Category Archives: Ephesus Fordham

“In Chapel Hill’s Ephesus-Fordham District, No Tools to Fight Bad Developments”

Excerpts from David Hudnalls article in Sept 23 Indy.
Read full article here.
 screen_shot_2016-09-22_at_10.21.57_am.png
 Two years ago, the part of Chapel Hill where Eastgate Crossing and Village Plaza and Ram’s Plaza collide (home to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Food Lion, and dozens of restaurants and shops) was cobbled together into a designated zoning district called Ephesus-Fordham and singled out for an experimental—to Chapel Hill—approach to development known as form-based code.

The hope was that this new approach would streamline what had long been an excruciating review process for new projects in Chapel Hill. Today, Chapel Hill is so chockablock with hulking new apartment developments (with somewhere in the neighborhood of six thousand new apartment units already on the way), it’s hard to believe that, not so long ago, it was an incredibly grueling place for developers to do business. Elected officials and townspeople routinely spiked new projects deemed not in keeping with the town’s character.

That changed in the mid-2000s, when Chapel Hill leaders began to covet the shiny urban projects being erected from scratch, or reinvigorated via adaptive reuse, in Durham and Raleigh. Soon, high-rise projects like 140 West Franklin, East 54, and Greenbridge began to shoot into the sky. With development-friendly Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, first elected in 2007, and a willing council, Chapel Hill was suddenly a hot market for developers…..

In other words, once the code is in place, developers are basically free to do as they please in the district, provided they check all the boxes set in the code. No more marathon public meetings. No more council votes. The town’s planning staff deals with everything, and it has seventy-five days to either give a project a thumbs-up or thumbs-down.The thinking, a few years ago, was that if form-based code worked well in Ephesus-Fordham, it might work well in other districts.

You don’t hear that so much these days, though. Mostly, the talk is of how to change the code to keep the wrong kinds of developments from invading Ephesus-Fordham.

“We want a better outcome,” says Mayor Pam Hemminger.

The problem with form-based code, as it exists in Ephesus-Fordham, is that the specifics of the code weren’t faithful to community input. The code has no real teeth, and, as such, has thus far failed to deliver the streetscape and walkable environment everybody, including the town council, sought at the outset.

Since assuming office last year, Hemminger has worked with the council to refine the code in Ephesus-Fordham. She has hired an urban designer from Durham, Tony Sease, to improve the plan for the district.

This approach—hire consultants with an eye on improving the code, seek incremental progress on updating the code based on those recommendations, and pray like hell that nobody submits another monster market-rate apartment complex in Ephesus-Fordham in the meantime—is pragmatic, but also risky. Chapel Hill has a very real need for new commercial developments.

“Our tax base is eighty-four percent residential, with six thousand more residential units on the way,” Hemminger says. “We need to be closer to sixty-forty residential. We need a better balance.”

Short of eliminating form-based code in Ephesus-Fordham, though, there’s no way to ensure Ephesus-Fordham won’t get more projects like the ninety-foot-high, soon-to-open luxury apartments of the Alexan, the first project approved in the district. Or the apartments that have been submitted for the former Volvo dealership between Legion Road and the Fordham Boulevard service road.

Adding to concern is the news that South Village Plaza was sold over the summer, for $18 million, to Ram Realty, developer of the luxury condos at 140 West Franklin. The News & Observer reported last week that “an application is possible early next year [on South Village Plaza] that would include a new retail building, parking lot and storefront improvements.”

“I think we’re good for now on market-rate apartments,” says council member Jessica Anderson. “One thing that we talked about in our last meeting is ways to encourage or incentivize business in that district. I think we need to beef up the code to be more explicit that what we want to see there is commercial and office, and not just more apartments.”

Council member Michael Parker, who says he’s “neither convinced nor unconvinced” that there are too many apartment units coming into Chapel Hill, says he’s more concerned about new changes creating a “more urban and walkable and bike-able and generally less auto-reliant environment” in Ephesus-Fordham….And I think that’s what you’re seeing now. And I’m hopeful that in six months we’ll have addressed some of these concerns and shortcomings and made Ephesus-Fordham into a better district.”

