The development ordinance has been under heavy review since Chapel Hill placed a de facto moratorium on development within the town to concentrate on drafting the document. The development ordinance lays out the guidelines for all development and usage of properties within town limits.
Mark Patmore, a Chapel Hill landlord and organizer of the recently formed Chapel Hill Landlords' Association, said the ordinance has several provisions within it that attack students without naming them specifically.
"These changes are going to affect students," he said. "We're going to collect our rent no matter what. The students are the ones getting screwed."
The changes Patmore alluded to are several points within the 300-page development ordinance, the most severe of which is a limit on the number of unrelated people who can occupy one house.
The law currently on the books states that no more than four unrelated people are allowed to occupy a residence. The limit has not been heavily enforced in town except in the event of a complaint.
Another major change to the laws would limit the number of people in a duplex to no more than four unrelated people. This applies to the entire duplex, not just one side.
While there are several groups of people that would feel the effect of such regulations, the largest of them in the Chapel Hill area is off-campus students.
Patmore said that if these changes are instituted, they would put hundreds of students out of their homes. "Rents would have to go up, and urban sprawl would not be reduced but in fact promoted as students move farther from campus."
Town Council member Mark Kleinschmidt said his aversion to the idea will not go unheard Sept. 16 when the council discusses the ordinance again.
"I think it's morally repugnant," he said. "The idea is you reduce the number of people that live there and encourage families."
Council member Pat Evans shared Kleinschmidt's sentiments.
"We live in a university community and a larger community," she said. "Students are a part of both -- just look at the services they provide and jobs they fill."
Landlords assert that the new changes, which also include language to reduce house sizes to no more than 20 feet in height and eliminate the construction of further duplexes, are nothing but thinly veiled practices designed to push students out of neighborhoods. And officials didn't argue the point.
"A lot of these are geared toward students," Evans said. "They target some of the abuses that students can have on neighborhoods, such as trash, noise and parking issues."
At a meeting Tuesday night, the CHLA said the ban of duplexes could be one of the most damaging changes proposed.
Evans said she will not even consider supporting a ban of duplexes.
"One of our goals is to have a variety of housing types and pricing of housing," she said. "To say duplexes can't be built would just increase the cost of housing."
Kleinschmidt said he has yet to make a decision on the duplex issue.
"I'm not sure all the possible negative effects (of banning duplexes) would occur," he said. "But the people that move into those areas, they agree to deal with the problems associated with that area."
Town officials and landlords agree that when all the dead wood is cleared away, parking is the central issue. New regulations would prohibit residents from parking cars in front yards and would limit the number of cars to two per dwelling.
However, if students are living farther and farther from campus, the potential for even greater parking problems grows.
Patmore said the ordinances might seem innocent and productive alone, but they are in fact connected to make student living and property development difficult.
"OK, so they say you can't park in the front," he said. "So the parking has to be in the back, so you have to build a longer driveway, and now they've got you on the surfaces," referring to a clause requiring impervious surfaces on a property, which includes all structures and concrete, to cover less than 40 percent of the lot's area.
Patmore said that if ever there was a local political issue student leaders and the student body should care about, this is it. "Even if you won't be here much longer, what about your little brother or sister?" he asked.
"In the end, the money's coming out of students' pockets."
The City Editor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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