CHTC Discusses Obey Creek Affordable Housing Plan, Development Agreement

At Thursday night’s meeting, the Chapel Hill Town Council discussed an affordable housing plan for the proposed Obey Creek development.

Ben Perry, finance director of the development company East West Partners, proposed that 15 percent of the for-sale units and 5 percent of the rentals be designated as affordable housing.

East West Partners wants to build 1.6 million square feet of commercial, residential and office space on 35 acres at the Obey Creek site, which is across from Southern Village. Thursday’s meeting was part of the town’s ongoing negotiation with the developer.

An Obey Creek Affordable Housing Subcommittee, made up of some council members and stakeholders, had meetings with East West Partners over the last month.

Perry said East West Partners would provide 15 percent of the for-sale units at prices affordable to people earning up to 80 percent of the area median income (AMI), which is $66,000 for a Chapel Hill household. In other words, the developer would offer six to eight for-sale townhouses at a reduced cost. This meets Chapel Hill’s inclusionary zoning ordinance for residential development.

Perry said the developer could offer 5 percent of the 600 rental units at a reduced cost.

Half of those 30 reduced-cost rentals would be eligible to section 8 and veteran affairs voucher holders. These would serve people who earn between 30 and 60 percent of the AMI.

The other half would be offered to people earning between 60 and 80 percent of the AMI. These tenants would pay 30 percent of their income for the units.

The council could ask the developer to pay a fee for affordable housing programs offsite instead of offering affordable housing at Obey Creek.

“My suggestion is that we take the affordable rental units, not the payment in lieu,” said Delores Bailey, executive director of the non-profit EmPOWERment Inc. She served on the Obey Creek affordable housing subcommittee. “There are lots of families that we can accommodate with this project when it happens.”

The town also discussed a draft of the Obey Creek Development Agreement. This agreement, a contract between the town and the developer, would list the permitted uses, housing requirements, environmental specifications, and other conditions and requirements.

The council would vote on the agreement in June, at the earliest. You can find the draft development agreement here. Email your feedback to and

The council’s next negotiation session is scheduled for Feb. 19 at Chapel Hill Town Hall at 7pm.

CHTC To Talk Housing And Design For Obey Creek

The Chapel Hill Town Council will sit down with representatives from East West Partners on Thursday to hash out the details of the Obey Creek development agreement.

This is the first formal discussion since the Council voted last week to enter into negotiations for a plan to govern the long-term build out of the project.

The developer is proposing a multi-use development that will include 400,000 square feet of retail, 250,000 square feet of office space and up to 700 residential units on 35 acres. Council members will discuss the mix of uses, affordable housing provisions and design principals at Thursday’s work session.

The meeting starts at 7 o’clock in Council Chambers at Chapel Hill Town Hall. You can find the full agenda here.

CHTC Down To The Wire On Glen Lennox Plan

Months of negotiation on the Glen Lennox development agreement came down to the wire Monday night as the Chapel Hill Town Council rushed to conclude a four and a half hour meeting before accidentally triggering the automatic alarms at the Southern Human Services Center.

As the clock ticked toward midnight, Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt sped the council through a series of straw polls to dispatch the lingering points of contention between town staff and Glen Lennox developer Grubb Properties.

Much of the discussion focused on whether the developer should be required to provide bike lane improvements along N.C. 54, but Clay Grubb argued no amount of lane striping would help.

“The last thing we want is kids to think that they can ride in front of the shopping center and down under the bridge,” Grubb told the Council. “You know, I don’t care what hour it is, it’s a very, very dangerous street.”

The Council also considered, and then abandoned, the idea of asking the developer to extend the Meadowmont bike path from Burning Tree Drive to the eastern edge of the Glen Lennox property. Council member George Cianciolo said he believes that’s the town’s responsibility.

“We’re also talking about a developer who has been working for a couple years now on a very collaborative basis with the town, and I think we need to think very carefully about not trying to extract too much from this developer,” said Cianciolo.

As town staffers gathered papers in preparation for a hasty exit, Grubb Properties representative Rachel Russell told the Council there are still two unresolved matters the developer is looking to settle before signing off on a twenty-year plan to redevelop one of Chapel Hill’s oldest commercial centers and the surrounding neighborhood.

