For residents of a Chapel Hill neighborhood, a decade-long struggle over residential development met overwhelming support at tonight’s meeting of the Chapel Hill Town Council.
The council showed interest in pursuing a moratorium that could potentially slow the effects of the development of student housing in the Northside and Pine Knolls neighborhoods.
A moratorium would temporarily freeze building permits in the historically black and low-income neighborhoods and possibly slow the residential development that many believe is pushing families and older residents out of their homes in favor of student housing.
Michelle Laws, a Northside resident and president of Chapel Hill-Carrboro National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, advocated for the moratorium at the meeting.
Laws said many of the older Northside residents cannot afford to hire lawyers or developers to work around the regulations like many of the developers of the student housing can, leaving them at a disadvantage.
“This is growth that is tearing the community apart instead of building it up,” she said. “We cannot forget about the citizens who helped to build the town.”
Although the Chapel Hill Planning Department recommended not pursuing the moratorium in favor of creating a neighborhood development plan, council members Donna Bell, Jim Ward, Laurin Easthom, Ed Harrison, Penny Rich and Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt voiced their support of the moratorium at the meeting.
Ward said he is concerned with the redevelopment of single-family houses in Northside.
“There’s the potential for a long-term loss of affordable housing in Northside and Pine Knolls,” he said. “It’s a tearing up of the fabric of that community.”
Other members of the Northside community asked the council to consider stricter enforcement of parking and occupancy rules.
A public hearing will be held June 20 and the council could vote on the moratorium on June 27.
The council also discussed a possible mixed-use development on Eubanks Road that could bring up to 450,000 square feet of non-residential space to the town.
The proposed development, would include a mix of retail, residential, hotel, office and restaurant uses.
Kleinschmidt said the project could help to grow the town’s non-residential tax base, which is heavily reliant on residential property taxes.
The council will hear a concept plan for the development project at its June 20 meeting.
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