones, Michael Parker and Gary Shaw also applied.

Town Council Approves Walgreens Plan

A Walgreens could be coming to northern Chapel Hill.

The Chapel Hill Town Council on Monday unanimously approved a rezoning and Special Use Permit for the Weaver Crossing development.

The project will bring 40,700 square feet of retail, medical and office space to 3.7 acres at the corner of Weaver Dairy Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The property is owned by Walgreens; the drugstore and drive-through pharmacy will be the retail anchor store at the site.

Council members approved a right-in-only turn from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard into the parking lot, and right in/right out entrances at Sparrow Street and on Weaver Dairy.

The developer will also pay $16,800 for a new bus stop and shelter.

CHTC Approves Single Fee For Recycling, Waste Services

The Chapel Hill Town Council approved a county-wide single fee to fund recycling and waste services, at Monday’s meeting.

The council voted 6-1, with Jim Ward voting against the resolution authorizing Orange County to charge property owners a single fee of $103 a year.*

“I think it’s a disservice to the people we are elected to represent to voluntarily pay . . . a significant amount of money more than the cost of the service that’s provided,” said Ward.

In late March, the council discussed two funding options with legislative boards from Carrboro, Hillsborough and the county.

At this assembly of governments meeting, CHTC members argued for a split fee of $94 per urban property per year and $118 per rural property per year.* They said the county’s waste convenience centers would be mostly used by rural residents so Chapel Hill taxpayers should pay a lower fee.

Officials from the other three boards argued for the single fee option.

Words between Ward and other council members became tense at Monday’s meeting. Here’s an excerpt, edited down for clarity.

Ed Harrison: “My neighbors and I can swallow three cents per day for people in Orange County.”

Jim Ward: “Ed, I’m sorry you used the analogy of three cents a day. To me that’s a smokescreen that obfuscates the reality of what you – it sounds like – and others are going to be willing to ask of the Chapel Hill taxpayers to pay: $100,000 – $200,000 more than the services that they’re getting.”

Maria Palmer: “Using words like smokescreen and things like that . . . If somebody chooses to say it’s three cents a day, and you choose to say $100,000, we could accuse you of making it sound enormous for purposes of scaring people. Nobody’s going to pay $100,000.”

Before this town council meeting, the Solid Waste Advisory Group, which includes members from each government board, approved the single fee funding. But the town council had to authorize the fee before the county got the authority to charge the fee.

On Monday, CHTC members, apart from Ward, said they did not want to stand in the way of moving forward. This funding will increase recycling in the county, they said, and there are more important battles to fight.

*The exact dollar amounts could change since projections are based on the fiscal year 2014/15 budget.

CHTC Accepting Applications for Vacant Seat

The Chapel Hill Town Council adopted a resolution on Wednesday night which lays out the timeline to fill a vacant seat.

This vacant seat came after Matt Czajkowski’s recent resignation from the council.

“The first item on the agenda is one required by our town charter and code of ordinances,” said Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt at Wednesday’s meeting. “It is my duty to declare, there is a vacancy on the council. There I did that.”

Kleinschmidt came up with the schedule, which sets April 22 as the deadline for submitting applications for the position.

“I think the council could fairly reach the conclusion that they don’t need to appoint anyone,” said  Czajkowski in an interview with WCHL .

Council Member Jim Ward reflected this sentiment at the meeting.

“As I thought about how to move forward with that vacancy, my conclusion was that we’d be better off to not fill it,” said Ward.

Ward said the new member would be coming near the end of a session of complicated discussions and critical votes. The council, Ward said, should fill the seat in November’s election.

Ward said the new member would not be adequately informed on the issues. He also argued that the appointee, after serving the remainder of Czajkowski’s term, would have an unfair advantage as an incumbent in the November 2015 election if he or she chooses to run.

Mayor Kleinschmidt replied that town code requires the council to set a deadline to receive applications for the vacant seat. But the council doesn’t have to select anyone.

“When the council has the opportunity to fill the appointment, there may not be five votes to appoint anybody,” said Kleinschmidt.

Matt Czajkowski announced his resignation from the council in late February. Czajkowski said he and his wife will move to Kigali, Rwanda, to work for a non-profit to promote clean drinking water and economic development.

After the April 22 submission deadline, the council will review applications and make nominations. Applicants will be invited to make comments at a 6 pm special meeting before the council’s business meeting on April 27.

In Kleinschmidt’s proposed schedule, the council would consider making an appointment on May 4. If the council appoints someone to the seat, the new member would be sworn in on May 11.

You can email comments and questions to the mayor and council here:

Charterwood Construction Begins After 7 Year Battle

After nearly a decade of debate, the Charterwood development is underway.

Bill Christian is the Chapel Hill-based developer behind Charterwood, one of the most contentious projects to come before the Chapel Hill Town Council in years.

While he’s glad to see the project finally breaking ground, the battle he fought to get to this point has left him bruised and bitter.

“I would not go through it again. There’s no possibility of my group making anything. We will lose money. That’s a foregone conclusion.”

According to Christian, the Charterwood project came before the Town Council 28 times since 2007. It was narrowly approved in 2012. But that wasn’t the end- neighbors filed suit against the developer and the town, and the mediation process that resulted lasted another year.

He says the approval process alone cost him upwards of $2 million dollars.

“It was certainly a poor outcome. My partners don’t blame me- that’s a good thing- because I could not have made up the process that I went through.”

Now, he’s sold a portion of the 15 acre lot to Zimmer Development out of Wilmington. They’ll build the first phase of the mixed-use project – a 154 unit apartment complex on nine acres near the corner of MLK and Weaver Dairy Road Extension. That’s under construction now and should be completed in a year.

“I think they’ll do a good job, and that’s important to me. What’s left to do is either stuff that we may do or future buyers may do, but I hope they also will do a good job. That’s important to me. It was from day one important to me.”

Christian still owns an adjacent five-acre parcel, which is zoned for a four-story mixed-use building plus a bank and a historic farm house he hopes to repurpose.

But he’s not sure he wants to continue to do business in Chapel Hill, given the kind of backlash he’s seen firsthand.

“I have often thought, ‘how did the process get to this point?’ For the whole time I’ve lived here, thirty years, it has surprised me. Why does everyone want to oppose virtually every project that gets proposed? It doesn’t matter the merits.”

He says he is encouraged to see the Council try new approval processes like form-based code.

“Form-based code is definitely a step in the right direction, because the way it’s supposed to work is that it takes the politics out of it, and that’s a good thing. The development review process here is highly political and that’s not a good thing for real estate.”

Chapel Hill’s form-based code is limited to 190 acres in the Ephesus-Fordham area. Since the council enacted the new zoning last spring, the Village Plaza Apartment project has already been approved and a second project application has been submitted.

The Ephesus-Fordham district is a test case to see if new methods of zoning and approval can spur economic development. Currently, there are no plans to extend the code to other parts of town.