By Adam Powell
At the Chapel Hill Town Council’s November 15 meeting, the council considered a zoning atlas amendment, which would allow for the conditional rezoning of a 16-acre assemblage of 18 properties along Lakeview Drive and White Oak Drive from residential 1 (R-1) to residential 6 (conditional zoning district) for a new multi-family residential development, to be named Meridian at Lakeview.
The application was submitted by Thomas & Hutton on behalf of developers NorthView Partners and Bryan Properties, the developer of Southern Village. Property owners include a range of investment interests, including JTCIV, LLC, Redwing Joco LLC, and APL Capital LLC.
Developer D.R. Bryan of Bryan Properties informed town leaders that they planned to construct 316 market-rate apartments and up to 72 affordable homes on the rezoned properties.
“We’re on 16 acres, between State Employees Credit Union and I-40, behind the Red Roof Inn [hotel], and we’re part of a larger framework of about 180 acres, including Eastowne [Medical Building], Wegman’s and State Employees Credit Union,” Bryan explained.
Bryan presented to the town council on October 11, with a couple of options to bring affordable housing to Meridian at Lakeview.
One option included a low-income housing tax credit, or LIHTC, for 72 of the anticipated units within the development, with a land donation being provided by the developer if funding wasn’t obtained for the low-income housing tax credit following five years.
“We had proposed up to 72 senior affordable housing apartments, offered through low-income housing tax credit, and asked for five years to be able to get that done,” Bryan said. “And if that didn’t happen, then we were offering to pass the land on to the town, and nobody liked that idea. Everybody liked that idea of the 72 affordable senior [housing units], but the backup plan [the land donation] needed work. We heard that loud and clear.”
Another option was to build an additional 24 units within the development without the low-income tax credit in place, but the town council chose to support the higher number of units for low-income housing, with the possibility that the town would simply attain the land several years down the road if the development never gets constructed due to a lack of tax credit funding.
Council member Michael Parker challenged the developer on the question of what would happen if they couldn’t come up with the low-income housing tax credit funding in five years, and a scenario where Chapel Hill wasn’t willing to make up the difference of the financing to complete the development.
“If the town is either unwilling or unable to provide that subsidy, are you willing to step up and make good any shortfall, so it actually gets built?” Parker asked Bryan.
“I don’t know what that’s gonna look like in five years and have an unlimited commitment to provide shortfall. We can’t do that,” Bryan explained to Parker. “We’re offering the land. We’re putting in stormwater, sewer, water, streets, sidewalk. There’s nobody [else who has] stood up here, that’s made a commitment like that. And that’s all we can do. And I’m asking that that’d be enough.”
With 72 units projected for low-income housing, the developers intend to progress ahead in the coming months with the application and planning for the LIHTC (Low-Income Housing Tax Credit) project.
“We felt very comfortable that LIHTC was achievable, but we were asked for more evidence of that,” Bryan explained. “So we’ve provided a letter from a developer who’s worked in Chapel Hill and Durham, who says he thinks we have a great chance of approval. And also, we provide information on the last three years in Durham, because we’re in Durham County. There were five projects that applied for LIHTC financing over the last three years, and three of them received funding.”
“[We] support the LIHTC project because of the opportunity to build a substantial number of affordable units that will likely exceed the Housing Advisory Board’s [HAB] Guiding Principles for Rental Development,” added a statement from Chapel Hill’s Affordable Housing staff in support of the proposed rezoning. “Staff acknowledge that this project depends on competitive tax credit financing but believe it’s a strong candidate. If LIHTC funding isn’t awarded and the land is donated, staff is concerned that developing any affordable units would depend on gap financing from the town.”
Developers responded to a request by town planners to add a path connection along the northeast corner of the proposed development to connect to another adjacent residential development that will be constructed next year, which will be known as Chapel Hill Crossings.
The developers also agreed to construct a 10-foot wide multi-use path down to Old Chapel Hill Road along the property’s southern boundary, as well as a pedestrian path that will connect with the future Chapel Hill Crossings.
Following feedback from town officials after the initial October presentation, the developers also agreed to build a playground on the property.
“We’ve added a playground at the upper left side (of the property), next to the multi-use path and adjacent to the building with the most three-bedroom apartments,” Bryan explained.
Developers asked for a few modifications to typical town standards for similar types of construction, as they asked for the maximum allowed square footage for the development to be increased by nearly 150,000 square feet – from 506,669 to 650,000 square feet – to accommodate adequate emergency vehicle access.
Town officials compromised with the developer to allow for a grand total of 586,485 square feet.
Following a public hearing on the subject, the motion to rezone ultimately passed the council by a 6-3 vote, with council members Adam Searing, Tai Hunyh, and Karen Stegman voted against it.
“In their process, they [the developers] worked with the town. They worked with other developers. One of those developers dropped out, which changed the equation. They’ve come to us with a project. I am confused as to why we are holding up this one,” explained council member Camille Berry, who supported the project.
“Until we articulate what we’re going to ask for the future ones, we can ask what we want for the future ones when those come to us. I think that we make the decision for this one based on what they have presented based on that work that we’ve done together for quite some time,” Berry said.