Plans to nestle a new neighborhood in Carolina North Forest were presented to the Chapel Hill Town Council last week, but getting those plans approved may not be a walk in the park.
According to Kay Pearlstein, the local senior planner, several concerns related to the proposed development were voiced by residents during a recent community design commission meeting.
“They were concerned about traffic, they believed that Homestead Road needed to be widened, they wanted to see the [transportation impact analysis], they thought it looked dangerous for pedestrians, they wanted to keep the existing zoning, they thought there was too much tree removal [and] not enough parking for visitors,” she relayed.
Those concerns were addressed before council members by Richard Gurlitz, an architect who was hired by the owner of 2217 Homestead Road to design a series of townhomes for the lot.
“What we initially looked at was preserving the woods as much as we could on the sides, doing as much of a preserve as we could next to the adjoining property owner, so we kind of came up with this plan,” he explained.
Gurlitz also elaborated on the affordable housing component of the conceptualized neighborhood as well as a possible partnership with the town to develop domiciles for single families.
“There’s a site actually directly across the street from this that the town owns, that they wanted to do some kind of residential projects on, and they were looking for a means of doing that,” he offered. “We put a little bit of thought into that, not a lot of thought, not a lot of process, but how the funding for this project could be used at that location.”
The early inclusion of affordable housing provisions to the development plan was recognized by Council Member Nancy Oates, who applauded the foresight of Gurlitz and company.
“We’ve had a lot of developers who just come before us and say, ‘Oh, we cannot possibly do this; the numbers won’t work,'” she mimicked. “I’m really thrilled that you’re making this commitment; I want to make sure that you know what you’re getting into and that the numbers will work.”
Those provisions were less agreeable to local resident Lee Ann Swanekamp, who expressed her displeasure with the notion of a ballooning development footprint.
“It personally disgusts me that we can’t figure out a way to integrate the affordable housing into the development that they have,” she opined.
Local resident Christopher Gregory also relayed creeping development concerns to council members while placing an emphasis on the preservation of local green spaces.
“The sight lines and many of the walking trails in that area are starting to be obstructed by some of the development that’s going on,” he claimed. “We’re losing a lot more of the trees, and I’d like to see them maintained around the border of Carolina North [Forest] versus getting taken down.”
Council members are expected to ruminate over the coming months on the plan, which would create over 80 townhomes and open adjacent lots to additional residential developments.
Image from Google Maps.