Lawsuit Challenges Chatham Park Project

A group of citizens has filed a lawsuit challenging Pittsboro’s approval of the Chatham Park development project.

The suit filed by members of Pittsboro Matters alleges that the Town Board violated state statutes, town zoning rules and the state constitution when it voted in June to rezone 7,000 acres on the outskirts of town.

The controversial proposal would increase Pittsboro’s population from 4,000 to nearly 60,000. Opponents say the project lacks adequate environmental protections and should incorporate more public input in the design process.

Members of Pittsboro Matters say while they are ready and willing to litigate the issue, they would also be open to negotiating with town leaders and Chatham Park investors.

You can find the full text of the complaint here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/development/lawsuit-challenges-chatham-park-project/

Fracking Concerns Blue Ridge Environmental Defense, NC Citizens

With the rising concern of the dangers associated with fracking, many North Carolinians are deeply uncertain about what lies ahead for the state relying on the questionable method of obtaining fuel and energy.

WCHL’s Ron Stutts spoke with Therese Vick of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, and with Martha Girolami, a citizen of northeast Chatham County that has found out recently that she lives atop of what is known as the “Triassic basin,” which is one of the potential locations that fracking companies may take advantage of.

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League is a “regional, community-based, non-profit environmental organization.” They focus on issues including “industry’s dependence on toxic chemicals, utilities’ refusal to adopt sound energy alternatives, industrial development and highway construction at the expense of public health, intensive livestock operations’ effects on agriculture and the environment, and huge waste dumps.”

When asked what she personally found so dangerous about fracking, Girolami says that her two biggest issues come from the health risks and how quickly the practice of fracking is being accepted despite a lack of real preparatory analysis.

“Fracking so bad because it’s so polluting,” says Girolami. “It’s so polluting to ground water, surface water, air, air health, and it’s been so rushed. So rushed we haven’t done a health study, we’ve done no air rules. The Energy and Mining Commission has been meeting for two years, but there are big gaps in the rules they put together.”

Vick reminds of the recent legislation created that states it is a misdemeanor to disclose what chemicals are used for digging. She says that this is not how the community should be treated when it comes to this form of resource gathering.

“The community has the right to know what is being injected into the ground under their feet,” says Vick. “Our organization just passed a resolution on chemical disclosure that we hope to share with other folks, but my feeling is that the reason they don’t want people to know is because of that potential liability.”

***Listen to the full interview here***

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

For more on the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, click here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/health/anti-fracking-response-interview/

Town Leaders Talk Obey Creek, Glen Lennox…And Chatham Park

What is the future of development in Chapel Hill? The Chapel Hill Town Council will be making a pair of big decisions on Monday.

That’s when the Council votes on whether to approve a development agreement for the Glen Lennox neighborhood – and whether to proceed to the negotiation phase on another development in the works, Obey Creek.

See the Council’s full agenda.

Located just across 15/501 from Southern Village, the 120-acre Obey Creek site represents the next big phase of the ongoing discussion around development and redevelopment in Chapel Hill. (Since the town’s new comprehensive plan was approved in 2012, Chapel Hill has begun moving forward on several “future focus” areas, including Central West, Rosemary Street, and Ephesus/Fordham as well as Glen Lennox.)

See an image of the broad vision for Obey Creek, as laid out in the “Chapel Hill 2020″ comprehensive plan.

Developer Roger Perry of East-West Partners has proposed a 1.5 million square foot development for the site, with 600-700 residential units, 327,000 square feet of retail (including a large anchor store, perhaps a ‘big box’), and a hotel. The proposed development would cover 35 of the 120 acres, with the rest conserved for public use, wilderness preservation, and a possible future school.

See the most recent development proposal.

Reaction to Perry’s proposal has been mixed, at least so far. (No surprise: the discussion process is still in the early stages.) Residents and town officials generally agree that some development ought to take place at the Obey Creek site, if only to generate more retail spending: fewer dollars are spent on retail in Orange County than in any of the surrounding counties, and that in turn forces Chapel Hill’s tax burden disproportionately onto property owners. (The Town Council, indeed, just approved a one-cent property tax increase.)

