After a Sept. 21 public hearing on the town's proposed development ordinance, Chapel Hill Town Council members say they came to a realization that a townwide ban on duplexes might not be the best response to an old problem.
"Our concern is a sweeping ban would prevent diverse housing stock in town," council member Mark Kleinschmidt said. "We saw most of the complaints were coming from Northside residents."
Northside, which was founded many years ago as a black neighborhood under the name Potter's Fields, has in recent years become a hot spot for developers looking to use the neighborhood's low rent and proximity to the University to build housing for students.
Increased student renting has, however, prompted resident complaints of trash, noise and parking problems.
Estelle Mabry, a Northside resident, said banning duplexes in only her neighborhood is not enough. "There are other neighborhoods with the same problems as us," she said. "Banning the duplexes just in Northside will not solve the whole problem."
Mabry said her home on Pritchard Avenue has been the target of vandalism on more than three occasions, which fueled her desire to see restrictions put in place. "I was a student too. I went to school here, but this is destructive," she said. "I'm just tired of getting hit."
But Mark Patmore, head of the Chapel Hill Landlords' Association, said the idea of banning duplexes in Northside is ill-conceived. "Sure, the town has a right to do that, but I don't believe they realize how rental-occupied the neighborhood is," he said. "If they're making rules based on false information, what's the point?"
Patmore said he believes the town is trying to get the ordinance approved before much protest can be lodged.
"When (the town) gets the figures on occupancy, the laws will already be in place. To get them changed would mean going through the whole arduous process again," he said. "They think they're solving problems -- they're only going to create them."
But council member Pat Evans said the ordinance was unlikely to be approved with the current language in place.
"I do think we're going to be changing the development ordinance," she said. "But whether it is specific to Northside, we'll have to see."
Throughout the debate, all sides have noted that students are not a bad element but have said issues need to be addressed.
"If trash, noise and parking are the problems, let's establish and enforce tough restrictions on those things," Kleinschmidt said. "It's better to go right for the problem at hand. It's kind of like killing the body to kill the cancer."
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