LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
While I respect everyone’s right to have an opinion, I did want to add some clarifying facts, that in no way are supportive of the Blue Hill projects mentioned.
The Blue Hill street regulating plan was passed by Town Council in 2015 before any of the current members were serving. The Town had hoped DOT would pay for the road improvements, but they would not. For some reason the town did not get the developer to agree to do this. I came in later and demanded we put the road project out for bid again, as I thought the price too high. This put the project back on people’s radar, but the rebid saved the tax payers over $700K.
The Park Apartments were in terrible shape — all 191 of them. The developer agreed to pay $1.5 million to the Affordable Housing Fund and helped the current residents relocate with Town help. Blue Hill regulations have no affordable housing requirements.
I am still not a fan of the Blue Hill projects and have often spoken out about them, but there is some misinformation out there.
Mayor of Chapel Hill
Anyone who has been paying attention will not buy those excuses. Mayor Hemminger, Jessica Anderson (2015– ), Michael Parker (2015– ), Karen Stegman – 2017, have all been on the council for at least 5 years, and had ample opportunity to revamp the form based code that created Blue Hill. All it would have taken is one addtional vote–and some leadership from the mayor to secure one more vote. The real question is why the council members and the mayor failed to do so.
Thank you, Mayor Hemminger, for providing some clarifying facts about the redevelopment of the former Park Apartments into The Hartley in the Ephesus-Fordham/Blue Hill form-based code (FBC)district. You were elected in 2015 and the FBC was passed by the previous Council in 2014, but the primary negotiator concerned with that particular redevelopment was Dwight Bassett, Economic Development Director for the town. I was present (before your time) when he drew on a piece of paper in a community meeting where he thought the extension of Elliott Road should go, and that the town would pay for it. I was one who protested that because a road through that location was primarily for the use of the development. Why not have the developer pay for it?? When you took office, you agreed that Mr. Bassett, who was bringing to the town luxury apartments when many of us had made it clear we needed commercial tax base and not apartments, should not be doing that. Why is he still doing that??? Why is he still employed by the town? Where is the commercial development promised for the E-F/Blue Hill district? Why have you and the subsequent councils not made that a priority and why have you not fixed the FBC? There have been small changes to that code, but nothing that keeps out the kind of development we did not need — thousands of luxury, not affordable, apartments. A number of us proposed ways to incentivize developers to include affordable rentals (because state law prohibits mandating them) but you and council(s) have not tried them. Instead, there seems to be a laser focus of various council members to cannibalize any possible public green space (which has also not been included in the many apartment developments) by selling it or building on it! Concerning the payment in lieu made by The Hartley developers, as a knowledgeable friend says, you cannot live in payment in lieu. So another huge apartment complex that displaced nearly 200 low income families writes a check and thinks everything is fine. Why was this (and other) complexes approved? Why wasn’t the FBC changed so this could not happen? Many of you on Council have shirked your opportunities to revamp the disastrous Form Based Code, to incentivize developers to include truly affordable rentals in all of those luxury apartments, to make sure the town is creating enough public green space in the form of parks (especially the Legion Park in the densest part of town which also has the greatest amount of affordable housing), and to mandate the use of green building technologies to save everyone future expense. Why can’t we get this done? Please be the leader you were elected to be and gather the others into being part of the solution!
The other comments say it better than I can, but I’ll add that the FBC was put together by Dwight Bassett and the town’s salaried planning staff, with the help of paid outside consultants. Extensive public input to a Small-Area Plan was overridden at a pen stroke by the former town manager and planning staff – the public input was to deflect and exhaust public comment. The town (its taxpayers) invested tens of millions in storm water remediation (in a FBC district that protects zero trees or open space), and new roads around these developments, to the benefit of the builders who have therefore been able to resell the buildings at great profit. Not that the townspeople hear any thanks.