“A Place Called Home: Making Housing Available for All Income Levels”

A Place to Call Home: Housing Available for All Income Levels

Monday, October 2, 2017
7:00 pm – 8:45 pm, Chapel Hill Town Hall

I. Welcome and Introduction: Julie McClintock CHALT

II. Framing the Issue: Nancy Oates, Member Chapel Hill Town Council

  • Different Types of Housing for All Income levels & ages
  • Trends in Chapel Hill affecting Housing (rental/ownership)
  • Council policies

III. Success Stories: Private and Non-profit Initiatives

  • Redevelopment Glen Lennox: Tim Jezisek, Vice President for Development/Grubb Properties
    • Economic Challenges & Benefits in incorporating accessible housing
    • Into Redevelopment of Glen Lennox
  • Partnership between UNC and Northside: Hudson Vaughn, Senior
    Director, Marian Check Jackson Center

    • Preserving Varied Housing in a Historic Chapel Hill Neighborhood

IV. Affordability Gaps and New Approaches

  • Mai Thi Nguyen, Associate Professor, Department of City & Regional Planning, UNC Chapel Hill
    • The challenges and opportunities to preserving and developing affordable housing.

V. Question/Answer/Discussion Moderator: Sheila Creth

  • Questions for Speakers and Open Discussion

VI. What Next?

  • What is needed to successfully address creating accessible housing for all income levels in Chapel Hill?
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Blue Hill District and Flooding

If you think that development in the Ephesus – Fordham, a.k.a. Blue Hill District, is not increasing the risk of flooding, think again.

The tragic events in Houston are a worrisome wake up call to Chapel Hill – especially in the Blue Hill district which is already prone to flooding. Already approved upstream projects and changing weather conditions will increase flooding in this low lying area.

Our editorial on the Lessons of Houston elicited a response from Molly DeMarco and Sue Hunter which lauded Chapel Hill’s land use planning but incorrectly referenced the district’s “superior flood control requirements.” (Read their opinion editorial posted in the Durham Herald here).

CHALT readers know that the Council did apply water quality treatment standards in 2014 to the District, but flooding mitigation actions have yet to be taken.

Read more here…


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Let’s Avoid the Mistakes of Houston

By Julie McClintock

In the wake of the calamity in Houston, we are learning – yet again – how dangerous and harmful flooding can be. What happened in Houston can happen here. We, too, are overbuilding and allowing construction in low-lying areas just as Houston did.

With seeming indifference to the constraints posed by Chapel Hill’s geography, the Chapel Hill Town Council in 2014 endorsed and encouraged an intensification of development in the Booker Creek flood plain, an area already prone to flooding. Because “paved-over swamp” doesn’t quite convey the image of hip urbanity necessary to entice affluent twenty-somethings to the district’s shopping centers, the town spent $24,000 in public funds to hire a branding consultant, who, with no trace of irony, recently rechristened the low-lying area “Blue Hill.”

Branding exercises and other efforts to shape public perception cannot obscure the substantive, ongoing problems with the redevelopment that is occurring in the district formerly known as Ephesus-Fordham. To produce a better outcome than we are currently getting, the town needs to rewrite the underlying zoning code or start over.

The town would be well served to first affirm the overall vision for the district that the community supported years ago. That means reducing maximum building size to more human-scale dimensions and providing shared parking, reasonably priced housing and pleasant places to hang out or stroll.

The main problems that need to be fixed include:

  • The current zoning disregards the community-endorsed plan. In 2010, the town invited residents to participate in a public planning process to devise a redevelopment plan for the area. The council approved this community consensus plan in 2011. However, the code adopted in 2014 deviates markedly from the residents’ vision. It is instead a land speculator’s dream: few standards, no public hearings and a quick approval process.
  • Benefits all accrue to the developer, not the community. The adopted code threw out all the things that Chapel Hill residents value: public input in development review, attractive, human-scale buildings, trees and wide sidewalks, storm water volume control, modestly priced housing, improved bus service, and public parks.

