Town and University officials might have finally come to a rezoning agreement that satisfies both sides.
UNC met with town officials Tuesday to clarify portions of the rezoning proposal. The town council will vote on the proposal July 2.
As a result of the meeting, University officials agreed to remove several of the more controversial tracts from their rezoning proposal. They also agreed to hold off on building one of the housing units along Mason Farm Road until July 1, 2009, if the University does not acquire adjacent properties before that date.
"It has been a very substantial compromise to delay expansion of our married student housings," said Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Sue Kitchen.
Some of the proposed student family housing units have become problematic because they would abut the homes of several Chapel Hill residents living along Mason Farm Road. Outside of the compromise suggested at Tuesday's meeting, construction on other residential family housing would begin by spring 2003, allowing student families to begin moving in during the spring and summer of 2005.
The University is planning a large housing expansion to accommodate a projected increase in enrollment. The expansion focuses on the southern part of campus, where the University plans to build additional undergraduate and student family housing.
To house the influx of students, the University must add 500 units of family student housing. Eventually, these units will replace the Odum Village apartments, enabling more space for undergraduate housing to be built.
Chancellor James Moeser said the University has taken the worries of town residents into consideration.
"I hope we are signaling to the community that we really are trying to accommodate their concerns," Moeser said. "That is our intent, and we've been trying to do that."
In addition to the changes to the married student housing plan, University officials agreed to remove several of the proposed areas for rezoning.
The University originally requested all of its property be rezoned to a new, as-yet-unapproved Office/Institutional-4 zoning category, which would free UNC from the current 14 million-square-foot floor area limit.
But the University will now drop its request for some areas not slated for development under the Master Plan. The compromise seemed to please most residents at the meeting.
"I'm delighted the University recognized near-to-campus neighborhood needs by making the changes they did," resident Joe Capowski said. "But the true test is still ahead, which is the development plan."
If the Town Council approves the rezoning at its July 2 meeting, the University will follow by submitting its 10-year development plan the next day.
The development plan will clearly lay out what the University will do and when they plan to do it. The plan will have to be approved by the council before the University can proceed.
The town council is slated to vote on the development plan after 90 days of review, on Oct. 1. "We've committed to make the schedule and we will continue to do that," said Mayor Rosemary Waldorf.
But some residents said they are still uneasy about University growth. "I had hoped it would be a more thoughtful process," said Diana Steele, a Mason Farm Road resident. "Growth does not necessarily mean quality."
Regardless of trepidation from some residents, University and town officials alike seemed relieved after the meeting.
"I think it was a productive meeting," Moeser said. "Maybe the most successful we've had with the town so far."
Waldorf echoed Moeser's statements.
"I appreciate the University's efforts to compromise," Waldorf said. "I think we're going to resolve this next Monday."
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.