The October 23 meeting of SVHOA’s board was unusually exciting. About 70 Southern Village neighbors gathered at the church for the event and we extended our normal 30 minute period of open comment to more than two hours of lively discussion.
The first topic was a presentation from East West Partners to provide us with preliminary information on the proposed development of 146 acres directly across 15/501 from us. Two broad options are being considered for the property: to develop all of it as low-density single family homes, or to develop the 43 acres closest to the road with high density mixed use buildings and leave the remainder of the property as parkland. The presenters were looking for initial reactions and ideas from our community, and were seeking to begin an extensive dialog to ensure that whatever they may finally propose to the Town of Chapel Hill will have our support. From the presentation and question session it emerged that:
– High density development requires that the Town rezone the land
– This will probably happen as a result of a broad zoning review the Town already has in process
– A mixed development would probably include office, retail and homes
– All ideas for features are under consideration at this stage
– The development could include a pedestrian subway under 15/501
– The parkland could be passive (e.g. woodland trails) or active (e.g. sports fields)
– Given the Town’s development process it will likely be at least three years before construction would begin
– There will be multiple opportunities for public comment during the process
The second topic of the evening (which drew most of the meeting participants) was a presentation from DR Bryan outlining Montgomery Development’s plan to build a hotel in place of the Market Street parking lot. From this presentation and question session it emerged that:
– The developer wants to create a “third anchor” to draw business to Market Street in the way that Weaver Street and the Lumina do
– The current proposal is to do this by building a 100-room boutique hotel with restaurant
– To include 100 rooms the building needs to be 4 or five stories high (about the height to the base of the church steeple)
– Ground-level parking for Weaver Street might be retained, particularly if the Town would permit Aberdeen to be closed between the two sides of Market Street
– Putting a condo building on the site would be a lower risk option from the developer’s point of view, but would not provide the desired third anchor
– Although there were comments from the floor both in favor of, and against, the proposal an observer could confidently say that the prevailing response to the plan was negative
– The most commonly voiced concerns were the building’s relatively massive scale, its impact on traffic and parking, its inconsistency with the immediate surroundings, and its potential for introducing crime
– After 90 minutes of discussion it was apparent that more dialog is needed if the whole community is to agree on the best use of the land in question
Hence, the board proposed that we create a new body – the Parking Lot (or Not) Committee – to work with the developer and try define a mutually acceptable way to proceed. The developer readily agreed to this idea and fourteen of the meeting attendees signed up to be members of the committee, including Jason Luna who is a board member and will be the group’s liaison with SVHOA. If you have questions or comments you can contact the committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not quite exhausted by all the excitement, the board then proceeded to conduct the rest of its business, ending the meeting at 11p.m.
Thanks to everyone who turned out for the event. It was a wonderful example of community energy in action. Our developer should feel justifiably proud of creating such a vibrant community, even while rueing the fact that it’s complicating life right now.