To produce a better outcome than we are currently getting, the town needs to rewrite the underlying zoning code or start over.

  • Commercial gentrification is driving out valued local retail and services. The small businesses we want and need are disappearing fast due to escalating rents and are being replaced by chain stores, expensive restaurants and unneeded luxury apartments. Gone or going soon are the dry cleaners, the yarn store, the copy shop, the barber shop – the kind of services we depend on for everyday living.
  • Lowered building standards have encouraged real estate speculation and the rapid flipping of properties. The Alexan recently sold for $72 million but many units are still vacant.
  • The area is not walkable. The first project approved under the new zone is the “beached cruise ship” sitting awkwardly on Elliott Road. The building and its attached parking deck make it more difficult to reach other businesses in the same shopping center. Each large new building will supply its own parking, thus discouraging people from walking to other locations within the district.
  • We are losing our town’s character. Tree-lined streets are being replaced with pavement and concrete that take up every square inch of property, just as in Houston and large cities everywhere. As a result of this poorly devised new building code, the town’s investment of taxpayer funds is sadly harming the very qualities that make our town livable and is changing the look and feel of our college town for the worse.

But the most severe adverse impact caused by fast-tracked development in the “Blue Hill” district will be more flooding, as more buildings are approved within an already overbuilt floodplain. The town has several watershed studies underway that will recommend expensive remedies, but as the devastation in Houston has shown us, it’s far more prudent to prevent problems by not constructing pavement and buildings on what little absorptive natural surface remains in the district.

This article printed on line in the Durham Herald Sun on September 1, 2017.

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Community Forum for Town Council Candidates

Make an informed decision November 7!

WCHL interview about the forum


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Form Based Code is Hurting Our Town

Form Based Code (FBC) is the zoning code that covers the Ephesus Fordham District, just renamed “Blue Hill” which targets 180 acres for high density redevelopment, from South Elliott Road and East Franklin Street, to Legion Road and Ephesus Church Road.

Tammy Grubb writes here in the Durham Herald about the Town and property owners re-branding the district to “Blue Hill”.  To us, this business marketing effort by the property owners to improve the rental rates of the high priced apartments draws attention away from the need to fix the many flaws in the underlying code. 

We wish the Town’s Economic Director had sponsored a competition to name the district and consulted retail owners and affected residents.  The only “Blue Hill” we know of is a well-known small seaside town in Maine that many here in the Triangle frequent in the summer for its quaintness, theater, music, cool weather, and antiques.

We want the Town to redirect its resources toward clarifying an overall vision and addressing the height and massing standards, as well as the lack of shared parking, reasonably priced housing and pleasant places to hang out or stroll.

Why is so much of the community unhappy with how the district is developing?

  • The community plan was not followed.  In 2010, the Town invited residents to participate in the renewal strategy  and asked them to vision a redevelopment plan for the area.  The Council approved this community consensus plan in 2011.  But what happened next is that the Manager hired a consultant who recommended  a zoning code that was approved quickly by the Town Council.  This code is a land speculator’s dream: few standards, no public hearings and a quick approval process. It does not resemble the citizens’ plan.
  • Benefits all accrue to the developer, not the community. The final code threw out all the things that Chapel Hill considers valuable: public hearings, in scale attractive buildings, trees and wide sidewalks, storm water volume control, and development that would serve the community such as modestly priced housing, improved bus service, and pocket parks.
  • The retail we want and need is disappearing fast due to escalating rents replaced by high end apartments, chain stores, and expensive restaurants. Gone or going soon are the dry cleaners, the yarn store, the copy shop, the barber shop, the men’s clothing store – the kind of services we depend on for everyday living.  
  • We will need to drive to Durham to find what we need. Replacing needed office and retail with the new glitzy stuff will mean even more traffic on a congested 15-501.
  • The Town is spending tax money to market a bad product instead of fixing the underlying problems.  We want the FBC improved or replaced with code that allows the kind of development we want and need. We are not excited about spending $24,000 of Town funds to help the property owners market their rental units.
  • Lower standards has led to more real estate speculation and the rapid flipping of properties.  The Alexan recently sold for $72 million.
  • The FBC is not promoting transit friendly development. Each apartment owner is building a parking deck which will keep people in their cars. The town is short on funds to expand our bus service.   A consultant has just been hired to design sidewalks and bikelanes for the district well after the approval of the zone.
  • Flooding will continue.  The Town has several watershed studies underway to recommend expensive remedies, but it it far less expensive to reverse the trend by not building pavement and buildings on natural surfaces.
  • The area is not walkable.  The  first project approved under the new zone is the “beached cruise ship” sitting awkwardly on Elliott Road. The building and attached parking deck make it more difficult to reach other businesses in the same shopping center. Each large apartment building will supply their own parking and walking to other locations is discouraged.
  • We are losing our town’s character.  The tree lined streets are being replaced with pavement and concrete that take up every square inch of property, just like large cities everywhere.  After all the Town investment of taxpayer funds, the Form Based Code has caused the ordinary things people need to live to disappear, along with the look and feel of our college town.