But some have objected to certain features of Perry’s proposal. Its large scale is one concern: some have proposed a smaller development, closer to 750,000 square feet than 1.5 million. (Perry has argued, in response, that a certain level of density is necessary to make the project financially viable.) Others have expressed concerns about the environmental effects, pedestrian and bike accessibility, and the impact on traffic on 15/501 (which is already busy in that area). And still others have emphasized the need to make sure that Obey Creek has a “sense of place”: aesthetically pleasing, with a real connection to Southern Village and a feeling of being Chapel Hill’s southern ‘gateway.’ (Some residents involved in the discussion have held up the East 54 development – also Perry’s – as a cautionary example in this vein: the East 54 development isn’t as inviting as it could be, they say, because drivers along Route 54 can only see the backs of the buildings.)

Last year, the Town of Chapel Hill appointed 17 residents to a committee, to study the proposal, solicit public feedback, and provide recommendations on moving forward. On December 16 of last year, the Obey Creek Compass Committee submitted its final 43-page report.

Read the Compass Committee’s report here.

Committee members say they have some concerns about the proposal that’s currently on the table, but they’re confident the disagreements can be worked out before final approval from the Town Council.

And all of these discussions are taking place in the wake of Chatham County’s recent approval of Chatham Park – a massive development that’s set to add about 60,000 residents to Pittsboro over the next three decades. (Pittsboro’s current population is about 3,000.) How that will affect development in Chapel Hill – or the entire Triangle, for that matter – remains to be seen.

Two weeks ago, WCHL’s Jim Heavner spoke at length with Roger Perry about the Obey Creek project and the state of development in Chapel Hill.

(Listen to part 1, part 2, and part 3 of that conversation.)

And last week, Aaron Keck welcomed several key town officials and Compass Committee members into the studio to talk about Obey Creek – as well as Glen Lennox, Chatham Park, and development in general in Chapel Hill.

Listen to Part 1 of Aaron’s conversation with Jeanne Brown and Susan Lindsay of the Obey Creek Compass Committee:

And Part 2:

Listen to Aaron’s conversation with Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt:

Listen to Part 1 of Aaron’s conversation with Kristen Smith of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce:

And Part 2:

Finally, listen to Aaron’s conversation with Chapel Hill Economic Development Officer Dwight Bassett:

The Town Council meets on Monday night at 5:30 in the Southern Human Services Center.

http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/town-leaders-talk-obey-creek-glen-lennox-chatham-park/

Development Competition Would Be Beneficial

Chapel Hill developer, Roger Perry, says he’d like to see more economic competition for East West Partners Management Company.

He says Chapel Hill should be more willing to accept some much-needed changes.

Roger Perry (Courtesy of UNC News Services)

Roger Perry (Courtesy of UNC News Services)

“We are willing to put up with it, others will not,” says Perry. “From a cost standpoint, the market risk is greater than the entitlement risk.”

While he says East West Partners has tried to take advantage of working through this entitlement process because no one else wants to, it may no longer be in the company’s best interest.

“I fear the worst economic impacts on our company will be the lack of true competitiveness in Chapel Hill,” says Perry.

Perry also says that he might not be in opposition to another one-cent tax increase, passed this week by the Chapel Hill Town Council.

“There are no short-term answers,” says Perry. “That one cent is going to some very basic improvements and to put a little bit of money into some capital projects that are long past overdue.”

While Perry says changes can still be made to the development processes, there are signs of progress being made.

“I think the town has already taken a big step with the Ephesus-Fordham approval,” says Perry. “I am not sure that I would necessarily tear down any barriers that currently exist for development, but I would dramatically streamline the process.”

Perry made these comments in a WCHL News Special with Jim Heavner.

Chapel Hill’s tax rates—city, county, and school taxes–support the city schools, free local busses, and social services, at the highest rate in North Carolina. Local government development policies have made Chapel Hill’s taxes on residences the highest percentage in the state, and commercial taxes the lowest. Orange County exports more retail spending to other counties than any county in the region. In a WCHL news special, Jim Heavner interviews Roger Perry, who has recently been more outspoken on those issues.

Perry, a Chapel Hillian, is the President of East West Partners Management Company, and since 1983 East West Partners has developed more residential real estate than any company in North Carolina. That includes Meadowmont, Downing Creek and East 54 here in Chapel Hill. He’s now trying to develop Obey Creek, so he’s a big player. Perry, a UNC graduate has also served as chair of the UNC Board of Trustees, and that is also a topic of the special interview.

