Carrboro starts planning for when Co-Gen Rail route becomes a community greenway


By Fraser Sherman

The Co-Gen Rail route currently used to deliver coal to power UNC-Chapel Hill could eventually become Carrboro’s newest rails-to-trails greenway—but don’t expect that to happen before 2034.

At this week’s Carrboro Town Council meeting, State Senator Graig Meyer and Elena Peller of the Central Pines Regional Council discussed plans to repurpose the railway route for bicycles and foot traffic in the coming decade.

“Once this is a pedestrian and bike pathway,” Meyer said, “it opens up possibilities.” Those possibilities include: new land development for UNC, different economic opportunities for Carrboro, and kids being able to walk to school from neighborhoods where that’s never been safe before.

The council unanimously approved a memorandum formalizing the agreement between Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Orange County, UNC Chapel Hill, and the Southern Environmental Law Center to “envision, plan, and jointly seek grant-funding opportunities” for converting the railway route.

 The town will appoint one councilor to sit on the project’s steering committee.

Some members of the council asked whether converting Co-Gen to become part of the area’s passenger railway system was an option. According to Meyer, Co-Gen doesn’t connect to any local stations and running a railroad would be an expensive proposition. However, he added that the regional council could look into this possibility.

The council’s agenda package (accessible through the online calendar) says that when Co-Gen stops delivering coal, it might be possible to use some of the adjacent land for affordable housing. The reverse possibility is that the greenway draws new residents, accelerates local gentrification, and makes housing less affordable.

Meyer said nothing could happen with Co-Gen until UNC Chapel Hill no longer needed the railroad to deliver coal to its power plant. UNC-Chapel Hill previously committed to ending its use of coal in 2020 but did not meet that deadline.

The council also voted Tuesday to delay a development permit extension that Sustainable Properties requested for its mobile home park at 810 Old Fayetteville Road, which the company wants to convert into single-family homes. The council approved a special use permit in 2011 and has approved multiple extensions since then. Sustainable Properties has requested another extension, which will be good through 2025.

Some of the councilors asked whether the current residents had been given the ultimatum of either being pushed to leave their homes or else be hit with steep rent increases. The council ultimately decided not to approve the permit until the owner or a representative could be present to answer their questions.

The council also voted to schedule a hearing for April 23 on an ordinance to add “neighborhood cafe” to the city’s list of permissible uses of land. The ordinance defines a neighborhood cafe as “a retail business that sells principally coffee and tea along with baked goods and similar foods prepared off-site.”

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 starts planning for when Co-Gen Rail route becomes a community greenway"

  1. Correction: Alana Keegan of the Central Pines Regional Council. Not Elena Peller.

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