Hemminger says she doesn’t expect form-based code will be attempted anywhere else in Chapel Hill. But she also says the plan is to stick with it in Ephesus-Fordham.

“We’re making revisions, we’re building momentum there,” she says. “We’ve made huge changes to inspections and permitting to make the process more predictable for developers. It’s an area we want developed. We don’t want to scare off developers. We’re trying to move to being a place with a good reputation to come build—where if you have a good, creative idea, we’ll work with you.”

Share Button

Council will Consider Concept Plan for American Legion Property

At a public hearing Monday night, September 19, the Town Council will consider a concept plan for the American Legion property. See council agenda.  On behalf of C.H.A.L.T. ,  Joan Guilkey, will present this petition to the Town Council.

Petition to: Mayor and Chapel Hill Town Council
Date:           September 1, 2016
Subject:     Just Say No to Any Apartments on the American Legion      Property

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 hardwoods and 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 that does not include the Ephesus Fordham District (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. The standard traffic analysis manual used by traffic consultants would estimate that the proposed 400 American Legion apartments themselves could add 4000 more vehicle trips per day on Legion Road.  Ephesus Church Rd. is already congested near E-F. While the Town is spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money to improve the Ephesus Road-Fordham intersection, we’ve seen no evidence that when the new approved Ephesus-Fordham densities are implemented, that congestion will be reduced or even stay at the current poor levels.

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 American Legion 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 Honda/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.

Respectfully submitted by:   Joan Guilkey for Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town and 110 signatories of the petition.

http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/community/chapel-hill-news/article97591137.html

Share Button

What’s Happening at Elliott Road?

September Update

Alexan Apartments was the first project permitted under the new fast track approval process, i.e., form-based code, that the Town adopted in May, 2014.  As the project nears completion, let’s assess how well the Ephesus-Fordham (E-F)  redevelopment plan is measuring up to expectations.  Originally billed as “mixed-use” the zone is fast becoming apartments (7 story) that crowd the 2 lane Elliott Road marketed to students.

Alexan ApartmentsNew projects in E-F are not creating a walkable, pedestrian friendly experience.  Since the Alexan provides no pedestrian pass-through, the route from businesses on the east side of the building to those on the west side—e.g., from Thimble Pleasures to Whole Foods—is a long, unpleasant experience, especially on a hot summer day. The block size of this structure is about 400 feet – too large for good pedestrian mobility. Curbs with narrow sidewalks along the street front of Elliott Road crowd pedestrian travel and the enjoyment of a pleasant walk.

Willow Oaks along ElliottTree canopy replaced by concrete and glass. Beautiful mature willow oaks, such as these on the south side of Elliott Road, were cut down on t he north side of the road to make way for the more “urban” streetscape of the Alexan building. The form-based code (FBC) encourages loss of tree cover during redevelopment by permitting construction right up to the property line. How will redevelopment in E-F deliver the tree-lined pedestrian streetscape that residents want if the FBC does not require building setbacks to make that possible?

greenwayA missed opportunity to enhance the Booker Creek greenway.  A replacement greenway pictured here skirts Booker Creek, located just to the left. On the right side of the greenway path will be a new connecting road and the garage and garbage bays of the 90-foot tall Alexan apartments. Those additions will turn what was once a pleasant walk through natural surroundings into an uninspired sidewalk route surrounded by pavement. Booker Creek and the adjacent wooded landscape would have provided a perfect backdrop for a park and an enjoyable public space.

Major problems yet to be tackled. These are just a few of the changes we’ve observed on the ground since the Town Council approved the FBC and applied it to the nearly 200 acre E-F district.  The pictures illustrate only a few of the problems that need to be fixed in the FBC.  Other problem that need to be addressed include the lack of affordable housing requirements, lack of incentives for energy efficient construction, and building densities and heights that threaten to overwhelm our infrastructure.

