Form Based Code Improvements Needed

Statement to: Mayor and Town Council
Re: Ephesus-Fordham (E-F) Modifications
Date: March 7, 2016
From: Charles Humble,
Joan Guilkey, Firoz & Firoza Mistry, David Schwartz, Ken Larsen, Virginia Meldah, Arthur Weisburd, Martha Petty, Neva Whybark, Jane Kirsch, Rudy Juliano, Maria de Bruuyn, and Amey Miller

We commend the Mayor, staff and advisory boards for working on improvements to the form-based code for this sizeable district. Many of the proposed new design guidelines will greatly improve the pedestrian experience. One caveat: we would like the code to require that new amenity spaces be accessible to the public and not merely visible to us.

Beyond the proposed modifications before you tonight, several other improvements to the code are needed and we ask that you consider them as you move forward.

  • Affordable housing. This matter is urgent because at any moment an application could be submitted to redevelop the site of the Park Apartments, resulting in a big loss of affordable housing rentals and other community amenities.
  • Energy efficient construction
  • Community green space and gathering spaces

The only way to address these critical elements is through an incentive-based system that grants additional density and height in return for community benefits is needed, such as Durham has adopted and as Chapel Hill citizens recommended to Council in May 2014. Therefore, we ask you now to re-open the discussion about granting density bonuses for these desirable community benefits.

Another critical missing piece is transportation. A layered transportation plan, as requested by your transportation advisory board, will specify how this district will fit together for walking, driving, and biking. In addition, the Town must address how more bus service will be provided to this area. Without these plans in place, E-F will become what we see in so many NC cities — a lot of big buildings plunked down with no coherent overall design.

Finally, there is the abiding need for better stormwater management in the district. The Booker Creek Subwatershed Study that you have commissioned can yield useful data on water volumes and new impervious surface coming in the upper watershed. We ask that you suspend the use of the FBC until these streamflow (and transportation) data are in hand and well-reviewed in the fall.

Please consider these critical needs as you move forward.

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