Published: Dec 04, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Dec 04, 2012 06:58 PM
It took wave after wave of citizens flooding two public hearings with factual, data-driven appeals against developer Roger Perrys Obey Creek project before the Chapel Hill Town Council decided to temporarily hold off on granting him the development agreement he so eagerly wants.
Is this unfair to Perry?
Here is some of the history of the Obey Creek development project; see if you think streamlining the approval process with a development agreement is a good idea.
The Town of Chapel Hill makes a pact with the southern-area community: Let us build high-density Southern Village and well leave the Obey Creek property across the street an environmental offset zoned low-density residential. As a consequence, family neighborhoods around Obey Creek grow with low-density housing over the years based on that promise to the community.
But Perry, stating he has partners who invested a lot of money in the Obey Creek property, wants it developed on a massive scale.
Subsequently, in a significant dismantling of the public trust, the Towns pact with the southern area gets chucked into the garbage.
At one Town Council meeting, Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said the publics Obey Creek concerns were premature, and Town Manager Roger Stancil proposed $30,000 for marketing the project as if an application had already been approved.
More recently, Councilwoman Laurin Easthom had to recuse herself from the conversation and the vote on Obey Creek, because her husbands law firm has been hired to represent the applicant and proposed developer.
Easthoms reasonable, evenhanded approach when it comes to listening to the concerns of the little guy is certainly something the Obey Creek debate could use more of, not less.
Next, Councilman Jim Ward refers to the clear mandates regarding height, expanse and no big-box retail for Obey Creek that came out of the 15-501 South Discussion Groups efforts during Chapel Hill 2020 as a mere placeholder for southern-area development issues.
A placeholder? If the CH2020 outcome was to build out Obey Creek even bigger than Perrys current concept plan, do you think the Town Council would still be viewing the development directives that came out of that focus group as just some kind of placeholder?
The 15-501 South Discussion Group was absolutely without any chance of misinterpretation charged with creating development mandates for Obey Creek. Their efforts and resulting directives for the Obey Creek property are not theoretical, but very real, tangible and applicable.
Compare this to other development focus-groups with which the Town is currently working.
The Glen Lennox focus group was given two years to intensely work with the neighboring community to plan for development. The MLK/Estes focus group gets one full year, and developers with active Special Use Permits cant participate on the steering committee.
The 15-501 South Discussion Group working on development directives for the Obey Creek property was given three days. Three days! And the developers son, Obey Creek project manager Ben Perry, was handpicked by the CH2020 leadership as a member of the steering committee.
All these obstacles were thrown at the group without choice or procedural input. Despite that, the participants came up with not some worthless piece of hypothetical wish-list fantasy, but reasonable compromises and a workable, adoptable plan.
With Obey Creek, where is Mayor Kleinschmidts and the Town Councils fiduciary standard of care they afforded those other development focus-groups? Why is the Town not consistent in how it deals with Obey Creek versus other areas identified for significant development? For that matter, why is the Town clearly not consistent with what came out of the Chapel Hill 2020 process for the southern area?
When it comes to Chapel Hill government and Obey Creek, what conclusions would you draw? Who do you feel is being treated unfairly?
Joe Buonfiglio lives in Chapel Hill.