Below: Meeting Video and two press reports
Video of April 23 public hearing. Click on link
Council members Jim Ward, Matt Czajkowski, George Cianciolo and Ed Harrison said the plan for a “form-based code” that would remove the council from future projects’ approval process needs more work.
“What we’re talking about doing here, to me, has a much less predictable outcome and therefore deserves every bit of input and thought that we can possibly provide to it,” Czajkowski said. “I don’t think we’re anywhere close to being ready to vote for this.”
The 190-acre Ephesus-Fordham district is one of six smaller areas identified in the town’s 2020 plan as ripe for future projects.
The town is considering a new type of zoning called form-based code to guide developers and create predictability in how buildings are built, how they look and how they fit into the landscape. Once established, most projects could be approved by town staff, instead of the council, with some Community Design Commission review.
Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and council members Sally Greene, Donna Bell and Lee Storrow did not signal their intent Wednesday, but council member Maria Palmer said it’s time to vote.
“I ran part of my campaign on Ephesus-Fordham, and I’ve been ready to see something change in this area for 15 years,” she said.
The council continued the public hearing to its May 5 work session, but not before hearing from more than three dozen people who signed up but didn’t get to speak at Monday’s public hearing. Roughly a dozen more people who signed up to speak did not return Wednesday.
More than 100 residents showed up for each meeting.
Resident Diane Willis said everyone wants to see improvements in stormwater and flooding, traffic and other district issues. The council should move forward cautiously by applying the code to a few initial projects, she said.
“It’s time to remove the rose-colored glasses and actually examine what would be delivered,” she said. “In its present form, the form-based code has no teeth, no incentives and no oversight by the council or the public, just the town manager, who is not elected, and a minimal amount now from the Community Design Commission.”
Residents David Schwartz and Julie McClintock advocated for a code with more reviews and incentives, similar to one the town’s consultant – Lee Einsweiler of Code Studio – helped write for Asheville’s Haywood Road area. McClintock said nearly 800 residents have signed a petition asking the council to address residents’ concerns before approving the form-based code.
Many neighbors who support the district don’t go to meetings, resident Matt Bailey said, but they speak their minds by driving to Durham.
“The outdated suburban sprawl and the aging strip malls on our side of town don’t offer the kind of shopping they need, the restaurants they like or the places they want to spend their time,” he said. “They make their voices heard every time they move to Chapel Hill just in time for kindergarten and move out just after high school, because our side of town doesn’t offer the kind of housing people in all stages of life desire.”
Holly Fraccaro, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Durham, Orange and Chatham Counties, agreed with his assessment. Chapel Hill has “a really good plan” that will do what is needed, she said.
The town learned from Ephesus-Fordham district property owners that more than half the potential projects could be residential. Bassett has said the town could expect roughly 900,000 square feet of commercial space and about 1,495 residents.
The district’s road network is the “largest detriment” to development, transportation planner David Bonk said. The needs are greater than one property owner could correct. The town plans to spend roughly $8.8 million on two phases of road improvements and another million improving stormwater issues upstream.
Cianciolo said the community will have to subsidize affordable housing, if that’s what residents want. The form-based code carries risk, but it’s also risky to do nothing, he said. Greene said one way is working with nonprofit housing partners, because market-rate developers usually aren’t interested.
Ward suggested setting a two-story limit, with bonus height for developers who include affordable home and business space, energy-efficient features and other amenities.
John Richardson, the town’s sustainability officer, said the proposed code now incentivizes rooftop solar equipment and sets stricter stormwater and residential buffer standards. A district pilot program could reward developers with fee rebates for energy-efficient features, he said.
Still No Vote on Ephesus-Fordham Plan, But Lots of Public Input
By Danny HooleyPosted April 24, 2014 at 4:17 am
ephesus fordham plan
Members of the public brought slide presentations, personal stories and some impressive knowledge and research into Wednesday night’s marathon meeting of the Chapel Hill Town Council.
The subject was the Ephesus-Fordham redevelopment plan; and at the end of five-plus hours, the Council was not yet ready to vote.
There were some testy exchanges, such as this one between Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Council Member Matt Czajkowski.
“It’s kind of like when I want to sell my house, and they’re going to put a value on it, I go look at the last three or four houses in my neighborhood, and that’s the market value,” said Kleinschmidt.
“I’ll tell you what it’s like, Mr. Mayor,” Czajkowski replied. “It’s like when you get the answer you don’t like, you do it yourself, and use a different set of comparables. That’s what it’s like, OK?”
They argued about whether the Town Staff’s market value projections for development spurred by the Ephesus-Fordham redevelopment plan were realistic.
Czajkowski is a well-known critic of the plan to rezone 190 acres near the intersection of Ephesus Church Road and Fordham Boulevard to attract developers.
If rezoning for the plan was approved, it would be the first time form-based code was used in Chapel Hill. Projects would be approved by staff, with input from the Community Design Commission, based on parameters set by the Town Council.
Later in the meeting, Czajkowski was shut down by Kleinschmidt and Council members Sally Greene and Donna Bell for twice questioning the motives of Greg Warren, president of DHIC, a non-profit housing organization. Warren spoke in favor of form-based code during public comments at the meeting.
The DHIC plans to build 84 affordable housing units on a portion of Legion Road donated by the Town of Chapel Hill. Czajkowski supports that.
But one of Czajkowski’s concerns about the Ephesus-Fordham plan is that rather than incentivizing affordable housing, it would do the opposite –for instance, to the detriment of The Park apartments on Ephesus Church Road.
“Why would you endorse having those workforce apartments knocked down, and those people driven out of Chapel Hill, sooner then it has to happen?” Czajkowski asked Warren.
“I did not endorse that,” answered Warren, as council members spoke up to admonish Czajkowski.
“That is not a question that anybody should be asked,” said Greene. “This is not an interrogation.”
During the public comments that lasted two hours, some citizens expressed similar concerns about the potential for the loss of affordable housing. Some brought slide presentations to illustrate concerns about stormwater runoff and more potential for flooding.
Some speakers said the plan didn’t do enough to enhance walkability and bike transit.
Most of the comments were in opposition to the plan. But there were a few that spoke strongly in favor, arguing that money is being siphoned out of Chapel Hill every time its residents drive to neighboring Durham to meet shopping needs.
Aaron Nelson, president of The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, endorses the Ephesus-Fordham plan.
“The plan comports with our community’s shared values,” said Nelson. “We want to build more affordable housing. We want to improve water quality. We want to grow the commercial tax base. We want to develop intensely along our transit corridors. We want to grow local work opportunity.”
As the clock ticked toward the drop-dead ending time for the meeting at 11:15 p.m., half the council said they still weren’t ready to vote yet.
Here’s Council member Jim Ward:
“I’m not against form-based code,” he said. “I’m not against doing it in this area. I don’t think the product we could vote on tonight is as good as we can do. I think it’s far from that.”
The Council ran out of time for discussion, so the meeting was scheduled to be continued on May 5 at 6 p.m., at the same place, the Southern Human Services Center on Homestead Road.
That’s for the rezoning item. The discussion of the stormwater plan that was scheduled for Wednesday’s meeting was put off until May 28.
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