Supporting Leaders Who Listen

Pertinent facts about acquiring the American Legion property

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Many acknowledge the work of the task force is not yet complete. It will fall to the newly elected Town Council, whose members assume office on December 6, to decide what use or uses to make of the American Legion property. The following considerations should inform their deliberations:

  • The Council received an update on November 29 from the community task force who have taken surveys and public input for months on possible uses for the American Legion property recently purchased by the town. The purpose of the Task Force is for a Council appointed group to offer recommendations for land use to the Town Council. An update on their work is here.
  • The driving reason for the Town’s purchase of the American Legion property was the need for a park in rapidly growing northeast Chapel Hill spends as described in the Town’s own Comprehensive Parks and Recreation Plan adopted May 29, 2013. Chapel Hill spends money, and staff time, and elicits volunteer participation in crafting plans that are well thought out and approved by the Town Council. We need to follow these town plans.
  • A Council majority in 2014 unfortunately removed the most cost-effective way to produce new affordable rental housing in the Ephesus-Fordham (a.k.a. “Blue Hill”) District (which is across the street from the American Legion property). At that time, residents advocated for requiring developers to provide affordable units in exchange for expedited permit review and the ability to construct more housing units per acre, but a Council majority declined to do so.
  • In an effort to compensate for this give-away to private landowners and developers, the Council donated an estimated $2 million worth of town-owned land on Legion Rd. to a developer of affordable housing (DHIC). It is thanks, in part, to the outgoing Council members’ poor judgement that Chapel Hill has fewer and fewer affordable housing units and that we’ve become one of the most expensive communities in North Carolina.
  • How the town came to purchase the American Legion tract is relevant because Council Members Bell, Greene, Palmer, and Cianciolo have complained about recouping the costs of buying the American Legion property by selling some of the land, yet they voted behind closed doors in 2015 to turn down the Town’s right of first refusal and ability to gain the land at far less cost. At the same time, this council promoted a plan to build high-end luxury apartments on the land, not affordable housing.
  • In January of 2016, 175 people came to a community meeting at the Legion Post to express their opposition to building yet another luxury apartment complex on the last sizeable tract of intact woodland in northeast Chapel Hill. A year later, after the Town purchased the property, a similarly large number of residents participated in a community-wide charette held at the Legion Post, during which they learned about the properties of the site and discussed the different possible uses the site could host.
  • Given that over the next few years, over 1,000 new residential units will be added to the Ephesus-Fordham (a.k.a. “Blue Hill”) District, which adjoins the American Legion tract, providing public recreation amenities in this under-served part of town takes on ever greater importance.