CARRBORO - The Carrboro Board of Aldermen adopted a redrafted amendment to the Carrboro land-use ordinance Tuesday night after listening to concerns voiced by both residents and board members at a public hearing.
The amendment is intended to encourage development of affordable single-room occupancy housing, Alderman Allen Spalt said.
"Single-room occupancy housing is an important part of a diversified housing stock," Spalt said. "There are people who need this type of housing. They don't want to live on the street, and we don't want them to live on the street."
Tuesday's public hearing was triggered by a land-use ordinance request submitted to the aldermen, Carrboro Planning Board and appearance commission. The request was made by Francis Chan of Norina Technology, who was present at the hearing with Carrboro architect Giles Blunden.
Chan said his July 27 request followed a permit application for development on property at the intersection of Merritt Mill Road and Rosemary Street.
He said he wants to improve his property, the neighborhood where it's located and downtown Carrboro.
"I want landscaping and more lighting to make a desirable property," he said. "Maybe others will follow suit and make downtown Carrboro a more desirable place to live."
The redraft allows more single-room occupancy developments to be housed within a given development in two of the six Carrboro zoning districts where single-room occupancy development is allowed.
Blunden argued at the public hearing for increased density in Carrboro, saying it would trigger growth in public transportation and the tax base and enhance business and culture in downtown.
"Added numbers of housing units where there is limited parking and, therefore, limited automobiles will only increase bicycle, pedestrian and public transportation," Blunden said. "And it's culturally positive; more eyes on the street, so to speak, create greater potential for commercial people downtown."
The aldermen also decided against restricting occupancy to one person for single-room occupancy units.
"I'd hate to see us limit somebody - make them stay in a shelter - because they're told the housing is only available to two people," Alderman Jacquelyn Gist said.
Board members expressed concern, though, that students would take disproportionate advantage of low-cost, single-room occupancy units.
"My fear is that SRO housing will be gobbled up by well-meaning, good-hearted and socially liberal students," Gist said.
Alderman Alex Zaffron said he agreed. "Part of the challenge is making sure the housing goes to lower-income people," he said.
The land-use ordinance also creates a 2.97 recreational point value per single occupancy residence. Planning Administrator Patricia McGuire said this limits the amount the developer is required to spend on recreational equipment such as swimming pools, volleyball courts or slides.
The amendment to the ordinance also removes the requirement for children's play equipment in single-room occupancy developments.
Ruffin Slater, manager of Weaver Street Market, said he supports efforts to create greater housing density.
"We have very few housing choices within the business district," he said. "Why do we want to put any kind of restraint on addressing this imbalance?"
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