Published: Nov 09, 2011 02:00 AM
Modified: Nov 08, 2011 07:25 PM
CHAPEL HILL - More restrictions aimed at preventing Chapel Hill's historically black neighborhoods from further changing into student rental communities may be on the way.
Town planners working with the neighborhood coalition Sustaining OurSelves have proposed several new rules, including limiting parking to four cars per house to fall in line with town occupancy rules and reducing the size and height allowed for a new house, as well as adding code-enforcement staff.
The rules would supplement the Northside and Pine Knolls Neighborhood Conservation District Plan, or NCD, which the Town Council passed in 2004.
The NCD bans duplexes and sets building standards. But in June the town acknowledged creating the district had failed to stop student-rental conversions and issued a building freeze for both neighborhoods.
The new rules should be more effective, said town planner Loryn Clark. They would give the Planning Department more discretion when deciding whether to issue a building permit and would change the zoning of some parts of the neighborhoods to restrict growth.
"There isn't one answer," she said. "This is a comprehensive look at the issues."
Mark Patmore, who owns more than 40 student rentals in Northside and has lived there since 1995, says the rules infringe on property rights, would further drive up housing costs in town and would create a "nightmare" of on-street parking.
Patmore says the new rules were created without some of the neighborhoods' largest stakeholders' input.
"The way the town has handled this situation, we feel, is completely unethical," he said. "[It] does more harm for this community and to neighbor-landlord relations than any fraternity party. It has completely polarized this community."
If the council passes the rules, eventually housing costs will rise, because the demand for student housing will remain high with a limited supply, he said. Patmore and other landowners have started a petition against the rules with about 400 signatures of student tenants and community members they will present to the town council later this month.
In addition to new parking and building restrictions, the town proposes to contract with a local nonprofit to help preserve the culture and history of the community for $75,000 a year, plus $25,000 to create a website documenting the area's history.
Clark says a nonprofit has not been selected, although the Marian Cheek Jackson Center, located in St. Joseph's CME church on West Rosemary Street, already maintains a website with audio recordings and photos.
The Jackson Center is a part of Sustaining OurSelves and petitioned the council for the building freeze last summer. The group thinks tighter rules will help preserve a community that has historically been neglected and economically vulnerable, said Alexander Stephens, associate director of the Jackson Center.
"The trend is such that if it goes unchecked, if there aren't new regulations, then the regulations are going to shift favorably for student housing, which I don't think is good for the community as whole," he said.
SOS isn't trying to push students out of Northside or Pine Knolls, but sees a difference between a short-term student renter and a long-term neighborhood resident. "It's important to take that distinction into account when looking at the issue," Stephens said. "My interest is in listening to the people who've invested in the community for decades."
The Town Council will consider the proposed new rules Nov. 21.