Supporting Leaders Who Listen

What’s Happening on Elliott Road?

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The East West Partners built a massive 90-ft. tall building and parking deck on South Elliott Road that was approved by Town Manager Roger Stancil on December 31st, 2015.  Then they sold it. The project includes 266 apartments, 15,600 sq. ft. of retail and an attached parking deck. It is the first project to be approved under the form-based code adopted by Town Council for the Ephesus-Fordham redevelopment district. The Town recently renamed the district, Blue Hill.

 In May 2014 the Town Council rezoned 180 acres with the goal that the entire area needed a face lift and that redevelopment would bring vitality and new revenues to the town.  Those goals have not been achieved so far.

  • The new building on Elliott resembles a beached cruise ship and it strangles the surrounding space making the previously convenient shopping center much less walkable than before. It’s unlikely that these overpowering new buildings lacing in community amenities will bring new vitality. The building footprint uses every inch of space forcing the reconstruction of a greenway and the removal of canopy oak trees along shaded Elliott Road.
  • The town’s own fiscal analysis demonstrated that the town investment would not yield net positive revenues for twenty years;  the Orange County staff and commissioners expressed similar doubts. Usually developers pay a contribution for affordable housing units, and a % of road improvements for nearby intersections,  but this code allowed a free pass.

The Town Council approved a special type of zoning for the Ephesus-Fordham District called Formed Based Code.  Where this type of zoning has worked the best in the United States is when a community consensus is translated into standards for the Code.  Most people who participated in the community process to develop a small area plan did so in good faith.  They were upset to learn that the Town Manager and the Town Council approved a Code did not resemble the plan endorsed by the community.  See 2011 Small Area Plan. Missing are parks, green space, graceful buildings that would have created livable walkable spaces, affordable housing units, and community amenities.

Elliott Rd Tower                                              Benefits for a few, costs for the rest of us

 What did the community  say we wanted in Ephesus-Fordham?

  • Improved traffic flow
  • A participatory process with some public review of projects
  • New affordable and workforce housing
  • A walkable and transit friendly area
  • Energy efficient buildings
  • Expanded shopping opportunities
  • Less flooding
  • More public green space and recreation areas
  • Attractive, human scale urban design (i.e., 2-4 story buildings)
  • New tax revenues that exceed new costs, i.e. office, retail,and light industrial

What are we getting?

  • Thousands of new vehicles with inadequate public transit and parking = more congestion
  • No public review for all projects going forward in this zone;  Town Manager approves all
  • Net loss of affordable and workforce housing (possible net loss of 118 units)
  • The Code does not mandate shared parking nor promote a good pedestrian experience; planning for safe biking and walking is coming along too late, after plans are submitted
  • Old basic conventional energy standards that cost more to build and operate
  • Loss of locally owned small businesses, e.g. Plaza Dry Cleaners, Yarns Etc.,BP station, Eastgate Barber shop, Evo, Best Buy Mobile, Eco-Design Architect
  • Increased flooding when up stream projects are built out
  • No public green space, recreation areas or public amenities (Council added a modest 5% public space this year)
  • Seven story buildings permitted in most of the district
  • Non-existent urban design yields unattractive new buildings
  • Increased taxes, because the costs of the redevelopment will exceed the new revenues. (Upscale residential apartments are not what we need.)

What are the landowners and real estate developers getting?

  • Millions of dollars worth of new land entitlements. The Town Council that approved the Code in 2014 were Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, and council members Lee Storrow, Donna Bell, Sally Greene, and George Cianciolo. Maria Palmer joined the council after this vote but has strongly backed the original Form Base Code.

What can we do now that it is passed?

  • Write to our elected officials and ask them to fix the Ephesus-Fordham zoning code; if it cannot be fixed, start over.
  • Stay informed: Visit www. chalt.org  and sign up for the CHALT newsletter
  • Spread the word: Tell your friends and neighbors what is happening and what needs to be done
  • Vote this November in the local election for four town council members and the Chapel Hill Carrboro School Board. Ensure that new development in Chapel Hill serves the public interest.

Read more here….

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