This is Raleigh Mann.
Lots of people have already expressed their opinions on the proposed redevelopment of what we have come to call the Ephesus-Fordham area. It’s an ambitious plan for 123 in-town acres, encompassing 60 local businesses, a plan that could bring big box stores within our town borders and the tax revenue that comes with that. It could destroy many of those businesses we love to patronize. Dwight Bassett, the town’s economic development officer, estimates that the area could be redeveloped in the next 10 years to include up to 258,000 square feet of retail space, 280,000 square feet of hotel space, 368,000 square feet of office space and 1,084 apartments.
One of the first steps in this project will be building a new road through what is now Village Plaza on Elliott Road, near where the old Plaza movie theater used to be. This road would be the main entrance to a parking deck for a large residential and commercial area developed by (guess who?) Roger Perry’s East-West Partners. You just knew that the folks who brought us Meadowmont and Obey Creek might also be involved in the massive Ephesus-Fordham development, didn’t you?
The Ephesus-Fordham plan has its supporters and its critics, and each of them makes some good points.
But what is most important to me and should be to all of us is that the town wants to make its decision on a type of zoning rules called form-based code. It’s a streamlined alternative to the micro-managing of details that has given Chapel Hill a reputation for being anti-growth (that’s a laugh) and has driven developers nuts.
Sounds good on its face, but it leaves town residents out of the conversation and gives way too much power to the town’s administrators, who have demonstrated their support of big projects in the past.
We who are most affected by important choices made by town officials absolutely must have a voice in the process, and we should reject any decision-making system that would silence that voice. Not that most of our town council members pay much attention to what we think, anyway.
Fortunately, a few of them do care what we think. I’m counting on them to speak up.