By Joan Guilkey
Remember the overflow crowd of Chapel Hill residents who greeted the developer Woodfield Acquisitions in early January?
Now it’s time for the Town Council members to weigh in with their ideas. Come to the Council work session at 7:00 pm, Wednesday, March 16, in Public Library Room B. Listen to the discussion and consider encouraging someone from your neighborhood to formally address the Council members during the public comment period at the end of the meeting.
Woodfield has proposed to purchase the American Legion Post 6 property and build 400-600 luxury high-rise apartments on the 36-acre site. Is this the best use we can make of the last large undeveloped tract left in Chapel Hill? What would be a better use? It’s not too late to send your ideas to the Mayor email@example.com
Background: On January 13, Scott Underwood of Woodfield Acquisitions LLC presented his firm’s offer to purchase the American Legion Post 6 property and build 400-600 luxury high- rise apartments on the 36-acre site. The overflow crowd of about 200 Chapel Hill residents was not impressed. Read Indy Article.
Since then, residents living near the property and from all over Town have voiced disapproval of the secretive way the Woodfield proposal was handled over the past year and have objected to the proposed construction of yet another high-end, high-density apartment complex. They have asked instead for the land to be developed in way that will benefit the town and help realize town goals. A petition with over 100 signatures was presented to the Town Council on February 8th, and 100 residents have written letters to the Mayor and Council members concerning the proposed sale and development of the property.
Those who reside near the property have been under the impression that the tract, owned by the American Legion for over 50 years, would become a community park once the Legion decided to sell. The Town’s current Comprehensive Plan and the current Parks and Recreation Master Plan both cite the need for additional park land in the northeast section of Chapel Hill and the suitability of the American Legion property to fill this need.
Residents have suggested variety of additional uses for the property including a privately operated competition pool, soccer field(s), a children’s museum, workforce housing, housing and job opportunities for veterans, low rise office/retail buildings, space for young entrepreneurs, pickleball courts and new tennis courts, a frisbee golf course, a performing arts center, permanent farmers’ market, etc.
Woodfield offered $9 million for the property if at least 400 apartments are approved, but this appraisal is not realistic unless the Town Council agrees to approve the apartments and rezone the property to allow high-density housing. The last appraisal value was $2.4 million, according to Town records. Many citizens want rapid action by the Town to deny Woodfield’s proposal, rather than entertaining a lengthy review of a formal application. Some question the sense of accepting and reviewing a formal application that is unlikely to be approved by the present Council. The American Legion wants a speedy process, too, to complete the sale and continue plans for a new, modern Post 6 facility at another location.
We hope that Woodfield gets the message that there is little enthusiasm in Chapel Hill for a permit that will allow 600 luxury apartments in addition to the 5500 units already in the pipeline.