Much of Friday afternoon’s special meeting of the Chapel Hill Town Council was taken up with discussion of changing traffic patterns on 15-501, if the town were to approve the Obey Creek development.
The Council held two days of meetings late last week to discuss the Southern Village Park-and-Ride lot area, and connections between the proposed 35-acre mixed-use development and southern Chapel Hill.
The town has hired the planning firm of Dover, Kohl & Partners to develop possible scenarios, and consultant Victor Dover led Friday afternoon’s discussion.
Dover proposed a modern roundabout at Dogwood Acres Drive, where rapid-transit buses could easily change direction.
Council member Ed Harrison expressed concern about that idea, citing unsuccessful attempts at multi-lane roundabouts in North Carolina. Dover said there’s proof it can be done right.
“There is a successful one in Davidson, now, that you might want to look at,” said Dover. “It’s easy to Google. You can see it on the aerial and satellite photograph quite vividly.”
Another Council member, Jim Ward, pushed to get and an answer about DOT approval for another idea, a signalized intersection at Sumac Road. The roundabout would require DOT approval, too.
“To me, the bottom line is, that needs to work, fully” said Ward. “That’s a decision, I feel like, we need to know early in the game.”
The next Obey Creek Special Meeting is scheduled for Feb. 12.http://chapelboro.com/news/development/obey-creek-special-meeting-focuses-traffic-patterns/
The Chapel Hill Town Council is considering options for redeveloping the park-and-ride lot at Southern Village. The council hired a consultant to help plan the future of the town-owned 8.5-acre lot.
Victor Dover, the consultant from the planning firm Dover, Kohl & Partners, facilitated the discussion at Thursday night’s meeting.
Dover said a park-and-ride lot means “capturing an outer catchment or cloud of suburban drivers and hoping that we’ll intercept them so that they don’t ask us to store their big, expensive, space-consuming cars in the center of town or on campus or at the research triangle where we don’t have room for them, and instead store them somewhere on the edge of town and use transit for the rest of their trip . . . Apart from the $2 they pay to park in the park-and-ride, which barely helps with recovering any costs, they’re not contributing economically to that place.”
Dover said putting shops between the parking space and the bus stop might entice drivers to spend money locally.
Dover listed several possible development scenarios to start the conversation about the park-and-ride lot. One scenario has surface parking with a few mixed-use buildings. Another scenario includes a parking structure, several mixed-use buildings, an access lane with on-street parking, and civic buildings.
Southern area resident Jeanne Brown offered suggestions to the council as they consider the future of the park-and-ride lot.
“Please make sure that your planning can be proactive and not reactive to what is being proposed across the road,” said Brown.
Council members are considering redevelopment as they negotiate with East West Partners, the future developer of the privately owned 120-acre property across the highway. This is the Obey Creek site, proposed as a residential, retail and office development of up to 1.6 million square feet.
Council members encourage people to come to Chapel Hill Town Hall for Friday’s 1:30 pm meeting facilitated by Dover and designed to get public input. The Town Hall address is 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. At 4 pm, council members will meet with Dover and the developer to discuss both the park-and-ride lot and Obey Creek.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chapel-hill-town-council-considers-redevelopment-southern-village-park-ride-lot/
On Thursday night, the Chapel Hill Town Council discussed the fiscal impact of the proposed Obey Creek development on the town.
Chapel Hill Business Management Director Kenneth Pennoyer estimated the mixed-use development would net between $600,000 and $1 million every year. This is the revenue, which comes from taxes and fees, minus the cost of extending town services, like fire, police and transit services.
Town council members are looking into the impact of two different development scenarios to help the town strategically negotiate with the developer, East West Partners. This wide range in the bottom line – $600,000 to $1 million – comes from comparing a bigger development plan, the original scenario, with a smaller development plan, the minimum scenario.
“The original development plan called for 1.5 million square feet of development with residential being slightly more than half, retail, office and also hotel included,” said Pennoyer. “The minimum scenario is slightly less than half the square footage containing residential, retail and office but no hotel.”