Summary August 22nd Public Meeting

The public session was billed as a chance to give input to improve “walkability and open space” in the Ephesus-Fordham district, which is regulated by the FBC. We came to this meeting thinking we would be asked to offer ideas about how to integrate green space, mini parks, sidewalks and connections in the FBC, but we didn’t get the chance.

Most discouraging, the meeting leaders did not acknowledge the fact that we are not at the beginning of a collaborative process, but are instead trying to improve a poor, hastily-adopted code that is already in place.  New projects could be submitted any day and the Town Manager would need to approve them if they satisfy the minimal criteria of the deficient existing FBC.

We learned that the Town intends to attack the problems in the FBC by hiring four consultants:

TOPIC                       CONTRACTOR                  SCHEDULE

Urban Design                Tony Sease                          fall

Mobility Study              Stewart Consulting            fall

Design Guidelines       Winter Consulting              fall

Affordable housing      David Paul Rosen Assoc   ???

Here is the schedule the town will use to bring the final text recommendations to public hearing.

We see at least three barriers to success for improving the FBC.

  • The fragmentation of property ownership in the district restricts opportunities for green space and large scale storm water planning
  • Need for parking coordination across parcels: If every property owner provides exclusive on-site parking, this will cause additional auto congestion and undermine “walkability”
  • Increased heioght and density, currently allowed “by right,” must be made contingent on provision of affordable housing, energy efficiency and other community benefits.

Central Questions

Will the Council adopt any of the significant changes suggested by the participants, e.g. lower building height (50 ft vs 90 ft), reasonable setbacks, adequate publicly accessible green space in every development, pedestrian/bicycle connectivity (other than street-based sidewalks) between developments, energy efficient construction, stormwater controls, and incentives for affordable housing units?

What happens between now and when the FBC is “fixed?“ We worry every second of every day that yet another “Alexan” will be approved, or that The Park Apts. will submit their redevelopment application. In fact, some of us have heard that the new owner of the property adjacent to the Alexan wants to construct another building just like it!

Will the minor fixes the Town intends make enough difference for community members feel it worthwhile to engage in this process?  Will the Town Manager and the Project Managers allow the hired experts to make an honest assessment about what needs to be done to really fix the code, so the town staff can begin to rebuild that trust with community members?

Sept 12 Staff update to Town Council

Share Button

A Chance to Fix Ephesus-Fordham Zoning Code

Public Meeting:
Walkability and Open Space Standards in Ephesus/Fordham Area

TODAY      Date: 08/22/2016 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Location: Chapel Hill Public Library, Meeting Room B
100 Library Drive
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514

As many have heard, more properties are changing hands in the Ephesus Fordham District.  If the Code is not fixed, the Town will be required to approve the sort of project we see now on Elliott Road in nearby areas in the district in our Town.

Please try to attend this meeting tonight at some point.   Note that you can go early at 6 pm or later at 7 and still hear a presentation.

The Town Council is asking for ideas on who to improve the Ephesus/Fordham
development rules to create open space opportunities and new and improved streets and pedestrian-bicycle path connections.

Click here for a full list of the Town’s plans for this area.  See a full list of the scheduled hearings for these improvements here.  Staff contact is John Richardson, project manager.  jrichardson@townofchapelhill.org or call 919 969-5075

Share Button

How Do Developments Help Chapel Hill?

Share Button

Chapel Hill’s Hope for Legion Park a Challenge but Not a New Idea

This article appears in the Chapel Hill News April 20
by Tammy Grubb

CHAPEL HILL
The idea of using American Legion land to build a bigger neighborhood park has been around for years, unofficially and in the town’s 2013 Comprehensive Parks Plan.

The plan suggested leasing or buying part of the land from American Legion Post 6 to expand Ephesus Park, a 10-acre town-owned tract on Ephesus Church Road that backs up to the post, into a community park.

Neighbors have long viewed the 36 acres at 1714 Legion Road as a local resource, walking its trails, exploring the creek and letting their children use it as a safe route to Ephesus Elementary School.

Woodfield Investment’s $10 million bid for the land and plans for an office building and up to 600 apartments has some residents asking the Town Council to step in. The previous council had first crack at buying the land, but passed on it in November, saying there wasn’t money.

