Chapel Hill weighing its options on Greene Tract development

For the last four decades, multiple generations of local government staff within Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Orange County have been trying to determine the best use for Greene Tract, two large parcels of land adjacent to Eubanks Road, Homestead Road, and Rogers Road in Chapel Hill. The Town of Chapel Hill is actively seeking feedback from the community for what to do with a 104-acre parcel that it has owned for years jointly with Carrboro and Orange County. Town planners and staff are hopeful that the site can in some way be utilized in the future to address the town's affordable housing shortage.  Photo by Adam Powell.

COMMUNITY NEWS

By Adam Powell
Correspondent

CHAPEL HILLAs the Town of Chapel Hill and fellow local governing bodies have explored the highest and best use for a large tract of land more than three miles northwest of downtown in southeastern Orange County, local officials have been acquiring feedback from local residents, while also inquiring about the best path moving forward with developers, environmental experts, and other professionals..

The Greene Tract is comprised of two parcels of land, totaling approximately 164 acres, in a rural stretch of Orange County adjacent to Eubanks Road, Homestead Road, and Rogers Road.

The smaller of the two parcels, totaling approximately 60 acres, is owned by Orange County and is known as Headwaters Preserve; the larger of the two parcels, totaling approximately 104 acres, is jointly owned by Chapel Hill, Orange County, and the Town of Carrboro.

The three local governing bodies purchased the land 40 years ago, but nothing has been done substantially over the years to develop it. But with the help of a series of working documents put together over the years, current local officials are looking to do something about it and finally put this large, prized piece of real estate to good use.

Bordered to its immediate east by a railroad crossing that briefly runs parallel to Weaver Dairy Road Extension and crosses both Homestead and Eubanks Roads, and surrounded by residential communities immediately to the west and south, the 104-acre property has been the subject of numerous ideas for potential uses in recent decades: a landfill, an elementary school, a community park, and affordable housing.

In 1984, the three local government bodies purchased the property with initial intentions to create an Orange County landfill on the site. After a landfill search committee chose another location (the county’s current landfill site is located at 1514 Eubanks Road) the focus was redirected toward some type of residential and/or governmental use.

By the early 2000s, the three local governing bodies turned their focus to affordable housing for Greene Tract. However, after those plans didn’t come to fruition the site was considered as a potential elementary school site for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. That also never came to pass.

By 2017, the focus for Greene Tract had returned to affordable housing, as Orange County, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro tasked a staff work group to explore potential development and preservation options for the site.

In January 2020 (just a few weeks before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic that derailed so many local planning processes) the local governing bodies adopted the Greene Tract Resolution for a Path Forward. The resolution initiated a detailed environmental assessment of the 104-acre tract, while also creating an interlocal agreement to help Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Orange County navigate the decision-making work on the project in the coming years.

The Resolution for a Path Forward also identified specific land uses for Greene Tract: 22 acres for a joint nature preserve, 66 acres set aside for residential housing and mixed-use development, and another 16 acres set aside for a future public school or public recreational site.

The 2020 Resolution for a Path Forward for Greene Tract laid out several land use needs and goals for the site, including the desired projection of historical and cultural resources, the preservation of local wildlife habitat and tree canopy, as well as the incorporation of the site to include future uses for public schools and local recreation. Another important goal is to determine which 66 acres of the 104-acre property will be designated specifically for affordable housing, and which segments will be set aside for a joint nature preserve or a future school.

On April 14, a community workshop for Greene Tract was held at Morris Grove Elementary School, where local residents saw a short project presentation, engaged in roundtable discussions, and explored various development possibilities for the site.

While there is some disagreement as to whether residents of the surrounding communities adjacent to Greene Tract should have a say over the fate of the property, staff members are eager to get more feedback and input from Chapel Hill residents before moving forward with developing the property.

“As you know, the 104 acres of the Greene Tract is jointly owned by Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Orange County,” Chapel Hill Town Manager Chris Blue stated in an email earlier this year announcing the community feedback sessions for Greene Tract. “Through a community-led process, we’ve agreed that 66 acres will be for housing and mixed uses, 16 acres for public school and recreation, and 22 acres will be preserved as a natural area as well as an additional 60 acres of the county-owned Headwaters Preserve. It’s now time for more community-led visioning as planning continues.”

Another community engagement workshop has been planned for Sunday, June 9, from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., also at Morris Grove Elementary School, 215 Eubanks Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27516. Learn more at https://www.orangecountync.gov/3373/Community-Engagement-June-9-2024-Worksho


Adam Powell is a reporter on local news and sports and an education communications professional. A 2001 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, Powell has served as managing editor of multiple local publications, including the Mebane Enterprise, News of Orange County and TarHeelIllustrated.com. The public information officer for Rockingham County Schools in Eden, N.C., Powell is the author of four books and lives in Mebane with his wife and two children. This reporter can be reached at Info@TheLocal Reporter.press

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