GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT
TLR Staff Report
Some Chapel Hill Town Council members are concerned about possible changes to a development on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Weaver Dairy Road.
The special use permit guiding the development, now called Evolve, requires the builders to include commercial space. The guidelines were set by the permit and a consent judgment worked out through arbitration. The original development, Charterwood, was sold to Evolve’s owner with the stipulations intact.
But Adam Tucker, representing Evolve, told the council recently of the inability of the developers to rent the required commercial space, and asked the council to modify the agreement so the space can be used for residential purposes.
Increasing the commercial tax base has been an important council goal, and several council members noted that granting such a change could set a precedent for future developers.
Council member Rachel Shaevitz commented that while she understood the applicant’s position, she was “concerned about the consequences of this request.”
When the “process and approval is made contingent on a specific guarantee and then it doesn’t quite work out, we can modify it” was problematic, Shaevitz added.
Mayor Pam Hemminger agreed.
As an enticement for granting the change, Tucker presented an offer to make three of what would be six new residential units affordable for a ten-year period of time. Mr Tucker pointed out that abutting residents were amenable to his proposal.
While increasing the number of affordable apartments has been a goal for Chapel Hill, council members raised the issue that not only did this offer not go far enough, but that since building costs would be greatly reduced if the commercial space was changed to residential, Council would expect a “more generous offer” as pointed out by Council member Parker.
Mayor Hemminger indicated that she would prefer that all six units be made available for affordable housing and for a longer period of time and council member Oates lobbied for permanently affordable housing.
Concept plans give applicants a window to evaluate what could be passed by the council. Evolve can apply to modify the special use permit, or chose to continue to try to rent the vacant but approved commercial space.
Looks like bait and switch. Don’t fall for it.
It does sound like a bait and switch. Suggest that all six units be PERMANENTLY set aside for teachers and/or first-responders.
It’s concerning the developer can’t fill this commercial space as construction for so much more is happening in nearby Caraway Village.
Residents need affordable home ownership opportunities–not more rentals.
This problem — where developers promise some specific amount of commercial space in large residential developments in order to obtain Town approval, but then fail to deliver — seems to be universally the rule rather than the exception. In the meantime, many long-existing local small businesses have had to close or move, because rents are getting so high. It’s time for the Town to stop this ploy, and hold developers’ feet to the fire.
It seems developers should have to prove a need for more apartments and have businesses lined up for the commercial space before being allowed to build. Does anyone know the occupancy rate for all the apartments recently finished in town? Does anyone know the number of apartments being built right now? It seems we are at a 100% saturation rate and places like the corner of MLKJBlvd and Estes are not even started.