Woodfield’s plan—and any plan that includes apartment construction—is not appropriate for this particular tract of land. There are several reasons, including:
1—The Town’s Comprehensive Plan (CH 2020, adopted in 2012) and the Parks and Recreation Master Plan of 2013 specifically stated that this land, when available, should be considered for a community park. The Parks and Recreation Master Plan stated that Ephesus Park needed to be improved and expanded, and estimated that about $5 million would be needed to buy the land and make improvements.
2—The Woodfield plan does not expand Ephesus Park. In fact, it reduces the size of the Park in order to build a new road that intersects with Ephesus Church Rd. A second entrance/exit road is required for 400 apartments to be built (and a re-zoning of the property from R-2 is necessary). The road would have to be maintained by the Town, but is of little or no value to the Town and severs the walkable connection now in place between the Colony Woods neighborhood, Ephesus Park, and the elementary school, creating a danger to pedestrians.
3—The retention ponds proposed by Woodfield will require removal of many trees, some in the conservation district. Part of this woodland contains the last large stand of undisturbed shortleaf pine in Town. This pine is natural to uplands, and becoming scarce. Other uses of this land could preserve these trees.
4—Any traffic analysis limited to the immediate American Legion area, and that does not include E-F or other parts of Chapel Hill which feed into Fordham Blvd. and 15-501/Franklin St., is virtually useless in terms of determining the true loads on Legion Rd. and Ephesus Church Rd. Everyone knows apartments on the AL property will significantly increase vehicle use. Everyone knows The Park Apartments plans to add hundreds of units when it redevelops, further loading these streets. Everyone knows Ephesus Church Rd. is already too crowded near E-F. This existing congestion is the reason we are spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money to improve the Ephesus-Fordham intersection.
5—The Ephesus-Fordham (E-F) form-based code, as currently written, does not require developers to provide any publicly available green space. This makes a park even more necessary on the AL tract next to E-F.
6—The Council unanimously approved 6 principles related to development of the American Legion tract. The Woodfield proposal does not meet several of them. The most glaring deficiency is Woodfield’s inclusion of luxury apartments on the land, even though they have been advised that the Town is over-built in apartments. E-F already has the Alexan with 263 high-end apartments, and DHIC is building a new affordable housing development and a senior housing facility practically across the street from the American Legion property. Another developer has already proposed apartments nearby on the site of the former Volvo dealership, which, if built, will make it all the more important to provide open space on the AL tract.
7—Parking lots to serve the Woodfield apartments will greatly increase impervious surface and result in more storm water problems in an area that already has flooding on a regular basis. Addressing flooding of the tributaries flowing into Little Creek is needed to inform the prevention measures for the AL tract.
8—The Woodfield Memorandum of Understanding was created and executed in closed meetings without ANY public knowledge or input and without consideration of the existing Master Plans. While the process used to rescind the Town’s “right of first refusal” and create the MOU may be legal, it is not in keeping with the transparent government Chapel Hill is known for and desires to retain.