CHAPEL HILL – The Town of Chapel Hill is developing the Glen Lennox neighborhood under a new process that offers greater leeway in negotiating with developers, but some residents are worried that change may not be for the best. The apartments have been a part of the Town since 1950, offering affordable housing in an area where those options are scarce.
Native Chapel Hillian Kay Hengeveld has lived in Glen Lennox for many years.
“I realize that as things get older, there are going to be more problems to maintain them. To me, though, it is very important to have an affordable product in Chapel Hill,” Hengeveld said.
Hengeveld was one of about 15 residents who took a tour of Glen Lennox Thursday, led by the developer, Grubb Properties.
Plans call for the construction of two-story commercial spaces, new town houses and duplexes, office space, and parking lots. Hengeveld said she is worried about what will happen to her if her home is torn down.
“I’m a retired senior citizen. I can’t afford to go to a Carolina Woods or a Carolina Meadows. It’s important for a senior to have an apartment all on one floor. It’s like living in your own house,” Hengenveld said.
Jan Halle has lived in Chapel Hill since 1974 and is not sold on the idea of two-story buildings in the area.
“Glen Lennox to me is a landmark of Chapel Hill. So many people have lived here that have graduated college. It is a community of young people and old people. It is very special. And it’s affordable units, in town, on the bus line.” Halle said.
Rachel Russell of Grubb Properties said that 118 units of the existing 440 units would be preserved.
“A lot of people don’t understand by just looking at a plan. By walking the site, you get a human-scale picture of what the new Glen Lennox will look like,” Russell said.
Kent Schwendy is a member of the team of consultants charged with facilitating a technical review of the project. He also took questions from the public at the input session held on Wednesday.
“Essentially we’ve been brought in to provide another layer of technical consulting to the Town’s staff, as well as a third party review. We can take one step back and say ‘Look, this is the best balanced and holistic solution.’ We hope this is valuable to the community,” Schwendy explained.
Schwendy said the technical team will advise both Grubb Properties’ development team and the Town’s project team through the planning phases and engineering phases.
In March of 2010, the Town Council endorsed the development of a Neighborhood Conservation District (NCD) zoning overlay for the neighborhood. This allows for future commercial development in the area, while also preserving existing structures.
“We are building on what has been done. We’re trying to define more detail and make sure that everything works out the way it was intended. We’re not trying to rewrite history. The community did a great thing with the changes they made to the zoning,” Schwendy said.
The next step is to formulate the developer agreement which Scwendy explains will specify the way in which the zoning rules are applied in the area.
The Town Council has to approve the developer agreement, which Schwendy said that could happen by the fall of this year. Then negotiations would begin, which could take up to a year.
Russell said Grubbs Properties will continue to address the community’s concerns as the planning process moves along.
“I mean it is 70 acres, and we want to make sure that we are developing it in a way that the market supports it. We don’t want to overdevelop it and not have the tenants for it. It’s also a process and a transition so the community can get used to it,” Russell said.