Carrboro Council meeting – density debate dominates development talk


By Fraser Sherman

Is Carrboro in desperate need of new, high-density development, or is development density already over the top?

That debate dominated public comment at the Feb. 27 town council meeting. Developers proposing a five-story, 65-foot residential building at 1307 West Main Street have requested the town rezone their property to R2-CZ and change some zoning rules, such as the 50-foot height limit. Staff said the changes would affect future development in R2-CZ as well.

The staff report in the council’s agenda package said 1307’s current zoning would allow up to 10 units on the site, including two affordable housing units. If the zoning change goes ahead, the building could have 38 to 40 units, six affordable.

“We need more density; we need more units,” resident Tom Whisnant told the council during the public comment period. “You see fewer and fewer artists, fewer and fewer musicians living in Carrboro.”

West Main Street resident Amanda Klepper agreed more housing, and more affordable housing, was a must: “When I was going to move here with my family, I wasn’t sure we’d be able to find a place.”

“Density is the problem, it’s not the solution,” William Biggers of Aberdeen Court said, arguing Carrboro roads at peak hours were already impassable. “We’re going to kill our traffic here.  We won’t be able to get around.”

“The hulking shipping-container architecture that has taken over this area, one block after another,” resident Diane Robertson said, “undermines the total understanding of the vernacular architecture this community was built around.” She predicted developers taking single-family properties and making them into multifamily buildings would only make things worse.

Speakers pro and con debated whether the number of parking spaces in the development proposal was inadequate or more than enough, how affordable the affordable housing units would be, and whether stormwater runoff from the project would worsen flooding in Carrboro.

The council voted to change the zoning to R2-CZ, as requested, and to change the R2-CZ rules. This does not greenlight the project – approval or rejection of the plans for 1307 won’t happen until further down the road.

The council also approved an increase in the town’s stormwater rate from $90 per residential unit to $100. The increase would underwrite an assistance program for residents who need help controlling stormwater runoff on their property. Interim Town Clerk Wendy Welsh told The Local Reporter the new rate will take effect the next time the town assesses property taxes.

Carol Street resident Solomon Hoffman said that a month after he moved to Carrboro last May, flooding from Tom’s Creek put a foot of water on the lower level of his house. He said he supported the assistance program, but as designed, it wouldn’t provide much help to homeowners in his position: only a fraction of the creek is on his property, limiting what he can do to control flooding.

Hoffman added that flood mitigation would be too expensive for many homeowners, even with the cost-sharing program.

Before approving the rate-increase resolution, the council amended it by asking staff to explore the possibility of paying stormwater employees from the town’s general fund rather than the stormwater fund. Council Member Randee Haven-O’Donnell said that would free up more of the fund to help residents.

Fraser Sherman has worked for newspapers, including the Destin Log, the Pensacola News-Journal and the Raleigh Public Record. Born in England, he’d still live in Florida if he hadn’t met the perfect woman and moved to Durham to marry her. He’s the author of several film reference books and has published one novel and several short story collections.

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1 Comment on "Carrboro Council meeting – density debate dominates development talk"

  1. “vernacular architecture” First time I had heard that term and I love it.

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