By Adam Powell
CHAPEL HILL — Chapel Hill’s Town Council made the decision to move ahead with amendments to its land use management ordinance Wednesday evening.
Passed on a 6-3 vote, the measures will allow more home types to be built in some single-family neighborhoods. There was a key update to the final text amendment. Town leaders chose to eliminate parking space minimums for developers of future residential duplex projects, and changed the maximum number of parking spaces per development to four spaces per duplex. The previous minimum was one parking space per housing unit.
Triplexes and quadplexes will not fall under the four-space maximum – only duplexes.
“If you build a duplex, you don’t have to create four spots,” explained Mayor Pam Hemminger. “If you only want one, you can create just one. That’s what ‘no minimum’ means.”
The council had a debate on the matter, as members went back and forth on the necessity of mandating that a developer create parking or not.
“You’re just not requiring [parking],” said council member Michael Parker, who supported the measure. “Any landlord that expects to rent a duplex is going to build parking. We’re just not mandating it.”
“So therefore, my argument would be what is the problem with mandating a minimum?” council member Berry said in response to Parker. “If you believe that they will build the one, why not go ahead and agree to the one?”
Council member Jessica Anderson replied that, over time, the town is trying to reach a point it does not require the extra spaces.
“Let people provide the parking we need for now, and then if they want to build something, and it can be supported by transit and ebikes and all the things, then let that be the case,” Anderson said. “But it’s putting something in place now that we don’t need to regulate.”
The elected board was ultimately split on the matter, with six members voting to approve the text amendments, and three members — Adam Searing, Camille Berry and Amy Ryan — voting in opposition.
Tal Hunyh, who voted to support the measure, expressed the sentiments of those throughout Chapel Hill and on the board who are looking forward to seeing more housing diversity in the area.
“I strongly believe that these changes will result in a community where I can be proud of,” Hunyh said. “Where there will be more folks who have more backgrounds, who have different needs, will have the opportunity to have a place that they call home in Chapel Hill. We have made intentional decisions as a community for decades to make it as hard as possible to build housing in this community. Something that a lot of us on this council, I think would agree, is a basic human right. And this change — this small change — is a small but significant step towards a more just future.”
Berry took issue with the lack of parking minimum and Ryan said she is supportive of infill housing and more housing types, but took issue with some of the details in the changes as well.
“I would really like to say yes tonight, but I hope we can get to a place where we’ve got a few improvements here that would make it possible for me to do that.
Searing, who has been critical of the amendments since the council began discussing them early this year, reiterated his position that the change is not necessary given the amount of new housing being built in town.
Disclosure: Adam Searing is a former member of The Local Reporter’s advisory committee and a monthly donor.