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The Daily Tar Heel

Town Council debates redevelopment plan

The Ephesus Church Road-Fordham Boulevard Small Area Plan was returned to public attention at the Chapel Hill Town Council meeting Wednesday, where council members and residents debated the proposal.

The meeting was a continuation of a business meeting from Monday, which proposed a change of zoning districts in the development. The changes were contested by both the council and the public.

The meeting tested many people’s patience. The Ephesus-Fordham plan has been marketed as a vibrant, walkable district that will feature residences, businesses and office space. The town has been working toward the redevelopment of the Ephesus-Fordham area since 2006, and it was made a focus of the Chapel Hill 2020 Comprehensive Plan.

Since its conception, it has faced opposition on the fronts of traffic, affordable housing and the cost of the program.

Council member Maria Palmer expressed disappointment with public reception to the plan. She said some members of the community had asked the Orange County Board of Commissioners not to give Chapel Hill money for the development.

“That’s very disappointing. The future of Chapel Hill depends on getting it right,” Palmer said

Chapel Hill Business Management Director Ken Pennoyer presented a budget based on consultant projections made from market values in 2011. This plan placed the cost of the project at $26.5 million, with the worst-case scenario for revenue at $26.4 million .

The plan that was expected put the town in deficit for the 20 years of the development of the area. The Town Council said it expected the worst-case scenario cost would be higher.

The community was vocal and divisive regarding the proposal, with as many people speaking up for it as against it.

Those who argued against the plan suggested that it would reduce affordable housing, cause traffic problems and even increase flooding due to an increase in impermeable surfaces.

Stefan Klakovich, an environmental science teacher at Carrboro High School , said the plan was based on unreliable data which could result in more flooding in the area.

“We need to remember that the project is located in an area already experiencing flooding problems,” Klakovich said. “I implore you to make your decision based on the best possible data.”

Other members of the community said the plan was a necessary step in the town’s development.

Matt Bailey , a local marketing research analyst, said the town needed more residential, office and business space to compete with accommodations from nearby cities.

“If you really want to know what people want, listen to where they spend their money and where they spend their time,” Bailey said.

Council member Jim Ward said the plan was not ready for adoption by the Town Council, saying flooding and affordable housing measures could be improved.

“I don’t think the product that we could vote on tonight is the best we can do,” said Ward.

By the end of the meeting, the council had yet to come to a decision and moved the topic to continued discussion on May 5 at 6 p.m.

Palmer was ready to vote on the plan, adding that it was one of the issues she based her campaign on.

“I’ve been ready to see something change for 15 years.”

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