The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday December 3rd

Concerns raised over Obey Creek development

Reports on the environmental, fiscal and traffic impacts of the proposed development were presented at a Chapel Hill Town Council work session Oct. 1.

Julie Richardson, a Chapel Hill resident who lives close to Obey Creek and has closely followed the development’s progress, said the reports lack some valuable information.

“No one is pushing town staff or the technical team to ask the hard questions — to get the studies that might get the bad news regarding a 1.5 million (square foot) development,” Richardson said.

Obey Creek is a proposed mixed-use development to be located on U.S. 15-501 across from Southern Village.

The proposed development would consist of retail shops, offices, a possible hotel and residential units.

It would be built on 35 acres of the property, leaving the eastern 82 acres undeveloped and predominantly in its natural state.

Richardson said she is disappointed the developers won’t consider reducing the size of the project. She said she would like to see what the difference in environmental impact would be for a smaller development with different uses, which the report did not address.

“Over and over again, the public has said we’d like to see the impact under different sized development scenarios,” she said.

Megan Wooley, Chapel Hill’s community sustainability planner, said the town is still considering environmental concerns related to development size and use.

“Environmental concerns will be fully discussed and deliberated upon,” Wooley said.

The fiscal impact study showed that Obey Creek would increase the town’s property tax revenue by $1.5 million per year.

“Some people thought that the development of this style doesn’t pay for itself, but the study shows that clearly it does,” said Ben Perry, project manager at East West Partners.

In an email to the council, UNC School of Medicine professor John Baron questioned the fiscal report.

“If the transportation plan has not been finalized, are the associated costs well estimated?” he said in the email. “The capital cost assumptions seem low.”

Richardson also said she felt let down by the traffic studies presented at the work session as they neglected to include traffic simulations around the Obey Creek area.

“Traffic studies that have been done I just feel like haven’t gone far enough,” she said.

Perry said he recognizes that a development of this size will be a lengthy project, especially since the council has yet to approve the development.

“It will be 2016 before we probably break ground,” he said.

Town council members will further discuss the reports at a meeting Saturday.


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