The development would also generate revenue for the county and the local school district. The town estimates the smaller development scenario would add 50 students to area schools and the bigger development would add 130 students.
Ben Perry, finance director of East West Partners, said this minimum development scenario may not be financially feasible for his company.
“I think what we’re really looking at is something closer to the original analyses you received on the traffic and on the fiscal, starting at that 1.5, 1.6 million and working down from there,” said Perry.
The public is invited to comment on the Obey Creek negotiation process at the town council’s 7pm meeting on January 12 in the town hall council chamber. The council will hold special meetings with Victor Dover from the planning firm Dover, Kohl and Partners, on January 22 at 7pm and January 23 at 4 pm. Both meetings will be in the council chamber.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/obey-creek-estimated-net-600000-1-million-annually-chapel-hill/
The year 2015 is finally upon us – but before saying goodbye to 2014, the WCHL news team took a look back at the year that was in our local community.
In a year dominated by ice storms, high-profile elections, serious debates over policing and public safety and same-sex marriage, and still more scandal at UNC, what were the top news stories that shaped the year 2014 in Chapel Hill? And who were the top newsmakers?
As we do every year, WCHL’s news team compiled a list of the top 10 news stories, and the top 10 newsmakers, here in Orange County. Does your list match ours?
Listen to our 2014 Year In Review special!
Part 1: #10, #9, #8
Part 2: #7, #6, #5 (and the year in sports)
Part 3: Aaron Keck chats with Akiva Fox and Allison Driskill about the top stories of 2014 as viewed on Chapelboro.com.
Part 4: #4, #3, and #2
Part 5: #1
News Story: Rooftop Incident At Hampton Inn
Newsmaker: Rita Balaban
Our #10 news story of the year took place on Tuesday, September 30, when Carrboro police got a call that a man was on the roof of the Hampton Inn on Main Street, threatening to jump. What followed was an 18-hour standoff, during which Chapel Hill and Carrboro police shut down traffic downtown so trained negotiators could talk the man off the roof – which they did, successfully, the following morning.
Our #10 newsmaker is UNC economics professor Rita Balaban, the professor who unmasked three streakers who dashed through her classroom in October. Coincidentally, she was also the professor of the class that police entered in November to arrest the student who’d posted a bomb threat in the Pit on social media.
News Story: UNC’s Response To Ebola Crisis
Newsmaker: Francis Henry
Thousands in West Africa died during the worst outbreak of Ebola in history. Other than a handful of cases, the disease didn’t make it to the U.S., but in Chapel Hill, the work of UNC researchers was pivotal in the fight against the disease overseas.
Meanwhile, the fate of Hillsborough’s beloved, now-dilapidated Colonial Inn was a hot topic all year. Francis Henry, the building’s current owner, petitioned the town for permission to tear the historic building down, but was denied.
News Story: Teacher Pay
Newsmaker: Robert Campbell
North Carolina public school teachers are among the lowest paid in the nation – a fact that sparked an outcry in 2014. That outcry was so loud that state legislators actually responded to it, passing a sizable pay increase, but that didn’t quell the controversy: those raises were minimal at best for experienced teachers.
2014 was a banner year for Reverend Robert Campbell, whose tireless work on behalf of the Rogers Road community came to fruition at year’s end. Orange County municipalities finally came together on a remediation plan to extend water and sewer service to the neighborhood, and a new community center opened in the fall.
News story: Development in Chapel Hill
Newsmaker: Roger Perry
Our #7 news story and our #7 newsmaker go hand in hand: 2014 saw big debates about new developments in Chapel Hill, primarily at Obey Creek and the Ephesus/Fordham district. Developer Roger Perry was at the center of both discussions: his East West Partners is both the lead developer at Obey Creek and the developer behind the first major proposal at Ephesus/Fordham.
Wrapped up with development is the ongoing discussion about affordable housing – which is getting harder and harder to find. Chapel Hill teamed up with DHIC for a major affordable housing project in Ephesus/Fordham, but that’s on hold because clerical errors in DHIC’s funding application led to its rejection.
