Text amendments to Ephesus-Fordham ordinances stir up debate among council members

Changes to the Land Use Management Ordinance text for the Ephesus-Fordham district and the potential purchase of land on 101 Weaver Dairy Rd. by the North Carolina State Employee's Credit Union were discussed Monday at the Chapel Hill Town Council meeting.

The council also discussed dividing a plot of land on Legion Road into two parcels and heard concept plans for a new subdivision on East Old Oxford Road.

John Richardson, planning manager of sustainability for Chapel Hill, presented the council with eight different ordinance amendments that had been approved and recommended by an Ephesus-Fordham ad hoc working group consisting of advisory board members and representatives of the business and development community.

The ordinances included defining what constitutes a second floor, the length of street blocks and the width of a sidewalk clear zone, among other things.

Mayor Pam Hemminger said the meeting of the ad hoc working group was a successful collaboration and the item amendments were reached by a group consensus.

"Everyone at the table seemed very agreeable to the intent and we just had to work through the language to get there," Hemminger said of the work session. "Sometimes good intentions met reality and we had to handshake it out to figure out how it would really look like."

But the amendments still caused much debate between council members. Both council members George Cianciolo and Donna Bell raised questions about predictability when it came to ordinances six and eight. Ordinances six and eight discussed the appearance of parking decks and at-grade stormwater devices, respectively.

"This does go against what we originally had in mind for Ephesus-Fordham that there would be as much predictability as possible," Bell said.

The ordinance amendments talked about flexible designs and making structured parking decks architecturally pleasing and compatible with already established buildings in the area. But there were no design guidelines in place to set the expectations to developers, which concerned Cianciolo and Bell.

Council member Michael Parker said the amendments the council voted on during the public hearing were just the beginning of making adjustments to the Land Use Management Ordinance.

"(All these concerns) point to the fact that this is the beginning, not the end, and there are further modifications that seem to be necessary for Ephesus-Fordham," Parker said.

Notable:

When the council discussed what needed to be done to the fire station located on Weaver Dairy Road, Cianciolo asked for an independent look into any health risks people working in the fire station might face.

Town manager Roger Stancil said town-owned buildings are checked on a regular basis for health risks.

Quotable:

"We're all type A," Parker said when the council was discussing the logistics on the different types of frontages in the Ephesus-Fordham district.

city@dailytarheel.com


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