Four members of the Chapel Hill Town Council said they could not vote for the concept plan to redevelop the American Legion property as it was presented to them Monday night.
“I do see traffic issues,” said councilwoman Jessica Anderson, one of the dissenting voices. “I see a huge number of apartments coming on line in this area, so I don’t see this as a great use.”
The concept plan, presented by Woodfield Investments, offers to redevelop the 36-acre site.
Concept plans are ways for developers to get nonbinding feedback from the council before submitting a formal proposal.
The redevelopment would include an approximately 50,000-100,000 sq. ft. office building, a 50,000 sq. ft. mixed use space building and two 4-story multi-family buildings with a total 400 units.
There is also a proposal for a new street through the site, between Legion Road and Ephesus Church Road.
“There’s nothing that really gets anyone excited,” said councilman George Cianciolo. “I hope that whenever we see this again that there’s a little more of that wow factor. A little something people can look at and say ‘wow, I’d be proud to say that’s in Chapel Hill.'”
Woodfield Investments agreed to purchase the property in January of 2016, but the property has been controversial since the town passed on the opportunity to buy the property in late 2015.
Woodfield initially agreed to pay $10 million for the property, but the price was dropped to $9 million because the proposal submitted earlier this summer was different than the original plans for the area.
American Legion representative Nick Cervantes urged the council to accept Woodfield’s application.
“I want to have an impact like I did in the military,” he said. “Woodfield has allowed us to have more options. We don’t have the funds to sustain what we have. Our property is degrading.”
Council members expressed a number of concerns with the proposal, including traffic issues, impact on the surrounding area and lack of commercial space.
Councilman Ed Harrison, a dissenting voice along with Anderson, councilwoman Nancy Oates and mayor Pam Hemminger, said he didn’t want to lose the green space that property provides.
“There are a whole lot of trails there that volunteers were allowed to work on and build,” he said. “There’s a whole lot more trails in there that would be destroyed, by any plan I’m seeing today and that’s a damn shame.”
In order to move forward with development, Woodfield will have to submit a proposal, which will be reviewed by staff before heading to the appropriate boards for consideration.