The environmentally-friendly Greenbridge development approved Monday by the Chapel Hill Town Council will be something new for North Carolina and a benchmark for Chapel Hill.
But the "progressive" development might be a sign of things to come in more ways than one.
The two condominium buildings' sustainable design will make them the first in the state to achieve Gold Certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
And at 10 stories, one of the buildings will be the tallest in downtown Chapel Hill.
The vote granting a special use permit to Greenbridge Developments LLC, was unanimous.
But council member Bill Thorpe cast an opposing vote on an earlier measure considered during the meeting to rezone the proposed site between Merritt Mill Road and South Graham Street.
Thorpe said he thinks allowing the building to rise up to 10 stories sets a bad precedent for future projects.
"The project is a good project," Thorpe said. "It's a good use of the land. It's just too high for that area."
Thorpe likened making an exception for Greenbridge to changing ACC rules midway through a basketball game.
"When they came in with the request at the beginning, they knew it wasn't supposed to be that high."
But like it or not, taller buildings are in Chapel Hill's future, council member Cam Hill said.
"Chapel Hill is going to grow," he said. "And we can't grow out, so we have to grow up."
The town's ongoing plans for the Lot 5 development on Franklin Street involve nine-story buildings.
And in October, Chapel Hill representatives pushed University leaders to consider making taller buildings a feature of UNC's proposed satellite campus, Carolina North, to better accommodate employees who will work there.
"If it reduces the footprint by increasing the height, then it's worth considering," Hill said.
Greenbridge partner Tim Toben, who heads up the project, said in an interview earlier this month that height and density also are part of the philosophy behind Greenbridge.
"What we don't want to see is suburban sprawl," he said.
Resident reactions to the news have been mixed.
In his Cingular Wireless store across the street from the site, Red Elagi said the project could benefit the neighborhood.
"It will be good for the area," he said. "It will bring jobs and business, and there will be more protection."
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