We invite our readers to respond to the article.  These newspaper quotes particularly stand out:

 “The desire was to become a thriving, walkable district with an urban character attractive to younger generations that work and live in the Chapel Hill area,”
Regency Centers also plans to remodel part of Village Plaza’s Whole Foods-anchored shopping center, which has lost several smaller tenants in recent years, Kanik said. Those losses can cause “a lot of heartache and grief,” he said, but the company also has a duty to its investors and to help other tenants thrive.

The district “is going to bring a lot more of this kind of entertainment lifestyle and activity,” Kanik said. “The PTA Thrift Shop, the Print Shop and the old dry cleaner that was there for generations, it’s all legacy stuff and there’s a time and place for that, but with this evolution there’s going to be a lot more energy.

Write your opinion in the comment section just below.

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What to do about Silent Sam? UNC is at an impasse

Read more here: http://www.heraldsun.com/news/local/counties/orange-county/article168973032.html?#emlnl=Morning_Newsletter#storylink=cpy
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Mayors Take Action Post Charlottesville

Mayors taking swift action to avoid becoming the next Charlottesville

Washington Post, Aug 16 2017

City officials across the country are nervously trying to figure out how to avoid becoming the next Charlottesville as alt-right leaders and white nationalist groups vow to stage more rallies in coming days.

A group claiming it is advocating free speech has planned a rally for Saturday on the historic Boston Common, with a group advocating racial justice planning its conditions, including no sticks, weapons or backpacks.

“Make no mistake: We do not welcome any hate groups to Boston, and we reject their message,” Mayor Marty Walsh (D) said Wednesday.

Read more here.

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Summer in Chapel Hill!

Many of my neighbors and I have begun their own flock of chickens.  The wooded part of a residential lot is an ideal place to locate a chicken hutch, away from direct summer sun. Both Carrboro and Chapel Hill ordinances allow hens, but not roosters. Here are my neighbors’ kids selling eggs last Saturday. What a delight to buy fresh eggs on our street corner!

Henning, Benigno and Pilar selling eggs in our neighborhood

Our neighborhood, Coker Hills West,  has turned over and younger families are moving in. It’s a place where kids can discover the woods and a stream – a Booker Creek tributary winds its way through the middle of the neighborhood on its way to Eastwood Lake.  And kids can lend a hand in raising chickens!

A wooded lots makes a perfect place to raise chickens and for kids to play. Brand new in 1971, our neighborhood has become older now with a mix of post modern and traditional homes, aging gracefully.  The old trees shield the roofs of our homes from the heat of summer and when the leaves fall, winter sunlight provides passive solar heat. Leaves don’t need to be  raked and fall into the woods feeding the trees and a understory of native plants such as Viburnum and Buckeye.  These natives provide food for  a variety of wildlife:  birds, squirrels, hawks, owls, possum, racoon and yes, deer.

