Supporting Leaders Who Listen

What’s Happening with Ephesus-Fordham, a.k.a. Blue Hill

Share Button

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 for over 70 million dollars.  The project includes 266 apartments, 15,600 sq. ft. of retail and an attached parking deck. The project was sold for 72 M dollars just before completion. The town contributed 24,000 toward a local marketing effort to rename the district “Blue Hill”.

In 2014, the Town Council approved a new method for development review for 180 acres in the Eastgate, Rams Plaza and Village Plaza shopping areas of town.  The vehicle is called Form Based Code which removed the requirement to hold public hearings for new projects.

This project (first called the Alexan and now the Berkshire) was the first of a number of projects that are fast tracked and approved by the Town Manager without a public hearing.  Read about why the Town developed this district and if the town’s goals have been achieved –  see this page.

 

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

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

  • 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 and Maria Palmer. Maria is the only incumbent running who strongly supports the 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 follow the community’s vision and serves the public interest.

What is the Ephesus Fordham District?

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, walkability 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 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 when asked to invest in it. Usually developers pay a contribution for affordable housing units, and a % of road improvements for nearby intersections,  but this code allowed the developers a free pass. The tax payers will pay for the road improvements.

What is Form Based Code?

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 that did not resemble the plan endorsed by the community.  See 2011 Small Area Plan. Missing are the promised parks, green space,  graceful buildings that would have created livable walkable spaces, affordable housing units, and community amenities.

Read more here….

Top