The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday February 1st

House Bill 8 could threaten Carrboro’s plan to buy Collins Crossing

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen could be running out of time if it wants to purchase the contentious Collins Crossing Apartment Homes development on Jones Ferry Road.

The board first discussed in January the possibility of buying the complex, using the eminent domain clause of the Constitution, as a way to preserve affordable housing — but a proposed amendment to the North Carolina Constitution could threaten its authority to do so.

COLLINS CROSSING

Nov. 3
Approximately 50 residents, local advocates and students protest rising rent prices.

Nov. 24
A 10-year-old boy fell through a hazardous stairwell.

Dec. 17
Former Carrboro Alderman Dan Coleman proposed that the town use eminent domain to take over the Collins Crossing complex in an e-mail.

Dec. 19
The Collins Crossing homeowner’s association approved a special assessment fee of $5,406 per unit.

Jan. 8
The town of Carrboro mandated that Collins Crossing renovate 24 stairwells by March 4.

March 6
Collins Crossing Condominiums homeowners voted on a 12-month plan to pay a $3,500 assessment fee to offset the costs of repairing the stairwells.

Aldermen have said they want to protect Collins Crossing residents from unfair practices, including rising rents and the failure of the complex’s management to take care of stairwells.

Aspen Square Management, the management company for Collins Crossing, could not be reached for comment Monday.

In January, the N.C. General Assembly drafted House Bill 8, which would prohibit governments from purchasing private property except for public use, such as to create a parking lot.

North Carolina’s current statute states that private property may also be purchased for public benefit — as would be the case with Collins Crossing — but House Bill 8 would remove that ability.

The amendment will be voted on in a statewide referendum on Nov. 4, 2014.

Mike Brough, the town attorney for Carrboro, said the language of the proposed amendment is confusing, and its impact is not yet clear.

“It raises the question as to whether or not the government can only condemn property if the public is going to use it,” he said.

“I think the impact of that proposed constitutional amendment is not entirely clear.”

Alderman Sammy Slade said the process of condemning property is already lengthy and complicated, and the town might not be able to complete the process to take over Collins Crossing by next November.

“If we decide to do eminent domain, it would be a big question if we could do it in time before the referendum passes,” Slade said.

In addition to the potential legal problems, the Board of Aldermen is still unsure if it can afford to purchase the property.

“I just don’t know if legally we could do that,” said Alderman Jacquelyn Gist. “And second, I’m not sure if we could afford it.”

Gist said it is difficult to balance the right to own property with the rights of people living in the complex.

“We live in a nation with really strong property rights,” she said.

“If you do one thing for one group of people, you have to do that for another.”

Other options

The Board of Aldermen is still considering its options for helping the residents of Collins Crossing.
Gist called the actions of the current Collins Crossing management “horrible,” and she said the board is working to address the inadequate conditions.

Slade said the board could provide a low-interest loan to Collins Crossing residents to help pay a $5,406 special assessment fee that was levied on each unit owner in February to pay for stair repairs required by the Town of Carrboro.

But Slade said the idea has not yet been discussed by the board.

Contact the desk editor at city@dailytarheel.com.

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