This interview was conducted before the Chapel Hill Town Council approved next year’s budget, which includes a one-cent tax property increase.

***Listen to Part Three***

Part 1 | Part 2Part 3 | Part 4

http://chapelboro.com/news/development/development-competition-beneficial/

‘It’s Time To Welcome The Big-Box’

Chapel Hill developer Roger Perry says the Town has to strike while the iron is hot and not miss great tax-growth opportunities with its new development sites.

“Time and time again, we have rejected,” Perry says. “For example, at Obey Creek, we have the ability to bring a large retailer to town, and, to date, the Town has not shown the willingness to accept a 100,000 square foot-plus retailer. But they’ll come; they want to be here very much; they’ll definitely come.”

He says the Town should be welcoming commercial development with open arms, and if it does, the tax burden on it citizens will begin to subside.

Perry made these comments in a WCHL News Special with Jim Heavner.

Chapel Hill’s tax rates—city, county, and school taxes–support the city schools, free local busses, and social services, at the highest rate in North Carolina. Local government development policies have made Chapel Hill’s taxes on residences the highest percentage in the state, and commercial taxes the lowest. Orange County exports more retail spending to other counties than any county in the region. In a WCHL news special, Jim Heavner interviews Roger Perry, who has recently been more outspoken on those issues.

Perry, a Chapel Hillian, is the President of East West Partners Management Company, and since 1983 East West Partners has developed more residential real estate than any company in North Carolina. That includes Meadowmont, Downing Creek and East 54 here in Chapel Hill. He’s now trying to develop Obey Creek, so he’s a big player. Perry, a UNC graduate has also served as chair of the UNC Board of Trustees, and that is also a topic of the special interview.

***Listen to Part Two***

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

http://chapelboro.com/news/development/time-welcome-big-box/

Developer Calls For Higher Density

Roger Perry (Courtesy of UNC News Services)

Roger Perry (Courtesy of UNC News Services)

Chapel Hill developer Roger Perry says the Town should be welcoming commercial development with open arms, and if it does, the tax burden on it citizens will begin to subside.

“If you’re going to remain competitive, and if you’re going to keep a tax base that can sustain the community, you must build higher densities, and you must build a bigger concentration of commercial property than we have been building,” Perry says.

Perry says the land has to be developed efficiently because Chapel Hill, along with Carrboro and Orange County, decided about 30 years ago to draw an urban growth boundary to define just how far out it would develop.

The largest portion of Chapel Hill land held by one entity is taken up by UNC, which is tax exempt. Perry says the Town has to be smart about how it uses the remainder of the property.

“In Chapel Hill, we only have 15 percent, plus-or-minus, of our tax base (coming) from commercial property,” Perry says. “Most rules of thumb suggest that equilibrium in that regard is to have at least a third of your tax base come from commercial property tax. In Durham, for example, that number is 40 percent; it’s approximately the same in Wake County.”

The Ephesus-Fordham redevelopment plan was designed to spur economic growth. Perry says those who are against the project are focusing on the wrong problem and don’t have all the facts.

“The issues in flood control in that whole district are a huge problem, but they’re a huge problem today,” Perry says. “The Town’s plan is that, with this redevelopment and the increased tax base that it will provide, it will provide the resources necessary to remedy that problem and fix that problem.”

Perry made these comments in a WCHL News Special with Jim Heavner.

Chapel Hill’s tax rates—city, county, and school taxes–support the city schools, free local busses, and social services, at the highest rate in North Carolina. Local government development policies have made Chapel Hill’s taxes on residences the highest percentage in the state, and commercial taxes the lowest. Orange County exports more retail spending to other counties than any county in the region. In a WCHL news special, Jim Heavner interviews Roger Perry, who has recently been more outspoken on those issues.

Perry, a Chapel Hillian, is the President of East West Partners Management Company, and since 1983 East West Partners has developed more residential real estate than any company in North Carolina. That includes Meadowmont, Downing Creek and East 54 here in Chapel Hill. He’s now trying to develop Obey Creek, so he’s a big player. Perry, a UNC graduate has also served as chair of the UNC Board of Trustees, and that is also a topic of the special interview.

