Published: Sep 15, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Sep 14, 2012 03:20 PM
Those following discussions about Obey Creek are feeling a sense of déjà vu as Roger Perry unveils his “new” plan.
On Sept. 19, for the third time in eight years, Town Council is set to review an Obey Creek concept plan that is grossly inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan.
This proposal, being unveiled just as the ink is drying on the newl Chapel Hill 2020 plan, fails to remotely reflect the recommendations of the South 15-501 Discussion Group – a town-sponsored process that was fast-tracked and that included project manager Ben Perry at the decision-making table.
Central to the South 15-501 discussions was an understanding of the density swap made in the 1990s that shifted the development allowance of the entire southern area to the west side of 15-501 to create Southern Village. In exchange, other properties were downzoned to protect sensitive environmental areas and neighboring landowners, with many areas designated for special purposes such as school or affordable housing sites.Changes over time
Recognizing that things change over time, the S15-501 Discussion Group agreed to re-evaluate the Obey Creek properties but felt that it was important to “honor the spirit” of the earlier compact between the town and its citizens.
Using the previous density swap as a model, the S15-501 group agreed that all parties would benefit from permanent preservation of the environmentally sensitive (and difficult to develop) lands on the east side of Wilson Creek in exchange for an increase in density along the west side of the properties, along 15-501. The group established guidelines designed to:
• Emulate the design of the market area of Southern Village,
• Minimize traffic impact on surrounding neighborhoods,
• Minimize the impact of development on schools,
• Maximize permanent preservation of open space (east of the creek and along the south end of Obey Creek), and
• Preserve and enhance the south “Green Gateway” to town
So, just how does the “new” proposal measure up?
The plan still resembles its predecessors – the 2010 Concept Plan and East 54 (albeit on steroids).
Proposing 1.5 million square feet, this “new” plan hardly emulates Southern Village in terms of height, density or design. And, although the project has been slightly scaled down along the front, the row of buildings along the creek will be at least 100 feet tall.
With regard to “minimizing impact on traffic,” a development of this size, scale and mix of uses (hotel, University Mall-sized retail, University Mall-sized office space AND 600 residential units) would generate an estimated 12,000 to 18,000 car trips per day for the retail alone.
We call on the Town Council to reject this concept plan. In addition, we ask council to recognize the increasing pressure on development in this area and to give the southern area as a whole – not just Obey Creek – the same opportunity as the rest of town to join the 2020 process. Only through such substantive community discussions can we design a thoughtful plan for managing our town’s growth.
Jeanne Brown lives in Chapel Hill.