But the new council, at a March meeting, explored the possibilities. Only 20 acres can be developed, a consultant said, because a stream and floodplains cross the property.

The town could use $8 million in parks and recreation bonds approved last fall, council members said. Planning for how to use that money is in the very early stages, Parks and Recreation director Jim Orr said.

The parks plan calls Ephesus one of two parks with “the greatest need for major renovation and expansion.” It calls for creating a master study of the needs and lists more than $900,000 in critical improvements, including new tennis courts, restrooms, a park shelter and baseball field. There’s no money available yet for that work.

The Parks, Greenways and Recreation Commission also gave the town a “wish list” recently for future negotiations with Woodfield, Orr said. Among the suggestions, more parking for Ephesus Park and a dog park.

“It’s all just conjecture at this point,” he said.

Town Manager Roger Stancil said the council may have considered the parks plan in negotiating trails to Ephesus Park last year as part of Woodfield’s potential redevelopment.

“The idea was if the developer built trails and if they connected (to) Ephesus Park, it’s kind of like extending the town’s recreation area without the town spending any money to do that,” he said.

He wants to talk with the council again before June, Stancil said, but is waiting for the developer’s concept plan.

“The message was clear from the council, I think pretty unanimously, that anything that was 600 residential units was not going to get much favorable response,” he said. “If I were a developer, I’d rather try to put something together that might fly.”

Woodfield developer Scott Underwood said in an email last week they are continuing work “to find an equitable path to move forward.”

“We will not be submitting a formal application in April as we continue to work through our plan,” he said. “Woodfield is committed to working with the town and the community to develop a fantastic project.”

Any project submitted would require rezoning the land and face multiple hearings.

A vote against rezoning would stop the plan, but the town must give it fair hearing or it could appear as an illegal attempt to thwart the deal.

Legion officials won’t say if the town could get another shot at the land. It’s not an option they will address while under contract with Woodfield, Post Commander Bill Munsee has said.

Money, in any case, is the issue, Stancil said. The town has leveraged Town Hall to finance road construction and stormwater measures in the Ephesus-Fordham district and other projects and is taking on $40.3 million in bond debt over the next decade for parks, greenways, streets, sidewalks, solid waste and stormwater improvements.

There’s also a pressing need to replace aging fire departments and the Chapel Hill Police Department.

Using bond money to buy the land won’t leave enough to build facilities, Stancil said. No one has asked the town about a public-private partnership, meanwhile, and they need more details before asking the county for help.

Using bond money also delays priorities that residents and the town’s advisory boards spent years debating.

“It’s kind of similar to what you hear from the schools,” Stancil said. “We really need to invest our money in fixing up what we have rather than expanding that.”

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb

Share Button

Possible Modifications to the Ephesus/Fordham Zoning Code

The Town of Chapel Hill will hold a Public Information Meeting about possible modifications to the Ephesus/Fordham Zoning Code from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 1, in the Council Chamber of Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

In response to recent petitions and feedback from advisory boards regarding the Ephesus-Fordham Form District, Town staff members are developing a list of short-term zoning code modifications for Council consideration. In addition to these modifications, the staff will continue to work with the advisory boards to evaluate other interests that require further review and possible technical support.

At the public information meeting, Town staff will present information about advisory board interests for the Ephesus-Fordham District and a list of modifications to the zoning code that could help meet those interests. The staff will also record public comments about the proposed modifications.

The Planning Commission will consider and discuss these same modifications at its meeting scheduled to occur after the public information meeting at 7 p.m. in the same location.

The meeting will be aired on Chapel Hill Gov-TV (townofchapelhill.org/GovTV) and also live streamed. The live streaming link will be available at http://www.townofchapelhill.org/town-hall/departments-services/communications-public-affairs/streaming-media-archive.

###

Share Button

Concerns about Ephesus Fordham Financing

This letter was presented to the Town Council February 15., 2016

Mayor Hemminger and Council Members:

Many citizens who are following the development of the transportation improvements related to development in the Ephesus Fordham area are very concerned about $900,000 for the Phase 2 Elliott Rd Extension design work and right of way purchase including in the installment financing “package”. Having followed this project closely for several years, many of us believe that this intersection requires more planning before the town hires a consultant to do this design work.