“There are two more issues that we brought to the table with some concern, and I recognize we’ve run out of time, but they are important issues to us that we need to address,” said Russell. “If I can, I’ll reach out to you this week and explain each of them to you.”

The redevelopment project has been in the works since 2004. Town planners and Grubb Properties have been actively engaged in the development agreement process since March 2013.

If approved, the Glen Lennox plan would add new roads, new housing and a greenway in the interior of the 70 acre site, as well as office and retail space along Fordham Boulevard and Raleigh Road.

All parties hoped to have the last few questions answered on Monday, in preparation for a final vote next week. The Council will reconsider the Glen Lennox Development Agreement on Monday, June 23.

Council Readies For June Vote On Glen Lennox Plan

Members of the Chapel Hill Town Council sat down with developers from Grubb Properties on Monday to hash out the details of a plan to revitalize one of the town’s oldest commercial centers, as well as the surrounding neighborhood.

The Glen Lennox redevelopment plan would add new roads and new housing at the interior of the 70 acre site and office and retail space along Fordham Boulevard and Raleigh Road.

The Town Council is negotiating a development agreement to govern the build-out of the plan during the next two decades. At Monday’s work session, Council members focused on traffic mitigation, design features and the fiscal impact of the plan.

The Council also heard a novel proposal to retain affordable rental housing during and after redevelopment.

Clay Grubb, of Grubb Properties, suggested a program aimed at keeping long-term residents. Renters who have lived in Glen Lennox for five years or more would be eligible to have future rent hikes limited to no more than the increase of the Consumer Price Index. This would apply to 15 percent of the rentals throughout the entire property.

Though there are still issues of contention, Council members voiced approval for the plan and signaled they are almost ready to put it to a vote.

And while development plans for other focus areas such as Obey Creek and Ephesus-Fordham have become mired in controversy in recent months, the members of the public who spoke at the work session seemed to embrace the Glen Lennox plan with open arms.

One current resident called it “a blessing,” telling the council the plan should be “the gold standard” for other developers.

The development agreement will undergo another review by town staffers before a public hearing and council vote in June.

So. Village Residents Skeptical Of New Obey Creek Plan

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.

CHTC Outlines Development Agreement Process For Obey Creek

CHAPEL HILL- The Chapel Hill Town Council approved a plan to explore a new type of planning process for three large projects, including the controversial Obey Creek development.

Though they haven’t always agreed in the past, developer Roger Perry and southern Chapel Hill resident Jeanne Brown told the council on Monday that they are ready to work together to plan the future of the proposed Obey Creek project.

“What we’re saying is, this is a positive pathway to resolving what should go on this site,” said Roger Perry. “We’re saying, let’s begin it.”

Brown has long been a critic of Perry’s plan to build a 1.5 million square foot high-density mixed use development across from Southern Village.

But she and other residents say they’re willing to engage in a new planning process, one that sidesteps the traditional Special Use Permit approval in favor of a longer period of back and forth negotiation between the council, citizens and developers.

Brown asked the council to prioritize public participation in the process, saying community dialog needs to happen before any technical review of site plans.

“While I recognize that public participation will be part of the proposed two-phase process, there has not been an agreement between all parties about a starting point for Obey Creek, a fact that suggests the need to begin with dialog, not just data collection,” said Brown.

But council members suggested the data gathering and public planning can happen simultaneously.

“My experience is that people start talking and they’re like, ‘hey where’s the data on traffic?’ said Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. “It would be really great if it’s on its way.”

The council unanimously approved a two-part planning process to evaluate if pending projects would be suitable for development agreements.

The Glen Lennox redevelopment, the expansion of the Southern Human Services Center and the Obey Creek development could all be candidates for the process.

The six month exploratory phase will combine public dialog about a proposed project with technical review of the possible impacts. If all parties reach consensus on the need for a development agreement, the council would enter into a six-to-nine month negotiation phase with the developer to establish mitigation plans.

Developers would foot the bill for any consultants hired to provide technical expertise. Town planners estimate it could cost developers up to $150,000 to complete the process, nearly twice as much as a Special Use Permit application fee.

With the council’s blessing, the Town Manager’s office will launch the technical review and public outreach efforts for both the Glen Lennox and Obey Creek projects, as well as approach county officials to discuss if the Southern Human Services Center expansion meets the criteria for a development agreement.