***Listen to Part One***

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

http://chapelboro.com/news/development/developer-calls-higher-density/

Chapel Hill Town Council Approves Ephesus-Fordham Renewal Plan

The Chapel Hill Town Council took a series of votes Monday night to adopt a new type of zoning known as form-based code and apply it to a large swath of land surrounding the Ephesus Church Road-Fordham Boulevard intersection.

Council member George Cianciolo sided with the majority in supporting the plan.

“I do believe that this will be successful for Chapel Hill,” Cianciolo told the crowd of more that one hundred who turned out for the third public hearing on the proposal. “That’s what I was elected to do, use my best judgement.”

The Council voted 8-1 to adopt the new form-based code into the town land use plan, and 6-9 to apply it to the majority of the 190 acre Ephesus-Fordham focus area. Ed Harrison, Matt Czajkowski and Jim Ward voted against the rezonings.

The plan calls for the town to reconfigure the intersection of Ephesus Church Road and Fordham Boulevard, extend Elliot Road and create new mixed-use zones that allow three to seven stories of commercial and residential development.

Supporters say it will encourage new business growth in the area while also addressing long-standing flooding problems and traffic jams.

However, opponents have raised doubts about the efficacy of the stormwater management plan and questioned the cost and timing of the redevelopment proposal. Council member Czajkowski sided with critics of the plan.

“There’s no evidence that it will achieve the original goals, including stormwater, including traffic mitigation, including increasing commercial tax revenue towards the town,” said Czajkowski.

Council member Ward opposed the plan because he said switching from a Special Use Permit approval process to form-based code means the Council will lose the chance to negotiate with developers for affordable housing and energy efficient design.

“Sounds like the rest of the Council is ready to give away the store in terms of the one thing that we have, and that’s the ability to offer greater density as an incentive,” said Ward. “It baffles me.”

Using form-based code, the Council sets parameters for development including building height, setbacks and parking guidelines for each zone, but once these are in place, individual developers will not need to bring their projects before the council if they meet the established criteria. Instead, projects will be reviewed by the Town Manager and the Community Design Commission. Council members expressed interest in reviewing the first projects that come forward under the new guidelines, but they will not be able to ask developers for concessions.

Mayor pro Tem Sally Greene proposed holding off on rezoning four parcels of land along Elliot Road from  East Franklin Street to Fordham Boulevard while staffers investigate the possibility of offering density bonuses for developers who build affordable housing.

“What I’m talking about is a proposal that would change properties 1, 2, 3 and 4 from WX 5 to WX 2, as in two stories permitted by right with a density bonus of five stories in exchange for 10 percent affordable housing,” said Greene.

The Council backed her proposal, leaving the land as-is for now.

In addition, the Council voted unanimously to rezone 8.5 acres on Legion Road so that nonprofit developer DHIC can apply for low-income tax credits to subsidize a proposed affordable rental housing project on the site. The town is partnering with DHIC on the project, but some backers worried the rezoning might not happen before Friday’s deadline to apply for tax credits.

While the zoning is now in place, the town is still in the process of figuring out how to pay for the $10 million dollars worth of infrastructure improvements. To that end, the town is asking Orange County to help pay down the town’s debt by contributing a portion of the increased tax revenues the redevelopment is expected to generate.

County commissioners will consider that plan on Thursday night.

http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chapel-hill-town-council-approves-ephesus-fordham-renewal-plan/

CHCCS Officials Ask Town Council To Save Room For Schools

As the Chapel Hill Town Council eyes new residential development at Obey Creek, Glen Lennox and in the Ephesus-Fordham area, officials from the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system want to be sure there’s space available if new students move in.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Assistant Superintendent Todd LoFrese told the Town Council on Wednesday that district schools are nearing full capacity.

“We currently have about 12,100 students in the district,” said LoFrese. “You can see that we’re close to full.”

He added school officials are projecting enrollment numbers will continue to rise.

“While we do have some breathing room at the elementary level that was created when Northside opened earlier this year, our projected growth rate shows that we’re growing at about 1.5 percent annually at all three of the levels, so in the next few years, all school levels will be at or above 100 percent capacity.”

