Chapel Hill approves of a housing plan that includes trails, a large park and safety concerns for the neighborhood
Neighbors failed in their final stand Wednesday to get more concessions to improve pedestrian safety and barriers between their homes and a new multifamily community south of Meadowmont on the Chapel Hill-Durham border.
The Chapel Hill City Council asked several questions Wednesday before voting unanimously 9-0 to approve Northwood Ravine’s plan to build up to 500 apartments, townhomes and townhomes, including 36 affordable units, between N.C. 54 and Barbee Chapel Road.
The 36-acre project is adjacent to the Barbee Chapel Apartments project, which was approved in May for construction of 350 apartments and townhouses, including 23 affordable units. The two projects will replace a heavily wooded area and approximately a dozen single-family homes.
Four Hillmont neighbors spoke Wednesday, saying they supported the Woodmont mixed-use project that was approved for the site in 2008 but never built, because it preserved more of the forest and provided greater buffers than Hillmont had planned.
Sherwood Forest neighbour, Judon Fleck, said the latest plan would cause significant noise and light pollution, and Northwood Ravine did not respond to their concerns. She urged the council to postpone the vote until the developer addresses their issues.
“We’ve spent hours in this room listening to developers say they can’t make enough money if we don’t do it their way,” Flake said. “I fully support them making a profit on their investments, but it is unacceptable, unfair and unethical for them to make a profit at the expense of their hardworking neighbors who have invested their savings in these modest homes.”
Northwood Ravine officials expanded the buffer zone with the neighborhood from 10 feet to 30 feet, but a buffer zone around a creek that divides the site and a legal agreement with the owners of the neighboring Morgan Complex in Chapel Hill limits what they can do, Northwood Ravine Development Partner Adam Golden said.
A 2008 agreement between developer Woodmont Capital Associates and recent owner Morgan gives 30 days to reject changes to what was built next to its complex, and also regulates landscaping and community rules for both sites.
Northwood Ravine tried unsuccessfully to talk to Morgan property owners in Chapel Hill last year about the agreement, which applies regardless of owner, according to Dwight Bassett, the city’s director of economic development and parking services.
The pedestrian path is unstable
Other neighbors expressed concerns Wednesday about increased traffic in the heavily traveled commuter corridor and danger to pedestrians and drivers that they said Northwood Ravine failed to solve on Stancil Drive, a service road that parallels N.C. 54.
The project will expand pedestrian paths and sidewalks that intermittently connect residents to NC 54, the Meadowmont retail center, and transit at UNC’s nearby Friday Center. Northwood Ravin is also responsible for conducting a “walk audit” in coordination with the city and designing 10 pedestrian routes. – A foot-wide path on Stancell Drive.
However, neither the town nor the developer is obligated to build the trail, which would be subject to N.C. Department of Transportation approval, city staff said.
Sherwood Forest neighbor Dean Blackburn pointed out Golden’s comments earlier in the meeting about walking the area to see the problem firsthand.
“Adding 500 cars to this service road without additional infrastructure will only cause traffic consequences,” Blackburn said. “The applicant places all responsibility on the city and state and takes nothing for himself.”
Hillmont project details
In addition to some affordable housing, Hillmont will also include plenty of green and recreational space, including a six-acre park set around a pond, outdoor sports fields and trails that will be available for public use.
The council had asked Golden to add some commercial space, but he declined at a hearing in October, saying the site lacked the visibility and freeway access to make most commercial uses viable. However, residential zoning would allow space for a child or adult day care facility and for retail stores or food trucks.
Here are more details:
▪ What is planned: 390-500 apartments, townhouses and townhouses in several three- to five-storey buildings with some organized parking as well as rooftop spaces.
▪ means of comfort: A 6-acre garden with a pond. Playground, corridors and recreational areas. Swimming pool and clubhouse.
▪ Affordable housing: Up to 36 apartments, half of which serve 60% people and the other half serve 80% of the area’s average income. Rents can start at around $1,000 per month for a studio apartment.
▪ Roaming around: UNC’s Friday Center is a hub for Chapel Hill Transit and GoTriangle buses; The project could add to pedestrian paths and sidewalks.