A plan to expand a social services outlet near the center of Carrboro has been approved by town officials, but local business owners claim that the expansion may create problems.

Those claims were presented last week to the Carrboro Board of Alderman by Nathan Milian, who spoke on behalf of over 20 commercial tenants in Carr Mill Mall.

“We want to really reiterate our objection to the change of zoning that would allow for the addition of a food kitchen to our downtown and, more specifically, on this site,” he stated. “We have a clear difference of opinion as to the effect this will have on our downtown businesses.”

The Inter-Faith Council received unanimous consent from board members shortly after that comment was made to redevelop its headquarters at 110 West Main Street.

According to John Dorward, an interim council co-director, the building at that location will be demolished and replaced with a public meal house and outreach center.

“We expanded the size of the pantry so clients can self-shop, we expanded the size of the dining room so we can often see everyone who comes for a meal at one sitting,” he explained. “We’ve got 90 seats in there at the moment, and we expanded the size of the kitchen so there will be room for teaching classes and skills used in commercial kitchen jobs.”

The anticipated nonprofit facility is likely to benefit indigent residents of Carrboro, but Milian and other merchants believe that it will promote activity that wards off consumers.

“Many of us have worked for years to make this, make downtown Carrboro, a place where people come to shop, dine and enjoy the many activities and events here — I’ve got 27 years invested in it,” he affirmed. “This use is not in keeping with the synergy needed to keep our downtown to continue to grow and even survive.”

Alderwoman Bethany Chaney noted that similar concerns related to the proposed installation of local public restrooms have been received by board members.

“Carrboro is planning to install public restrooms at the town commons within a year or two,” she relayed. “That adds another element that I think people have been concerned about and that I witnessed when I was on a recent ridealong with the Carrboro Police Department.”

Objections to the location of the redevelopment were also issued last year by the Carrboro Merchants Association and Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce.

Milian reminded board members that local businesses in Carr Mill Mall may have to revise their security policies if the nearby facility has a negative effect on their customer base.

“This could mean more strict enforcement of loitering, restricting certain access to certain areas and setting strict limitations on the use of the common areas — including the elimination of all events on the lawn,” he speculated. “Downtown business owners are an integral part of our community, and we wish to be heard and respected; please vote against this zoning change.”

The Inter-Faith Council was created in 1963 by seven local women to provide crisis intervention assistance and other social services at no cost to residents of Carrboro and Chapel Hill.

Composite from Google Maps.