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The Daily Tar Heel

Council Might Grant Aid to Eastgate Owner

At the meeting, Town Manager Cal Horton submitted his response to Federal Realty Investment Trust's Jan. 18 petition for assistance.

A July 27 storm left many stores in Eastgate Shopping Center, which is owned by Federal Realty, closed because of extensive flood damage.

Federal Realty, a Maryland-based firm, requested assistance from the Town Council in reconstructing Elliot Road and Fordham Boulevard bridges that consulting engineers said directed runoff towards the shopping center during the July storm.

But Horton said town investigations concluded that the bridge on Elliot Road did not contribute to the flooding and that the Fordham Boulevard bridge does not lie in the town's jurisdiction.

"If they have to rebuild the bridge on Fordham Boulevard, they need to ask for assistance from the state government," Horton said.

Everette Knight, an engineer hired by Federal Realty, also requested town assistance in redirecting runoff from a nearby 30-inch reinforced concrete pipe installed perpendicular to the natural flow of water. Knight said the drainage pipe, part of a system installed by the Staples Center, a neighboring complex, guides runoff directly onto Eastgate.

But George Small, director of engineering for Chapel Hill agreed with Horton that the town should not be involved and said Federal Realty should work with the Staple's property owner to improve the pipe network.

"If the town gets into this it will obligate them to mitigate all other disputes between private property owners," he said.

Small also said he recommended Federal Realty work to flood-proof the Eastgate Center.

But Knight said flood-proofing was not a preferable option for his client. "Flood-proofing should be an absolute last resort on the hierarchy of what we can do to protect property," he said.

Knight also said the town holds direct fiscal responsibility in runoff prevention because local development and construction contributed to the July floods.

"Drainage patterns change," Knight said. "There is a need for a policy on private property work in Chapel Hill."

Council member Bill Strom made a motion, which the council unanimously approved, that the council refer the proposal back to Horton to plan for a collaborative effort.

No cost estimates are available yet as to how much the project might cost, or how much the town might be willing to contribute.

But council member Flicka Bateman said she values Eastgate's contributions to the community.

"It's one of our few economic districts and I'd like to see it stay afloat."

The City Editor can be reached


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