Why do we think so?  Take a look at the rudimentary map that Lance Norris sent to Manager Stancil in the memo below. Note that there is no traffic circle on Ephesus Road (this feature had been identified in earlier documents) and that the roads shown in red are highly conceptual. The map below it with road routes superimposed on an elevation map shows that building this road in a floodplain will require especially careful planning.  Without the solid foundation of a transportation plan for Ephesus Fordham that the Community Design Commission and the Transportation Board have called for, and without the Booker Creek Watershed study results in hand, the consultant the town proposes to hire will not have the information needed to perform quality design work or to handle the special challenges of this flood prone area.

Here are the essential items that are needed before the Elliott Road Extension work begins:

•    Adequate public understanding and input. Hold a public forum on the transportation plan for the district so the public can ask questions of town staff and understand what is proposed for the use of our bond funds. The town should also provide an up to date review of the financing plan for the roads, including assumptions about county contribution of tax revenues.

•    Adequate understanding of stormwater management needs and options. The on-going Booker Creek subwatershed study by W.K. Dickson is examining flooding and water volumes in the area. No new design in or near the floodplain should be approved until that study is complete. For example, stormwater volumes may require a bridge, not a culvert.  We do not want the information obtained from WK Dickson at considerable expense not to be available for this purpose.

•    A detailed transportation plan needs to replace the rudimentary road map provided with this agenda item before town funds are expended on contracts for design and property acquisition at the intersection of Elliot Road extension and Fordham Boulevard.

•    The CDC and Transportation Boards have strongly recommended creating, before further projects are approved, a complete transportation plan for the district to guide current and future redevelopment activity in the district.

Starting design work on Phase 2 of the transportation improvements before holding a public information meeting to get citizen comments, before completion of the area transportation plan called for by the CDC and the Transportation Board, and without the essential hydrologic information to be developed by WK Dickson is like starting to build a house before the foundation is laid. The result is likely to be serious planning errors and waste of taxpayer money.

Thank you for considering these comments.

Sincerely,

Julie McClintock, Rich Leber, John Morris, Joan Guilkey, Tom Henkel, Bruce Henschel, Del Snow, Diane Willis

Conceptual.roads

Projected new roads on flood plain map

Projected new roads on flood plain map

Share Button

Closed Meeting Raises Questions

In November 2015, the Town Council decided in closed session to forego a 2005 council resolution that allowed the town the “right of first refusal” for the American Legion Post 6 property located on Legion Road. While real estate transactions are allowed to occur in closed session, the Town Council went far beyond that constraint.

On January 7, the Town manager  Stancil released this account of the events surrounding the two closed sessions.  See this page to see the closed meeting minutes and the summary document.

During closed session, they authorized the Town Manager to sign a contract with a potential developer of this land, Woodfield Acquisitions LLC, that says when the permitting decision is made the developer will provide trails and a road through town park property emptying onto Ephesus Church Road between the ball field and tennis courts next to one of the school playgrounds. These are negotiations that should be public and held during a public hearing process.

 We believe these actions taken in closed session are unethical and are likely illegal as well, and they deserve public discussion and scrutiny. If illegal, the actions are a violation of the North Carolina Open Meetings Law.

The American Legion’s letter alerting the Town of its right of first refusal was dated September 30, 2015. The election was on November 3, and then Council apparently rushed this action on November 9 in closed session – before the swearing in of the new Mayor and Council members.

The North Carolina Open Meetings Law permits closed meetings only for limited specific purposes. There is no justifiable reason that the actions taken should not have been discussed in an open public session. By choosing to meet in closed session, the previous Council circumvented an important public policy discussion about whether 600 more apartments should be considered, especially in light of the fact that Chapel Hill already has more than 5500 apartment units approved and in the development pipeline.

