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The Daily Tar Heel

Council ReservesAffordable Units In Chapel Ridge

Affordable housing in Chapel Hill has been hard to come by in recent years for both students and residents, but that problem is one the Town Council hopes to correct.

The council took a step toward that goal with its approval of a 180-unit development, set for construction early next year, with 24 of those units set aside for affordable housing.

The developers at Davis & Sons Construction of Gainesville, Fla., plan for students and lower income individuals to live side by side in the Chapel Ridge development.

"(All the units will be) integrated into six different buildings at the town's request," said David Stockman, development coordinator for Davis & Sons.

The development will be on Airport Road, west of Northfield Drive and south of Brookstone Apartments.

Developers Davis & Sons originally envisioned the development as primarily student housing, but the Chapel Hill Town Council was unwilling to approve necessary zoning changes without at least 15 percent of the units designated for affordable housing.

The eventual ordinance was not without controversy, with Joyce Brown, Bill Strom and Jim Ward voting against it in the council's Nov. 27 meeting.

Ward expressed concerns about safety at the development.

"The likelihood is that most of (the tenets) would be students and hopefully they would be using public transit . to use it they would need to cross five lanes of traffic on Airport Road," he said.

Ward said he wanted to clarify that his vote was against Chapel Ridge and not against local housing opportunities.

"A vote against (Chapel Ridge) is not a vote against affordable housing, but a vote for a better project," he said.

Council member Brown said she also took issue with the details of the project.

"I thought that the zoning that was in place was fine, and I thought that this was an inappropriate project for this particular location."

But while council member Kevin Foy shared some of Ward's concerns, he felt there was enough merit in the project to vote for it.

"It probably is not the most desirable project for that space, but it is acceptable," he said.

Other council members said they supported the move because it helped satisfy housing needs.

"We are trying to reach that population of singles and young married couples that do not have the income to currently afford housing in Chapel Hill," said council member Edith Wiggins.

But the developers do have other options, according to the town's ordinance, if they cannot find eligible low-income renters for the units after working with local nonprofit groups.

The managers would then be allowed to rent without restrictions for as long as one year.

Ward contended that Chapel Ridge was not a final solution, because all future developments in town will be required to include affordable housing.

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"Voting against this development would delay the creation (of more affordable housing), but it would exist," he said.

But Foy emphasized that Chapel Ridge serves as an example for the council's approach for the future.

"All the proposals that come before us, if they do not have an affordable housing component, we will want one before (the Town Council) approves it."

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