Published: Sep 25, 2012 05:04 PM
Modified: Sep 25, 2012 05:06 PM
Developer Roger Perry already has revised his plans for the big Obey Creek mixed-use development off U.S. 15-501 opposite Southern Village.
From the looks of things, though, he has a lot more work to do before Obey Creek passes muster.
Perry presented his latest concept plan to the Town Council Wednesday night. The new version is scaled down from the original, but it’s still huge: some 1.6 million square feet of floor space, including retail space twice the size of University Mall and a big-box store; a 130-room hotel; and 600 residential units. All of that would go on about 40 acres of the 120-plus acre site.
That’s a vision that is more than a little hard to square with the 1992 Southern Small Area Plan that recommended low-density development on the east side of 15-501 South to offset high-density Southern Village on the west side.
A more recent economic development survey suggested the opposite – that the 15-501 corridor is suitable for more intensive development.
Some residents and Town Council members say it’s not much closer to meeting the more recent guidelines reflected in the new Chapel Hill 2020 and Comprehensive Plan reports.
Those documents allow that some development in the area might be appropriate, but they say that development should be similar in design to that of Southern Village, and they also say the town should honor the spirit of the Small Area Plan.
You could find some inconsistency in those guidelines, and Perry does. He pointed out that 2020 has some “inconsistencies and incongruities,” which it does.
Still, from where we sit it’s hard to interpret Obey Creek as it is currently configured as being in keeping with the spirit of the Small Area Plan and Chapel Hill 2020. Guidelines aren’t worth much if they’re only in force until a developer comes along with a proposal that flies in their face.
We like the suggestion made by Council members Ed Harrison and Penny Rich, who said Obey Creek could benefit a great deal by pursuing a review process like the one developer Clay Grubb used with his planned redevelopment of Glen Lennox.
There, the developer began with a plan that was wildly out of keeping with what virtually anyone in the neighborhood considered feasible or desirable. People howled, and Grubb withdrew the plan and started over. He invited community feedback, welcomed suggestions, met with the neighbors. He made them a part of the process, and they responded by embracing it.
What emerged was a Neighborhood Conservation District plan that the community had helped craft and that neighbors could accept.
Perry said Wednesday he too was willing to scrap his plans and start over again. If the town would join with him on creating a development agreement similar to the one that guided Carolina North for Obey Creek, he said, he would start with a blank slate. That sounds like a plan worth exploring.
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