The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday December 6th

Council to Settle Duplex Debate

Duplex ban one of items under consideration tonight

The Chapel Hill Town Council will reconvene a public hearing at 7 p.m. in the council chambers to hear comment from residents concerning the latest draft of the town's development ordinance.

The council began the hearing Sept. 18 and left it open to receive further comment. Tonight concludes a monthlong information-gathering period in which the council has sought public opinion.

The council is slated to vote on two amendments to the town's ordinance. One of the issues up for consideration is that of duplexes. The town's staff has provided two options it thinks would be viable actions: Option A would ban duplex housing throughout all residential zones; Option B would limit the size of newly built or converted duplexes in the future.

The council also will vote on an amendment to clarify the meaning of building nonconformity in the new ordinance. The guidelines before the council stipulate that any building in use and any use permit granted before today will be honored. Those buildings affected would not be made nonconforming. The language would allow existing duplexes to stand as they are.

In a memorandum to the council, town staff, led by Town Manager Cal Horton, have thrown their support behind Option A.

Council member Jim Ward said he wants to directly address the concerns stemming from the duplex ban issue. "I am interested in dealing with the negatives that are associated with the residents of some communities," Ward said.

But he said the issue can be handled without an outright ban on duplexes within the town limits.

Several groups have a vested interest in the outcome of tonight's votes. Outside the general resident population, landlords and students have been vocal in their opposition to the proposed changes concerning duplexes.

Branson Page, president of UNC's Graduate and Professional Student Federation, said that he will be in attendance tonight to represent his constituency but that rallying students to fight the duplex ban has been a struggle.

"We found out that students are very busy people," he said. "We're trying to get as many people out as we can, but we decided the most efficient and articulate way to make our point was with the letter."

Page and his staff sent a letter to the GPSF e-mail listserv, teachers and other student body leaders asking for their support in battling the ordinance changes. The letter calls for the town to consider the effect of taking duplexes from the town's housing options on off-campus students.

Ward said he hopes more students will be involved in tonight's hearing.

"I think we only benefit from ... a broader perspective of comments," he said. "Unfortunately, community issues aren't high on the list for (many students)."

Landlords also have been at the center of the duplex controversy. Area residents have accused them of trying to turn neighborhoods into residence hall communities while the landlords say they are providing a service on top of running a business.

Mark Patmore, head of the Chapel Hill Landlord's Association, said he will be attending tonight's meeting not to argue the merits of duplexes or the nuances of nonconformity.

"We've talked about all that already," he said. "I'm going to be talking about the way all of this is being handled. The town needs to be up front, they need to be notifying the people they're affecting, and they're not doing that."

Assistant City Editor Michael Davis contributed to this article.

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