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.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chtc-wire-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.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/council-readies-june-vote-glen-lennox-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.
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.
“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.http://chapelboro.com/news/development/so-village-residents-skeptical-of-new-obey-creek-plan/
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.
“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.