Flooding in Carrboro related to Lloyd Proposal

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen are set to vote on the Lloyd Proposal, site of the old Lloyd Farm, on December 6th   See recent news article by Elisabeth Friend in the News and Observer.

Lorraine Aragon writes this letter requesting a denial of the rezoning application.

Dear Aldermen, Your Honor the Mayor, and Carrboro Town staff,

I know that you care greatly for this Town and seek to make decisions that will benefit its residents. I thank you for your service, which I know is complex and arduous. I understand that you must weigh competing human and legal interests in every decision, but I hope you will take residents’ concerns to heart.

I respectfully ask you not to rezone the Lloyd Farm property for a drive-through mall that threatens the safety and integrity of our neighborhood. I also request that you reject the ancillary text amendments for increased height and zoning flexibility, which will further deregulate developments and thereby intensify and expedite what may be poorly designed proposals.

Following hundreds of conversations with my neighbors and fellow townspeople, I am confident that, if put to a vote, the majority of Carrboro voters would not support either of these proposals.

Here is why:

ECOLOGY AND FLOODING

Our neighbors already suffer from flooding and insufficient stormwater protections.

This is what the Town of Carrboro’s Vision 2020 says (in italics below):

2.12   The Town should limit development in sensitive areas such as the watershed, wetlands, and other areas the development of which could adversely affect water supplies and habitat. The Town’s restrictions on development within the University Lake Watershed should be retained and enforced.

As I understand the watershed maps, in topographic terms, we are in the University Lake Watershed. Only by political fiat are we classified and treated differently as “municipal” jurisdiction. Plantation Acres is in the Tom’s Creek floodplain, and the Lloyd Farm property is on a steep hill running down into that plain.

One acre of parking lot or other impervious surface “can drain 27,000 gallons of rainwater into local streams” (NC Cooperative Extension document, “Small-scale Solutions to Eroding Streambanks” p.1). We routinely measure 4” rains at our house, and this mall proposal has many, many acres of impervious surfaces.

Developers can engineer for a 25-year storm, but they cannot simultaneously engineer a site as large as the Lloyd Farm one for 100-year or 150-year storms, both of which our neighborhood has experienced in 2016. It is a terrible thing to have one’s home flooded (I have experienced this personally elsewhere in North Carolina) and painful to see one’s neighbors suffer.
2.21   The Town should continue to require the preservation and maintenance of open space when land is developed, to enforce restraints on clear-cutting, and to require adequate buffers.

The terms “open space” and “adequate” are vague although the terms “clear-cutting” and “buffers” are not. In terms of hydrology and ecology, grass is not the same as tall trees or layers  of deep-rooted native plants mixed together at different canopy levels. Removing hundreds of trees uphill from our neighborhood, trees which hold water and mitigate heat, puts us at risk.

2.22   Where development is deemed acceptable, there should be well defined dense development with areas of well-preserved open space.

In the past 5 years, we have asked repeatedly for a smaller and denser retail development. All buildings should be away from the wet bottomlands, which are located on the lower and eastern edges of the property, closest to the neighborhood on James St. and the lower parts of Carol St.

There is a pond and stream channel at the James Street side just between the Post Office parking lot and the Duke Power station. The wettest, most sensitive downhill area of the site, where waters flow to Tom’s Creek, appears to be exactly where the 4-5 story apartment complex is now to be located, and where the developers plan to insert a walkway and/or access road to James St.
3.1     In the interest of environmental preservation, new commercial development must minimize negative environmental impact, it must emphasize appropriate buffers, and it must not compromise the integrity of established neighborhoods.

They say no man is an island. This is true of properties as well. The idea that what happens on the Lloyd Farm property is the owners’ business and only affects them is not accurate. It is not true for flooding and sediment run-off impacts to the common water supply. It is not true for traffic dangers. It is not true for increased noise, lights, urban collection heat, or air pollution.

Environmental degradation does not affect everyone equally. The highest population of immigrants and people of color live along James Street, where the planned development is the least buffered by trees or distance from the negative effects.

2.1 Avoidance of Adverse Effects on Public Health and Safety

2.11 Infill development should take place in a manner that fulfills the town’s goals and enhances neighboring areas. The town should develop policies that mitigate the adverse impact of infill development, with particular consideration given to roads, sidewalks, and aesthetic compatibility.

The Town has goals for increasing commercial development and revenue. But this needs to be done in ways that do not disrupt and degrade the neighboring areas.

No one has objected to a well-designed commercial development along Highway 54 (except to note the mirror image of Carrboro Plaza, the elephant in the room). I also have not heard objections to development around the corner on Old Fayetteville, as long as it is buffered from Carol Street residences.

Ideally, the mall’s commercial buildings would look more like Carrboro (Carr Mill Mall) and less like a B-flat suburban strip mall, but height is an even greater incompatibility We are a residential neighborhood of single-story ranch houses and split levels. A 4-5 story apartment building with no mature trees left for screening on the James Street side where everyone walks and jogs (because there is a sidewalk and one can look at the greenery), is not “aesthetically compatible.”

TRAFFIC

Many have noted that the design of this development has significant traffic flow problems, because it borders both Highway 54 and a formerly quiet, semi-rural neighborhood in a school walk zone. The traffic dangers need to be solved before any rezoning for this site happens.

As Merle Thorpe and Mayi Sanchez wrote, “It appears the plan is for our neighborhood to bear the unwelcome brunt of this situation. The solution should not and cannot be to simply dump much of the traffic onto the streets of Plantation Acres and hope the results are not too disastrous.”

Despite periodic discussions about one-way streets or other protections for Carol and Lorraine Streets, the current proposal with Condition 17 even includes RoWs for future roads connecting the development directly onto Lisa Drive and James Street.

In reality, all modifications to move the predicted increased traffic away from certain neighborhood roads will simply shunt that traffic onto another of our already over-burdened and dangerous streets.

DEVELOPMENT POTENTIAL AND NEIGHBORHOODS

The Lloyd Farm site is a large and important property. It could be developed well in a way that accords with Carrboro’s stated values and protects the neighborhood. It could benefit all citizens allow the Town to feel proud of the place for decades in the future. It could support ecological sustainability with a nature trail and pollinator garden. It could include a historic or educational site that would interface with the nearby schools. The buildings could be attractive and in keeping with our and other Town neighborhoods.

Since it first was presented in 2011, this mall proposal has failed to consider the surrounding neighborhood as more than a blank white spot on a two-dimensional map at best, an impediment to profits at worst.

Towns thrive when its neighborhoods thrive. We want to thrive, not sink. Please work to set up a stormwater utility or other safeguards from flooding. Please rethink this proposal, and do us no more harm.

Respectfully,

Lorraine Aragon
102 Mary Street
Carrboro

 

 

 

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