News story: Ferguson and Police Militarization
Newsmaker: Charles Blackwood
The events in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked several major debates locally: from protests over the non-indictment of the officer who killed Michael Brown (as well as the officer who killed Eric Garner) to a debate about perceived police militarization, sparked by the heavily-armed police response to protestors in Ferguson.
This year’s local elections were mostly a low-key affair, but the sheriff’s race was an exception, as six candidates vied to replace longtime sheriff Lindy Pendergrass. Charles Blackwood emerged victorious, defeating David Caldwell in a summer runoff.
News story: Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety
Newsmaker(s): Mark Kleinschmidt and Lydia Lavelle
Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and UNC were all honored as “Bicycle Friendly” by the League of American Bicyclists, but our community was hit by a series of incidents involving bikers and pedestrians – most notably the tragic death of bicyclist Pamela Lane in October, in a collision with a vehicle on MLK.
It was a busy year all around for Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle, but perhaps most notable was their respective contributions to the fight for same-sex marriage in North Carolina. Kleinschmidt was an attorney on the case that saw the state’s ban struck down; Lavelle and her partner Alicia Stemper were the first same-sex couple to apply for, and receive, a marriage license in Orange County.
News story: Ice Storm
Newsmaker: Rashad McCants
We won’t soon forget the February ice storm that shut down Chapel Hill and Carrboro for days, left motorists stuck on 15/501 and other roads for hours, and forced UNC to call off the Duke/Carolina basketball game scheduled for that evening. (Carolina won the rescheduled game, when it was finally played.)
Former UNC basketball star Rashad McCants made waves in the summer when he appeared on ESPN to declare not only that he’d taken phony classes and had tutors write his papers at UNC, but also that his coaches – including Roy Williams – knew all about it.
News story: Murder of Feng Liu
Newsmaker(s): Thom Tillis and Kay Hagan
Chapel Hill and the UNC community were shocked when pharmacy professor Feng Liu was attacked and killed on July 23, while taking a walk near campus in the middle of the afternoon. Two men were arrested for his murder the following day.
Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis waged a hard-fought (and extremely expensive) battle all year for a seat in the U.S. Senate. State House Speaker Tillis won, riding a Republican wave in spite of the unpopularity of the General Assembly.
News story: Same-Sex Marriage Legalized
Newsmaker: Carol Folt
In May, Mark Chilton unseated incumbent Deborah Brooks in the race for Orange County Register of Deeds, at least partly because he said he’d be willing to defy the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. As it turned out, though, that wouldn’t be necessary: a district court judge struck down that ban in October, and it was Brooks (not yet out of office) who issued Orange County’s first same-sex marriage license.
UNC Chancellor Carol Folt was at the center of every major debate on campus. The academic/athletic scandal was the most prominent, of course, but there were also plenty of major accomplishments as well.
News story: The Wainstein Report
Newsmaker: Mary Willingham
Commissioned in February and delivered in October, Kenneth Wainstein’s 131-page report on academic irregularities at UNC shocked observers who thought they’d heard it all – shedding light on a “scheme” of fraudulent classes that went unchecked for nearly two decades.
Former UNC academic advisor Mary Willingham sparked massive debate when she appeared on CNN in January to blow the whistle on UNC admissions – arguing that a sizable percentage of UNC football and basketball players couldn’t read above an eighth-grade level.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/wchls-2014-year-review/
Three Chapel Hill Town Council members volunteered to lead a working group to analyze affordable housing options for the proposed Obey Creek Development.
The developer, East West Partners, plans to bring a mix of retail, office space, and up to 800 residential units on 35 acres at the site, which is across from Southern Village. The town officially entered the negotiation phase with the developer in November.
At Monday’s meeting, the town council talked with members of East West Partners about options for the residential units. Council members Jim Ward, George Cianciolo and Sally Greene will plan housing strategies for the proposed mixed-use development. The team may consult with local affordable housing providers in the planning process, and the team will report findings to the town council.
