LETTER TO THE EDITOR
By Christopher Bowers
Stackhouse Properties told the town of Chapel Hill that if they do not get zoning approval to erect a four-story self-storage facility on the property they own at 1200 and 1204 MLK Jr. Blvd., they will sell the property and have already received an offer from a buyer who likely will evict the 70+ families who live in the Tar Heel Mobile Home Park (MHP) that currently occupies the site. As a neighbor across the street, I am appalled by a huge storage facility imposed on the community, and I am disappointed in our Town Council for giving in to the owner’s rezoning request. A simple majority of council members voted on March 3 to approve this project. If none change their mind before March 10, then the project will get final approval to move forward.
Our elected officials admit that they have kicked the can down the road on protecting mobile home park residents for years now, and Stackhouse is exploiting this., then other developers will take notice and use these same tactics.
Some residents’ homes may be too old to be moved and so may be destroyed in transit. These are our neighbors, they are homeowners, and they should not be subjected to being displaced at will by development, or be forced to live within 20 feet of a football-field-sized storage facility. Twenty feet is about half the length of a telephone pole! This kind of development is not happening on Gimghoul Road.
The council is willing to trust that this developer will treat the residents with dignity as the developer moves some homes and constructs a massive facility. The Town Council trusts that this developer will not back out of the “protections” that have been included in this deal, and will not harass residents into leaving on their own once the land is rezoned.
The Town Council MUST take a stand against this behavior, and they MUST fight for the most vulnerable members of our community. Currently, the average rent being paid by Tar Heel MHP residents is $500 per month, yielding [gross] revenue of over $400,000 a year! It would be a lose-lose for the developer to give up that income stream. We need to consider other options, like rezoning 1204 MLK as a manufactured home district that disincentivizes evicting the residents.
Chapel Hill is a politically active community; if this can happen here, it can happen anywhere. The Town Council MUST vote NO to rezoning 1200 MLK for a storage facility on March 10. If this council will not consider actions that protect our residents from developments that no one wants, then a new council needs to be elected that will.
Christopher Bowers is a doctoral student in environmental science and engineering at UNC. He lives in Chapel Hill.