The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday December 2nd

Petition Complicates UNC Rezoning Proposal

The Chapel Hill Town Council held a public hearing Monday, announcing that a protest petition submitted by Chapel Hill residents on June 13 had been considered valid and sufficient.

Therefore, it will take a supermajority, or seven votes out of the nine-member board, for UNC's main campus to be rezoned. Without the petition, the rezoning proposal would have required only five affirmative votes.

But before the supermajority vote takes place, the Town Council must first approve the creation of a new zoning district, Office Institutional-4 .

The University's current zoning district, OI-3, has a floor area limit of 14 million square feet, and the University already occupies 13.6 million square feet.

So without the OI-4 rezoning, the University would not be able to add 5.8 million square feet to Master Plan-related projects.

The Town Council will vote on the rezoning issues - both the creation of the OI-4 zone and the University's eligibility for it - on July 2. If both are approved, UNC officials will follow by submitting a 10-year development plan on July 3.

Monday's public hearing also allowed residents to express concerns over UNC's rezoning request.

Perhaps the most passionate speech of the night came from former Mayor Ken Broun, a UNC law professor. Broun, 414 Whitehead Cir., compared UNC officials' recent actions to that of a corporate institution.

"I feel their actions have been the actions a corporation might take, without concern of anyone's interest but their own interest," Broun said in an interview Tuesday.

Like many speakers at Monday's meeting, Broun alluded to the University's actions in the General Assembly.

On May 28, with the support of UNC officials, Sen. Tony Rand, D-Fayetteville, drafted a bill in the Senate budget that would exempt the University from town zoning laws.

"I think trust between the town and the University has been greatly eroded by the actions of the University going to the General Assembly," Broun said.

"It's hard for me to oppose the University, but I feel I need to do that to protect the community, especially my neighbors."

One of the primary controversies lies in the Mason Farm Road neighborhood, which is on UNC's southern border.

Anita and Richard Wolfenden, 1307 Mason Farm Road, have lived in the neighborhood since 1970. If UNC's plan gets approved, residence halls would be built near their driveway. "We knew they would be here eventually," Anita said. "But we didn't know it would be so soon."

University officials had earlier met with residents to explain the plans for construction. "The dates given for the construction was way off," Anita said. "Five to 10 years - they were very vague. Definitely not immediately."

But UNC Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Sue Kitchen explained Monday that construction could begin along Mason Farm Road in Spring 2003 and would be completed in Spring 2005.

"Our overall plan was to look at how to add housing for all new enrollment," Kitchen said.

UNC has raised concerns that they want to be able to use the nearly $500 million they have been granted from the $3.1 billion higher education bond referendum. But many town citizens say it's not the bond projects they oppose, rather other projects, such as those by the Mason Farm Road neighborhood, that use money other than the funds granted to the University through the bond package.

"We have always supported the bond projects," said former Town Council member Joe Capowski. "We never stood in the way of those."

What town residents are concerned about is the rapid growth of UNC and the quick rate at which they are trying to implement the plan.

"This is the biggest development the town of Chapel Hill has ever seen," Capowski said. "It's ridiculous to rush it."

Matt Viser can be reached at viser@email.unc.edu.


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