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The Daily Tar Heel

Residents speak on Greenbridge

CORRECTION: This article incorrectly states that Kate Wheeler is a Northside resident. She lives in Carrboro. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.

Residents of the Northside community spoke for and against plans for a development slated to go in near their neighborhood at a Chapel Hill Town Council public hearing Wednesday.

The proposed Greenbridge development was planned by six local families and led by climate change advocate Tim Toben, former CEO of KnowledgeBase Marketing Inc.

The group wants to construct a $30 million, 117-foot-tall "green building" off Rosemary Street between Merritt Mill Road and Graham Street.

The application proposes no more than 106 residential dwelling units with two levels of structured parking and 216 parking spaces, as well as retail slots with environmentally-friendly features including solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling systems and green roofs.

"Global climate change represents the greatest threat facing humanity this century," Toben said. "Where we site our buildings and how we build them will have enormous impact on fuel consumption and greenhouse gas production."

Bernadette Keefe, a resident of the Northside neighborhood, voiced her support of the project.

"If I believed that Greenbridge would detract from or harm the Northside community, I would have objections," she said. "Greenbridge would historify and edify this historic community, which is hanging on by a thread."

Some attendees affiliated with businesses on the west end of town said the project would be good for downtown merchants and the town's economy by attracting more residents to Chapel Hill.

But not everyone present was as optimistic about the project.

Some Northside residents say the 10-story building doesn't mesh well with the character of the neighborhood, and Northside resident Kate Wheeler said it would tower over its surroundings.

But according to Wheeler, the height isn't the only problem.

She said the new residents would also alter the feel of the neighborhood because the proposed residential units will cost more than typical Northside homes.

Toben said the building plans call for an area accessible to the community, but the proposal also includes a plaza accessible only to residents of Greenbridge.

Wheeler cited more aspects in the plans that she considers flawed, including the need for more affordable housing. "The Greenbridge project is going to be devastating for the Northside Community," she said.

The town requires 15 percent of the units be made into affordable housing, but Greenbridge developers want to build half that amount and make a payment to the town in lieu of the other half.

Developers might use the funds to create housing within the Northside neighborhood.

According to Wheeler, town staff and council members have not been successful in informing residents about the proposed construction.

"I think this is a racist project, and I think this is a classist project."

But Henry McCoy, another attendee, disagreed with Wheeler, saying the development would bring out the best in the community.

The council decided to recess until Feb. 26 where they will consider voting on a permit that would allow the developers to finalize plans.

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