Obey Creek Updates

December, 2014:  Park and Ride Now Part of Obey Creek Discussions

Parallel discussions about the future growth planned for Obey Creek and southern area town-owned lands in southern Chapel Hill are continuing in December and January, with emphasis on planning for both sides of the road in order to create a greater level of connection and synergy between Obey Creek and Southern Village’s Market Street.

Urged by the citizen produced Compass Report, the Town Council has decided to take a more comprehensive approach by investigating the redevelopment of town-owned properties where the park and ride is now located. This could represent a potential revenue source for the town and is considered to be critical to maintaining a vibrant Market Street. Because the two sites, Obey Creek and the Park & Ride lot,  are accessed using the same intersections, this planning effort is a critical step in helping the town assess the developer Obey Creek Ventures current proposal, as well as helping the town to decide important Obey Creek parameters such as intersection placement/size, trip generation allotment, and mix of uses.

The Town is engaged in a negotiation with the developer Obey Creek Ventures to produce a contract or development agreement for a 40 acre land area opposite Southern Village.  The area is presently zoned low density as it was part of the original small area plan that produced a high density Southern Village surrounded by low density.  The Developer  is proposing a 1.5 million sq feet of mixed use development and is requesting significant flexibility in the mix of uses:

Retail               200,000 – 475,000 sqf
Office             150,000 – 600,000 sqf
Residential         250 – 800 units
Hotel                       0 – 400 rooms

Upcoming meetings:
January 8        (Special Meeting: Negotiation Session)  Topics include: fiscal analysis, transportation updates
January 12 (Council Business Mtg): Southern Village Park & Ride (and other southern area town-owned parcels)
January 22- 23   Facilitated Work sessions
Friday, Jan 23    Public engagement: afternoon,

Town Council has engaged Victor Dover (Dover Kohl) to facilitate southern area planning discussions including creation of scenarios for redevelopment of the Southern Village Park & Ride lot and other adjacent town-owned properties:

Town’s Obey Creek Development Agreement page here.

November, 2014: Negotiations Begin, Questions Remain

At a November 5th work session, Council voted to enter into negotiations for a development agreement with Obey Creek Ventures. As currently proposed, the development would create a 1.5-million-square-foot mixed use center on the forested land across Highway 15-501 from Southern Village.

Amy Ryan, vice-chair of the Town’s Planning Commission, told the Town Council: “As envisioned, Obey Creek would have a dramatic and transformative impact on this part of town, adding square footage equal to that of Patterson Place, plus New Hope Commons, plus two Greenbridges – and that doesn’t include the massive parking garages that will be built. All to be fit into a quiet forested part of town, home to schools, single-family suburban developments, a mixed-use village, and natural preserved land along Morgan Creek and in Merritt’s Meadow.”

Ryan specified three goals required to make the Obey Creek project a net benefit to the town and residents of the southern area: Connectivity to surrounding areas, sufficient workforce housing, and protection for the quality of life and character of the surrounding area. {See Ryan’s Obey Creek editorial from the Chapel Hill News.}

A committee of Chapel Hill residents proposed that the Town consider redeveloping the Southern Village Park and Ride lot into a commercial “bridge” between Market Street in Southern Village and the new development at Obey Creek. Preliminary calculations show that this could provide significant revenue to the town, and improve the connectivity and success of both developments. It would also encourage the Town Council to look at transportation capacity as a limited resource and plan for how to allocate it to different projects to prevent gridlock.

Commuters and residents all over town depend on a smoothly flowing 15-501 and Fordham Blvd. The biggest single challenge to Town planners remains the traffic the Obey Creek development would bring. How much worse traffic congestion would be is directly proportional to the size of the project approved. Preliminary analyses of the proposed development’s effects on traffic and on the local environment have provided some new information. For example, right now there are 22,000 vehicles per day at this intersection and Obey Creek development would almost double it by adding 17,855 vehicle trips per day passing through the intersection of Market Street and 15-501.

Obey Creek development will nearly double traffic in the local area, without addressing major planned increases to traffic on 15-501 brought by already approved zoning changes in Glen Lennox and Ephesus Fordham.

Traffic issues still to be resolved include: (1) the feasibility of a proposal to rework the intersection of Highways 54/15-501, which is necessary to maintain adequate traffic flow; (2) how to calculate the traffic capacity of the area and then allocate capacity between Obey Creek and other area sites; and (3) how to balance the goals of improving traffic flow and maintaining safe bike and pedestrian connections. While Bus transit planning for the area is underway, the Town does not presently have the means to pay for the increased service the Obey Creek area will require when developed. Town leaders are well aware that state and Federal support for Chapel Transit has been reduced, and taxpayers are paying more each year to make up the difference.

An environmental study concluded that concentrating development on the 35 acres adjacent to Highway 15-501 and placing the remaining 80 acres on the east side of the creek into permanent conservation would benefit the natural environment more than spreading low-density residential throughout the site. However, the town has still not seen any analysis of the environmental impacts of the proposed high-density development or any evaluation of the stormwater mitigations planned for the site. A recent suggestion to add a school site in the conservation area would be harmful to the environment and water quality.

At its November 13th meeting, the Town Council met with the developer to discuss affordable housing goals and design issues. They decided to hire an urban and traffic design consultant to expedite the process will attend a January meeting.

The Town’s Obey Creek website page contains additional information.

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