Published: Nov 17, 2012 12:00 AM
Modified: Nov 16, 2012 09:00 PM
CHAPEL HILL - A UNC administrator says recent land purchases surrounding the Bingham Facility will help buffer the animal research facility from neighbors and do not signal a future expansion.
“I was afraid they would think that,” Associate Vice Chancellor Bob Lowman said last week, after the grassroots group Preserve Rural Orange again questioned the university’s long-term plans.
Lowman said he can’t say that the university will never expand the facility off Orange Chapel Clover Garden Road in Bingham Township. But, instead of expansion, he said the university is talking with N.C. State about building a new facility “someplace else.”
“What I know is I don’t want those properties to become part of the Bingham Facility,” Lowman said of the recent purchases. “I want them as buffer forever.”
PRO has asked the state auditor and attorney general to investigate the university’s purchases. It also says the properties don’t appear in a 2006 master plan for the site and that their long-term purpose is unclear.
UNC is spending about $800,000 to buy a total of 23 acres. Two of the properties are very close to one of the buildings and have been affected by noise, smell and the loss of screening as trees were cut down, Lowman said. At least one of those two property owners contacted the university about selling, and Lowman said he initiated a third purchase of an undeveloped parcel.
The plan is to rent the two houses, he said, explaining that renters who already know what they’re moving into would have less objections to living next door than homeowners who have a bigger investment at stake.
The university lost a major muscular dystrophy researcher who uses specially bred dogs when it returned a federal grant and dropped plans for expansion. It recently decided not to make an offer to another medical researcher, again because of its facilities, Lowman said.
But he emphasized there are no plans to expand at Bingham.
“I thought when we gave the grant back that would have been the end of it,” Lowman said of PRO’s continued opposition. “I’m really not interested in fighting this in court over the next several years.”