After more than an hour of debate, the UNC Board of Trustees voted to approve sale of the 62-acre Horace Williams satellite tract to Winmore Land Management LLC, for use as part of a mixed-use development in Carrboro.
Winmore developers Phil Szostak and Bob Chapman already are planning to develop an adjacent 66-acre parcel of land but approached UNC with the idea of combining the two pieces of land into a large joint-development project.
Doug Furstenberg, a consultant for Stonebridge Associates Inc., a Maryland-based firm that UNC has hired to help plan for the future of the Horace Williams tract, presented a detailed plan for the satellite tract at Thursday's BOT meeting.
The proposal would include 96 affordable apartment units that would be owned and managed by the University, as well as 50 to 60 houses priced under $175,000 that would be sold to employees of the University, UNC Hospitals or the town of Carrboro. "In terms of affordable housing, this project is a start, not a finish, but it's a great way to see how people respond to the idea," Furstenberg said.
The motion approved by the trustees stated that in return for the land, the University would receive $1.25 million plus 30 percent of future revenue totaling more than $15 million from the entire development.
But some trustees expressed concern about the idea of selling the land, which they said was a valuable University asset that could be needed in the future.
"I have questions whether this is best for the University," said Trustee Don Stallings. "There will never be land any cheaper."
BOT Chairman Tim Burnett also said he was concerned about the risk the University might take by entering into the real estate management business.
"If you hit a down market, the developer has bought 66 acres, bought our land with debt, and if the bank forecloses, we've got nothing," Burnett said. "If there is a downturn in a down market, everything goes away."
But Trustee David Pardue said he thinks the affordable housing use for the land makes the risk worthwhile for UNC. "My opinion is that, while this is certainly a risk, practically speaking, I think it is highly remote," he said. "If you look at the current housing situation, there is a shortage of thousands of units at this price range -- I just think the risk is not very much."
Nancy Suttenfield, vice chancellor for finance and administration, also reminded the trustees that they are legally obligated to sell the land and donate part of the proceeds to fellowships given by the Department of Philosophy as part of the terms under which the land originally was given to UNC.
Ultimately, the board voted 8-2, with one abstention and two trustees absent, to recommend the sale of the land.
Szostak said he was pleased to hear the University's approval for the project. "I think it went forward because everybody realized it was a very great development," he said. "It's very well-thought-out -- we're very excited."
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