Using the current projections, LoFrese said a new elementary and new middle school will be necessary by 2020 and Carrboro High School will need to expand in 2023.

Compounding the problem, LoFrese told the council there are few sites left in the district that are suitable for new schools. A site near Morris Grove could be the home of the next middle school, and the next elementary might be built at Carolina North or on the Greene tract north of Homestead Road.

Land across from Southern Village is earmarked as a potential school site, but that’s also where East West Partners is looking to build the 120 acre Obey Creek mixed-use project.

Currently, potential school sites are designated within the town’s comprehensive plan and any developer seeking a special use permit or SUP for one of those locations must ask the school board to release that site. But with the Town Council considering a variety of new development approval methods that sidestep the SUP process, administrators worry the school board might lose that power.

“I know that there are various development processes that are being considered, whether it is a negotiated agreement or a form-based code process,” said LoFrese. “The [school] board is going to be considering a resolution that requests the Town Council to honor the spirit of the potential school site process, regardless of the type of development process used.”

The school board also wants to make sure developers using form-based code or a development agreement are required to seek a Certificate of Adequate Public Schools from the district to ensure there’s room in the school system to accommodate residential growth.

There’s some controversy, however, about how the student generation rates are determined for new developments in the post-recession economy. Apartments and condos are projected to bring fewer students to the district, but lately, LoFrese said the results have been unpredictable.

“The East 54 project has 254 units. Generation rates expected 37 students out of that project. We actually only have two,” said LoFrese. “However, look at Chapel Watch Village. Chapel Watch Village, off of Eubanks, has a total of 120 units. We expected 21 students and in reality we got 46.”

LoFrese told the Council the school district is working on a two-pronged approach to address the question of future school capacity. In the short-term, the board has asked Orange County to commission a new study to update the data on student generation rates for new residential development.

A larger, more expensive plan is to renovate the district’s oldest schools to add capacity. While that would cost upwards of $100 million dollars, it would delay the need for $57 million worth of new school construction. Orange County leaders are discussing a possible bond package to cover the cost of some school renovations, but that might not make it to the ballot until 2016.

In the meantime, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board will consider a resolution on Thursday night asking the Town Council to keep school sites, and school capacity, on the table during upcoming development negotiations.

http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chccs-officials-ask-town-council-save-room-schools/

Carolina Ale House To Occupy Former Yates Building

The Yates Building at 419 West Franklin Street will be occupied once more, as LM Restaurants announced it will open a Carolina Ale House restaurant at that location within the next twelve months.

The site would be the 14th Carolina Ale House to open in the state and the 22nd in the Southeast.

The building, which has been vacant since 2003, was the site of a confrontation in November 2011 between Chapel Hill Police and 70 protesters seeking to occupy the site indefinitely.

The Yates Building raid sparked months of controversy regarding police tactics, as some objected to the deployment of the town’s Special Emergency Response Team. Officers armed with assault rifles arrested seven protesters and briefly detained two reporters at the scene.

Since then, the Yates Building has played host to seasonal art installations, but has sat largely empty. Now, the site is set to be remodeled and the newest Carolina Ale House should be open by next spring.

“We’ve been looking for a location on Franklin Street for years,” Lou Moshakos, president and owner of LM Restaurants said in a press release. “This spot is perfect for us.”

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/carolina-ale-house-occupy-former-yates-building/

CHTC To Explore Ephesus-Fordham Plan On Monday

The Chapel Hill Town Council will delve in the details of the proposed Ephesus-Fordham renewal plan at a special work session Monday night.

The plan calls for rezoning 190 acres to encourage new commercial and residential development, as well as $10 million dollars worth of roadway improvements to one of Chapel Hill’s most congested intersections.

Town staffers say the plan will improve the area’s traffic flow and stormwater problems while increasing the town’s commercial tax base.

However, some residents are concerned that the council’s plan to try a new type of zoning, called form-based code, will cut the council and the public out of the development review process.

The council will examine the proposal in-depth at Monday’s work session. Although public comment is not typically welcome at council work sessions, that rule will be waived to allow feedback both before and after the staff presentation.

The council meets at 6 o’clock at the Chapel Hill Public Library. You can read the full agenda here.

 

http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chtc-explore-ephesus-fordham-plan-monday/