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The Daily Tar Heel

Glen Lennox to be rezoned, could become Neighborhood Conservation District


The original version of this story incorrectly implies that the council agreed to approve final plans for the Glen Lennox rezoning. The council agreed to consider approving the plans. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for any confusion.

Glen Lennox moved closer to becoming a Neighborhood Conservation District Monday when the Chapel Hill Town Council agreed to approve final plans for phase one of its rezoning Oct. 26.

The change would add the area to seven existing districts, and would limit development to preserve the neighborhood’s character.
But even as Glen Lennox’s petition moves toward approval, town officials said conservation districts could be significantly changed in the town’s upcoming comprehensive plan review.

Mixed results

In 2003, the Chapel Hill Town Council created conservation districts when it passed its Land Use Management Ordinance.
Neighborhoods petition to become conservation districts. The distinction lets them adopt a special set of land-use regulations that prevent extensive development.

Council member Donna Bell, who served on the town planning board when the districts were created, said neighborhoods’ different housing markets have produced varying results.

“What we found is that in some neighborhoods it has done exactly what we wanted to do and in some neighborhoods it didn’t,” she said.

Loryn Clark, Chapel Hill neighborhood and community services manager, said some residents have unrealistic expectations.

“There are limitations to what zoning can do,” she said. “You can’t use zoning to fight the market.”

Ruby Sinreich, editor of the progressive blog Orange Politics, said the intentions of more affluent neighborhoods, such as Greenwood, often differ from those of historically low-income neighborhoods, such as Northside and Pine Knolls.

“When you look at Northside and Pine Knolls, they’re trying to prevent gentrification … Whereas the other neighborhoods, they are also concerned about ‘McMansions,’” she said.

Sinreich, who helped form the Northside conservation district, said the plans were designed to prevent change to the character of the neighborhood but can prevent the areas from developing at all.

Bell added that the zoning requirements often prevent duplexes and other affordable, high-density housing construction in an effort to keep students away, but the result can hurt low-income families.

A new plan

George Cianciolo, co-chairman of the group working to draft a new comprehensive plan, said the new plan will likely address the successes and failures of conservation districts.

“I think they’ll be on the table,” he said. “The comprehensive planning process will look at whether we’ve achieved what we’ve wanted with them.”

He said they need to consider whether conservation district requirements will allow Chapel Hill to reach development goals.

Bell agreed that zoning ordinances will be part of the process.

“We change them as we learn about new and better ways of doing things,” she said. “We are not married to our neighborhood conservation districts.”

City Editor Jeanna Smialek contributed reporting.

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