GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT
By Michelle Cassell
A long-awaited decision about what to develop on a vacant lot at the corner of Greensboro and Weaver streets in Carrboro was decided officially by Carrboro City Council on June 21. The Council unanimously voted to approve the developer, Beacon Properties Group, a Special Use Permit-A that will allow a new three-story mixed-use commercial building to be constructed on the lot.
“The good news is that the property owners [Beacon Properties] can now bring new life to a property that has been a vacant eyesore in the heart of Carrboro’s downtown for too long,” Mayor Damon Seils recently told The Local Reporter.
The process of obtaining a Special Use Permit-A in the town of Carrboro is complicated to say the least. It begins with a developer obtaining a permit application from the Zoning Division of the Planning Department. The town’s Planning Department then reviews the application.
If the project meets all applicable state and federal land use ordinances, a staff report is generated. The staff report is forwarded to a Joint Review Board — comprised of the town’s Planning Board, Transportation Advisory Committee, Appearance Committee, Environmental Advisory Board, and the Downtown Development Commission — which formally recommends permit issuing authority. Adjacent property owners are also notified of this public meeting.
The next step in the process is the holding of a public hearing where everyone wishing to speak and present evidence are heard by the Town Council. After everyone has spoken, the Town Council begins its public deliberation of the application. The last hurdles for council approval were addressed for the 201 North Greensboro Street mixed-use project during a public hearing held last month.
During the meeting, Jerry Anderson, the architect for Beacon Properties, submitted a revised plan to relocate the dumpster for the property to a more internal site and moved bike parking closer to the front door.
“We will do all we can to minimize the impact on the community,” said Anderson. “There will be an addition of trees to add canopy cover for the parking lot, and we will double the density of plantings on the other side of the parking lot.”
Tom Tolley, a North Carolina certified appraiser, told Mayor Damon Seils and Town Council members, “The proposed use of this development will not adversely affect neighborhood property values, and due to its high-quality nature, it would most likely enhance the property values of the nearby residential and commercial properties.”
During last month’s hearing, attorney Nathaniel Parker of Apex appeared on behalf of adjacent property owners and their concerns. Parker said he was concerned with the dumpster location.
Parker asked if the Town would put something in place to protect property owners if their private sewer line was compromised during construction. Parker then introduced Rich Kirkland, a state-certified government appraiser, who took issue with Tolley’s impact analysis.
Kirkland cited a study that concluded the best use of the property would be residential.
“Tolley assumed that commercial is the highest and best use without analysis,” Kirkland stated.
Tolley defended his report’s conclusions as reflecting his certified professional opinion.
“I have many years of working as a North Carolina government appraiser, specifically in Chapel Hill,” Tolley added.
On June 21, the Carrboro City Council finalized its decision after confirming that the proposal satisfied all land use requirements — requirements regarding traffic, parking, bike parking, tree protection, screening, shading of the parking lot, tree canopy, drainage and grading, and conditions about utilities and refuse collection.
“The elegant, three-story building is a great fit for this long-time vacant lot in the heart of Carrboro’s downtown,” Carrboro Mayor Pro Tem Susan Romaine recently told The Local Reporter.
“With retail, offices, and possibly a restaurant, the building will add to the vibrancy of our downtown, just as the new public library and home for The ArtsCenter are opening,” Romaine continued. “Connectivity is enhanced through the building’s wider sidewalks, 20 bike racks, and nearby transit.”
Romaine said an eyesore in the center of our downtown has finally been treated.
“It’s fair to say, the building enjoys much broader public support than previous proposals,” Romaine stated. “Many community members will be very happy to see the chain-link fence finally come down, and a modern, three-story building go up.”
The Town Council’s approval is conditional based on requirements the developer obtain driveway permits and restrict the hours of dumpster emptying to 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The sidewalk in front of the 100 Center Street parcel — currently showing a five-foot-wide existing sidewalk — must be widened to approximately 7.5 feet on the construction plans for the project by way of eliminating the grass strip between the edge of the existing sidewalk and the back edge of the existing curb alone West Weaver Street, according to the approved proposal.
The Carrboro Town Council agreed the proposed use of the property would not endanger public safety or health, that it would be in harmony with the area in which it is located, in granting the special use permit.
The site, which comprises 0.53 acres at the intersection of Greensboro and Weaver streets — surrounded by a chain-link fence in the heart of Carrboro — has been controversial for many years.
The location served as the scene of a stand-off between demonstrators and former Mayor Mark Chilton in February 2012. The protestors, an anarchist group calling themselves the Carrboro Commune, occupied a building on that location to protest plans for a two-story CVS pharmacy proposed for the site.
Chilton has been credited with de-escalating the situation by meeting for several hours inside the building with the protestors and acknowledging their anger amid a measured police response.
According to county tax records, the structure that once stood at 201 North Greensboro Street was a bank before Weaver Street Market founder Ruffin Slater purchased the property and subsequently sold it to CVS in 2010. Public outcry and protests led to past developers to eventually withdraw their plans.
Three years later, the building was demolished, and the vacant lot has remained surrounded by a chain-link fence ever since. The site, considered an eyesore for many years, has been constantly decorated with children’s artwork and posters.
According to Town officials, there is no official timetable for the beginning of construction on the mixed-use commercial project.