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The Daily Tar Heel

Schools Want Veto Over Housing

The developments are bringing new students to Orange County's already overcrowded classrooms. After two years of planning, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education joined with the Orange County Board of Education and approved the Schools' Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance at a meeting Wednesday.

The ordinance gives the school boards the power to refuse building permits for new housing developments in Orange County. The ordinance works by adding another step to the process developers go through to get construction permits. "This step (for developers) will be submitting information to the school board," said Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board member Nick Didow. "The school board will determine whether there is adequate capacity in the schools to satisfy the increase (in the number of students)."

The town governments of Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough and the Orange County Board of Commissioners must approve the ordinance before it will take effect.

"If any of the (local governments) do not agree to it, the authority is null," Didow said.

The Chapel Hill Town Council and the Carrboro Board of Aldermen have set tentative dates in February to discuss the issue. But Alderman Mark Dorosin said several elected officials are worried about the effect of reducing the amount of new housing in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. "I am wary of anything that could be a moratorium on construction because it might raise housing costs," Dorosin said.

Roger Waldon, a Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board member and the Chapel Hill planning director, said there are already allowances for low-income housing in Chapel Hill's building codes.

"The way Chapel Hill is dealing with this is to ask developers to build 15 percent affordable housing," Waldon said, "So, it's 15 percent of a big number or 15 percent of a small number."

Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board attorney John McCormick said he supports the ordinance, but implementing it immediately would halt all construction. He said the idea should be to pace growth, not stop it.

"If we implement it next month, we could not take future schools into consideration because the funds would not have been approved," McCormick said.

McCormick advised the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board to wait until a November bond issue regarding county appropriation funds has passed so proposed schools can be factored into the school board's projections.

"If the bond passes, you may take into consideration the capacity of the schools already in the pipeline; that is, schools that are already funded," McCormick said.

The ordinance also will mean the Orange County commissioners will have to anticipate funding new schools before existing schools have reached capacity.

"The experience we've had is that we have to get to this dramatic level of overcrowding before you get a new school built, and that's not a good way to be."

The City Editor can be reached at citydesk@unc.edu.

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