The town council may ask East West Partners to provide 15 percent of the units at prices affordable to households that earn between 65 and 80 percent of the area median income. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development lists the area median income for Orange County at $65,700 for a family of four.
Alternately, the council may ask the developer to pay a fee for affordable housing programs elsewhere in Chapel Hill. The council may choose a combination of these options or another option that supports affordable housing initiatives in the town.
The Chapel Hill Office of Housing and Community prepared this list of new developments and the number of affordable units or amount of payment in-lieu at each development.
Council members will negotiate with East West Partners to build infrastructure as part of the development agreement. The town council discussed possible bicycle and pedestrian paths, including a proposed bridge over U.S. 15-501 connecting Obey Creek with the town’s park-and-ride lot.
The town council will hold four meetings in January focused on the development of Obey Creek and the park-and-ride lot. The next meeting will be at Chapel Hill Town Hall on January 8 at 7 pm.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chtc-talks-obey-creek-developer-affordable-housing/
On Thursday night, The Chapel Hill Town Council started the negotiation process with the future developer of the Obey Creek project near Southern Village.
“We have a lot of commonality of interests in a lot of areas,” said Roger Perry, president of the development company East West Partners. “It’s in the town’s best interest and our best interest that this works.”
Perry presented details of his development proposal to council members, focusing on the specific mix of uses and the design principles at the Obey Creek site.
Perry proposed minimum and maximum numbers for the amount of retail, office, residential, and hotel space at the property.
Here is the full chart:
Retail – 200,000 sf minimum – 475,000 sf maximum
Office – 150,000 sf minimum – 600,000 sf maximum
Residential – 250 units minimum – 800 units maximum
Hotel – 0 rooms minimum – 400 rooms maximum
Perry said an upper limit of 1.6 million square feet would be developed on 35 acres, and he said East West Partners would not build in a way that increases traffic beyond a threshold identified in a traffic impact analysis.
Perry said many of the residential units will be rentals available only for senior citizens. He also said “there will be almost no kids” in the proposed residential units.
Several council members expressed concern about the lack of age diversity.
East West Partners hired the architecture firm Elkus-Manfredi to work on the project. “The very fashionable word in planning now is that you have to curate the retail,” said architect David Manfredi. “It’s a little too cute for me, but the message is right that you don’t build space and then put a ‘for lease’ sign on it.”
Manfredi said the developer should plan spaces to accommodate particular uses. For example Perry proposed building a space to accommodate a large grocery store. He also said he wants to bring in a large department store.
Council member Jim Ward said that in addition to these large stores, the developer should plan spaces for “micro retail” or “affordable retail.”
Council members talked briefly about affordable housing, but they decided to discuss this issue in greater detail at the next Obey Creek meeting on December 8 at Chapel Hill Town Hall.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/ch-town-council-talks-developer-uses-design-obey-creek-project/
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.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chtc-talk-housing-design-obey-creek/
The Chapel Hill Town Council voted 8-1 on Monday to enter into negotiations for a development agreement for the Obey Creek project near Southern Village. At the same time, the council agreed to consider developing the town-owned park and ride lot across the street.
Though developer Roger Perry has been eager to move forward with the Obey Creek project, this gave his pause.
“I’m a little troubled that we’re going to do this,” said Perry. “And yet at the same time you’re going to begin looking at a process of developing your own property.”
Perry is president of East West Partners Management Company. This company will soon negotiate with Chapel Hill on the terms of building a multi-use development that will include 400,000 square feet of retail, a quarter million square feet of office space and up to 700 residential units on 35 acres.
Ben Perry, Finance Director of East West Partners, said company officials are “troubled” because the town is asking East West Partners to pay for road improvements costing “millions of dollars” which will increase the value of the town-owned park-and-ride lot across the street.
Roger Perry told Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt this situation introduces a conflict of interest into the negotiation.
