The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday June 29th

Village Plaza development project challenged

The form-based code was implemented in June and is meant to stimulate development in the Ephesus-Fordham area of the town, which includes Village Plaza.

The major concerns about the proposed development, which would be the first under the new code, are the lack of affordable housing, the height and design of the building not fitting in with the rest of the town and environmental issues regarding the building.

Brian Wittmayer, member of the Town of Chapel Hill Planning Commission, said in an email that the new form-based code has no provisions for affordable housing, unlike the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance, which was followed in almost all recent developments.

This ordinance requires 10 to 15 percent of housing units to be affordable housing, he said.

Chapel Hill Town Council member Matt Czajkowski, who voted against the form-based code, said members who voted for it knew that there was no affordable housing requirement attached.

Czajkowski said so much time is used discussing the affordable housing issue and millions of dollars are being spent on it, so the code should address affordable housing.

“It is absolutely no surprise that there is no affordable housing,” Czajkowski said.

The height of the building, which is proposed to be six stories, also concerns some residents.

“All down East Franklin Street, you have modest-height buildings,” said Jill Ridky-Blackburn, a resident of the Coker Hills neighborhood.

“Do high-rises belong in Chapel Hill?”

There is also a concern among residents that the six-story building could potentially be visible at the greenway at Lower Booker Creek.

In addition to the height, the overall design of the proposed building has been criticized.

“The design I’ve seen so far is not inspiring,” Ridky-Blackburn said.

“It would detract from the charm of Chapel Hill.”

Czajkowski described the proposed building as “a monolithic hulk.”

“I don’t see how anyone can celebrate it for its architectural features,” Czajkowski said.

Both Czajkowski and Wittmayer said the concerns about the mixed-use development stem from the form-based code.

“There were horrible flaws in the code when it was approved,” Czajkowski said.

“It was rushed to approval with no clear reasons as to why.”

While the form-based code encourages development, it allows potentially controversial buildings to be constructed in town, Wittmayer said.

“Generally, I think form-based code can be a good planning tool if it’s well written because it streamlines the development review process, and gives both the developer and community certainty on what can be built,” Wittmayer said.

“Unfortunately, our form-based code is poorly conceived, and most importantly lacks an accompanying comprehensive urban design plan for the district.”

city@dailytarheel.com



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