Keeping chickens can be compatible with our wildlife but you must offer them protection from predators. Hawks can carry off a young chicken during the day and without a secure hen house, raccoons will find out and carry off a chicken or two at night.  You can build your own coop or go with a ready made model such as an excellent self composing model from Carolina Coops. Different breeds will lay different color eggs. Backyard Chickens is a good source of information if you want to get started.














Kids and chickens are a great mix for a neighborhood!

Submitted by Julie McClintock

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Proposal for apartments, parking deck and retail for busy Estes Drive/MLK intersection

The Community Design Commission will discuss a proposed concept plan for a development on the north east corner of MLK and Estes in the Town Hall Council Chamber this Tues evening (May 23) at 6:30 pm.  The link to the concept plan is here.

The plan calls to construct 327,380 sq ft which is essentially the same size as University Place (previously University Mall) including a 65,000 sq ft hotel, 40,000 sq ft of office, 20,000 sq ft of retail, 20,000 sq ft of commercial space and 175 apartments for a total of 670 parking spots.

The site is presently wooded and is rather narrow, the longest portion along Estes Drive.  Access roads into the project so near a busy intersection will certainly not do anything good for Estes Drive traffic. The developer is proposing an entrance on MLK nearer the intersection with Piney Mountain Rd which looks like it would add to congestion in the area and reduce safety for folks crossing Shadowwood to catch the bus to UNC.

The public is invited to attend the meeting, listen to the developer’s presentation and to offer comment. The project may or may not be compatible with the Central West Small Area Plan — but it must be noted that a large number of area residents were not at all pleased with the CWSAP that the committee approved. The project is also on the Horace Williams  flight path and it’s not clear how it would be safe to put buildings in the flight path with the airport open. This project is likely to add to the storm runoff into Booker Creek.

Listen to the audio of the Community Design meeting here.

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More Apartments for Ephesus-Fordham District

Hillstone. On April 25th, the Community Design Commission (CDC) approved a Certificate of Appropriateness for two new apartment buildings on a 6.5 acre site located at 1736 Fordham Blvd (the former Volvo dealership).

Hillstone is a new development subject to the Ephesus Fordham Form Based Code, a zone which calls for the Town Manager to issue the permit rather than the Town Council. Form based code is a new form of zoning to Chapel Hill and bars opportunities for public input.  Former Mayor Kleinschmidt and the former Council passed the new zoning code in 2014 to “spur economic activity” to an area that was referred to by the Chamber as a blighted area. More later on whether this has yielded a net positive revenue for the town.

Because this project lies in the Ephesus-Fordham (E-F) district, it will be reviewed only by the CDC and by town staff. There is no other opportunity for public input or for review by elected officials. Following review by town staff, Manager Stancil must issue a permit for the project before June 6, 2017. See Town webpage.  

Also troublesome is the fact that modifications to the already generous form based code are also dealt with by the Manager.  It would make sense for Council and the community to weigh in on parameters that go beyond the limits of the code.

Town Manager Stancil reported to the Council in a recent memo that the staff is discussing the number of travel lanes needed for the connector street – a new street between the service road and Legion Road.

Unfortunate consequences

While we think it’s appropriate for technical staff to review the project, it’s a darn shame the public is cut out of this sort of review.  Neighbors living near-by, as well as commuters passing through, are more apt to make sensible suggestions because they will suffer if these plans are not well implemented.

Many of us loved our vintage shopping centers in Eastgate and Village Plaza that housed our favorite retailers.  Higher rents have forced many of them to leave. No one thought Rams Plaza did not need to be improved.

The great irony of this application is that the Volvo site is where the E-F redevelopment district started.  Former Mayor Kleinschmidt was upset that the dealership where he purchased his car had gone out of business and voiced his concern to the Council. An interest in encouraging redevelopment through a new fast track form of zoning was born.  If the area had stayed small it might have succeeded.  Instead the concept grew by leaps and bounds into a 200 acre district that no one loves.

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