Woodfield Llc has submitted to the Town of Chapel Hill a new concept plan for the American Legion property. Many members of the public attended a Community Design Commission meeting and spoke objecting to the new plan.
Background. Woodfield, a developer, signed a contract to purchase the 36-acre American Legion property if the Town grants approval for construction on the site of at least 400 apartments. As part of these negotiations, Town officials decided, in closed session, to forfeit the opportunity to purchase the land, thus denying the public any opportunity to have a say in this important decision.
In January the developer presented a development concept to a full house at the American Legion for 600 apartments. The concept was opposed by neighbors and many living throughout town. Read the Indy for a comprehensive report of the meeting and our background report here.
Mayor Hemminger asked her colleagues earlier this spring to supply their ideas about how to plan for the future of this important piece of property. The council approved principles for the goals they would like future development to meet.
What’s new? This week Woodfield proposed a modified concept to build a development with a mix of uses to potentially include 400 apartments, a 50,000 sf office building and a second 50,000 sf office, civic or flex space building. In order to redevelop the site, the two existing buildings would be demolished and the pond removed and replaced with a stormwater facility that would be built to current standards. Woodfield has also agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding with the Town to build a road connection, alignment to be worked out with the Town, to Ephesus Church Road along with a trail system to enhance the current park facilities adjacent to this site. See the Town webpage.
CHALT finds that Woodfield’s slightly altered proposal to build 200 fewer apartments on the American Legion property is still not a good fit for the town’s needs nor does it meet the principles outlined by the Council. Specifically it does not meet the principle of serving a variety of housing needs nor protecting the quality of life of surrounding neighborhoods. Roads in the area are already over capacity and Chapel Hill transit is financially unable to increase service routes.
Most important, Chapel Hill has a more than adequate supply of new market rate housing units—over 6,000 at last count—already approved or in the development pipeline.
Conversely, Chapel Hill has a shortage of public park land and recreational facilities, particularly in the part of town where the American Legion property is located. We feel confident that the Town government, the land owners and third party developers together will be able to craft a plan for the property that better meets both the financial needs of the American Legion membership and the Town’s need for expanded parkland and recreation opportunities.
Before that can happen, however, the Town Council needs to communicate clearly to Woodfield during the concept plan review process that proposals to build apartments on the American Legion property are not likely to be approved.
The town’s Parks, Greenways and Recreation Commission has unanimously recommended that the town acquire some or all of the American Legion property to expand Ephesus Park. The action taken by the previous Council in closed session removed the opportunity to include a town park in the recent bond issue. But a future plan could provide for a much needed park.
The proposed site plan shows that much of the site will be transformed into paved parking lots and stormwater retention ponds. Far from expanding the amount of public parkland in the vicinity, the plan envisions reducing the amount of parkland because a paved road would be built through the existing 10-acre Ephesus Park.
The concept plan put a new road on the town-owned park land for the convenience of the developer which would greatly inconvenience the neighborhoods adjacent to the school by cutting off walking routes to the school and dumping even more congestion onto Ephesus Church Rd. The plan changes
the location of the retention pond which would require cutting down large sections of forest.
Related articles, documents
August 14 Chapel Hill News article
American Legion Process, Michael Parker
Residents Pan Legion Road Apartments, Chapel Hill News, August 23 public hearing, CDC
Concept Plan Application
Closed nature of meeting draws concern, Durham Herald
Ken Larsen’s website, American Legion