This is Matt Bailey.

With all the fiery debate about the Ephesus-Fordham renewal plan, you may still be wondering, “What’s the issue?”

Ephesus-Fordham renewal will let property owners replace their strip malls and old buildings with the kind of building you’d find in a small downtown area, with shops and restaurants facing tree-lined sidewalks and with offices and homes on the upper floors. How many floors? The plan would allow up to seven floors near Fordham Boulevard and up to three floors on the edge of the district. The plan will add smaller streets that tie together existing roads, so motorists will finally have more than one way to get through the area, bikers will have bike lanes, and pedestrians will have real blocks to walk around. Finally, the plan uses form-based coding, which simply means we tell property owners exactly what we want them to build, right down to the style of the windows.

Why might you oppose Ephesus-Fordham renewal? If you prefer the convenience of a big parking lot in front of a strip mall, if you think new stores, restaurants, and offices are better suited for Durham, or if you think Chapel Hill has already added too many new homes, then you have valid reasons not to support this plan.

Do we want an old-fashioned style downtown area for our side of town? Or do we want to keep the suburban sprawl that currently defines Ephesus-Fordham?

That’s the issue, but that hasn’t been the debate.

Instead, a few vocal opponents keep changing the subject to anything that will scare their neighbors. Why? After all, there’s no law against liking suburbia.

Maybe they know most folks like the vision for Ephesus Fordham renewal once they hear it. Maybe, as one neighbor put it, “why would anyone want to preserve the old Holiday Inn?” Maybe they simply don’t think they can win a debate about the real issue.