Brief History. Back in 2005, the owner of the property (the American Legion Post 6) was concerned that the Town might designate the property a future school site, which might have complicated the owner’s ability to sell the property in the future. In exchange for not exercising its right to designate the property a school site, the town received the right of first refusal to purchase the property if and when it was offered for sale.

The property is currently appraised at $2.4 million. At some point before June 15th the property owner entered into negotiations with a Raleigh developer with the assistance of the Town’s economic development officer, Dwight Bassett. The potential devloper, Woodfield Acquisitons LLC, had not yet made any offer to the American Legion. Sometime during the discussions, between the June meeting where the Manager was authorized to negotiate with Woodfield and September 30, when the Town was notified of Woodfield’s offer, Woodfield became confident enough to make an offer to  the American Legion of $9 million for the property.  This offer to the Legion is contingent on *IF* the town rezones the property to allow at least 400 dwelling units to be built on the site. The owner then offered it to the Town for $9 million. The Town declined to purchase it for that amount.

 

The developer, who does not own the property, then entered into negotiations with the Town and agreed to build a road and a trail on the property *IF* the Town permits it to build at least 600 units. See a concept map found on the last page of the September 2015 letter to Stancil. The new agreement is memorialized in this 11-20-2015 Agreement Manager Roger Stancil signed.

Any negotiations between the Town and a developer about public benefits to be provided as a condition of rezoning should be conducted out in the open as part of the open Special Use Permit process with opportunity for public input, not in private between staff and developer. There would have been specific objections made, for example, to a road being placed between the ball field and tennis courts,  to one of the school playgrounds, and on town park property.

The open public process could also have begun a discussion about the best use for the town of the American Legion property if any zoning change is to be made. Possibilities would include public amenities such as parks, new retail, or permanently affordable housing for public employees. We do not need more market rate housing.

Council members who signed off on the contract should be asked to explain why they considered it appropriate to authorize staff to negotiate concessions with the developer without any public notice or input.

Learn more about the proposal and let the Town Council know what you think. The developer is marketing his concept at an upcoming meeting to persuade the Town to permit construction of 400 – 600 units on the site. A community meeting is scheduled for January 13th, 6 – 8 pm, at the American Legion, 1714 Legion Rd, and it will hosted by John R. McAdams Company, representing Woodfield Acquisitions, the potential developer.

Please put this date on your calendar! Sign up for the latest blog posts on this and other town issues.

Documents released from closed session:

September 2015 letter to Stancil
2005 Right of First Refusal
11-20-2015 Agreement To Forego Right of First Refusal
Chapel Hill News Story, December 25, 2014,  Tammy Grubb

Share Button

John Quinterno Debunks Myth that Chapel Hill is Slow Growth

In a fascinating free talk sponsored by C.H.A.L.T. on October 12, John Quinterno of South by North Strategies Ltd., a local consulting firm specializing in economic and social policy, debunked the popular myth that Chapel Hill is a town that doesn’t grow. Both the town’s population and its housing stock grew by almost 50 percent from 1990 to 2010, and both are projected to keep growing. By any objective measure, Chapel Hill has grown tremendously, but the town’s growth has occurred in a more deliberate manner than in many other parts of the Triangle.

Understanding the reality of past growth in Chapel Hill is essential for understanding the context of the upcoming municipal elections. Many incumbent council members believe that Chapel Hill needs to grow at a much faster rate to make up for lost time and to keep pace with neighboring communities. To that end, the council has championed a trajectory of faster growth led by high-end, high-rise residential construction. While this new trajectory may be more financially lucrative for certain vested interests, it can impose significant costs on current residents and businesses in such forms as higher future taxes, congestion, environmental degradation, household and business displacement, and neighborhood destabilization.

“By any objective standard, Chapel Hill has grown rapidly, if more deliberately than other parts of the Triangle,” said Quinterno. “The decision to change course, then, is a political one that has little to do with growth and everything to do with power: the power to govern, the power to decide whose interests matter, the power to spend public dollars, and the power to require the public to subsidize the profits of favored private interests.”

The Daily Tarheel live tweeted the event, and the Storify collection is here.

Attached are John Quinterno’s slides from the event.

Share Button