“Well thank you, and I was wondering when you were going to notice that,” said Kleinschmidt. Perry replied, “I’ve noticed it for some time. I didn’t realize you were going to go quite this far.”
In response to the concern, Kleinschmidt said cameras will record and broadcast each meeting, and East West Partners can continue to remind council members of this potential conflict. He also said this is one example of the council navigating multiple issues at the same time.
During the public comment period, resident Amy Ryan listed priorities for the proposed development. She said the development should be well-connected to other parts of Chapel Hill, and it should not negatively impact traffic on side roads near Obey Creek.
She also discussed affordable housing.
“Obey Creek will be worth it if it achieves some important town goals,” said Ryan. “For example this is a great spot for moderate priced housing. The area has plenty of high-priced single-family homes already. Let’s ask for units that cater to UNC employees who can then bike or take the bus to work.”
Affordable housing will be one of the discussion topics at the council’s next “special meeting” focused on Obey Creek on November 13 at Chapel Hill Town Hall.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/developer-expresses-concerns-obey-creek-negotiations/
Thursday night, the Chapel Hill Town Council discussed the proposed Obey Creek development’s effect on traffic and transit. The council also discussed plans for walkways and bike paths in and around the development.
Craig Scheffler, transportation engineer for the HNTB Corporation, presented the effects of the increased ridership on each bus line in the area. He pointed out the buses that would be over capacity during peak hours.
During the public comment period, resident Jeanne Brown expressed concerns about the traffic and transit analysis. She said this about the transit report prepared for the meeting:
“It really missed the mark to a conversation that’s very important to this town and to that particular development.”
Brown said the report should look more into bus capacity, weekend and night bus service, and other factors.
Brian Litchfield, director of Chapel Hill Transit, acknowledged that the analysis assumed the full capacity of a bus to include sitting passengers plus standing passengers.
“The baseline that we were using as far as capacity of the vehicles was 60. That’s a fairly full 40 foot bus,” said Lichfield. “There’s 37 to 38 seats on that bus so that’s assuming there are people standing on that bus.”
Changing the definition of capacity to include only sitting passengers would change the projected results.
The council passed a resolution in June of this year authorizing the town to enter negotiations with the developer, subject to receipt and review of traffic impact, fiscal impact, and environmental impact analyses.
Thursday’s conversation will help prepare the town to negotiate with Obey Creek Ventures, LLC.
The Chapel Hill Town Council calendar is full of “special meetings” over the next five months to talk about the proposed development. The council will meet Monday at Town Hall for another session focused on Obey Creek.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/ch-town-council-talks-traffic-transit-around-obey-creek/
Some Chapel Hill residents are questioning whether the Town Council has adequate information about the environmental impact of the proposed Obey Creek development project.
“There are species that depend on these interior forest habitat patches for their survival, for their food, shelter, rearing and so forth,” said Kevin Nunnery. He is a senior ecologist for Biohabitats, a conservation planning company.
During Wednesday night’s Town Council work session at Chapel Hill Public Library, Nunnery presented an environmental report that compares the impact of building 79 single family homes to the impact of a mixed-use development at the site of the proposed Obey Creek development project.
East West Partners wants to build a 1.5 million square foot mixed-use development on 15-501, across from Southern Village.
The report finds that building single-family homes would disrupt the forest habitat more than a mixed use development.
Chapel Hill resident Betsy Smith, a research ecologist and program director at the EPA, said during public comments that the environmental report is flawed and inadequate.
She said the report does not consider water quality and air quality impacts, both of which are crucial issues for this type of development.
Councilwoman Maria Palmer said she read the report while she was in Peru.
“To be reading about preserving trees, it was balm for my spirit – so thank you for doing this,” said Palmer. “And to think of you going in there and looking at 65-year-old trees that my grandchildren are going to be able to look at . . . Reading this just made it more clear to me why we don’t want those big homes disturbing this forest.”
The Chapel Hill Town Council will hold a business meeting on October 15th at 7pm.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/obey-creek-plans-raise-environmental-concerns/