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Chapel Hill residents say high-rise developments change town's character

The group — called the Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town, or CHALT — wants to preserve the town’s small-town character and uphold values important to residents, such as inclusion, environmental consciousness and commitment to public education.

CHALT has planned a series of kickoff events, starting Sunday with a program called “What Makes Chapel Hill a Livable Town?”. The event will be held at the Chapel Hill Public Library from 1 to 3 p.m.

David Schwartz, an organizer of the group and lifelong Chapel Hill resident, said CHALT is especially interested in hearing the opinions of students, who often don’t have much of a voice in town matters.

“One very important group of voices we haven’t yet heard are students,” Schwartz said. “We consider them to be very important stakeholders.”

Schwartz said recently enacted policies haven’t reflected residents’ values.

“There was a sizable segment of the population that had some strong reservations about some of the decisions that have been made about new development, the scale of it, the mix of commercial versus residential,” he said.

Chapel Hill resident Ann Loftin, also a member of the group, said she worries Chapel Hill is heading in the direction of Ann Arbor, Mich., where a boom of high-end residential development has priced many residents and University of Michigan students out of the market.

“It’s rich, which is what we’re going to see on Franklin Street if we’re not careful,” Loftin said.

Schwartz said several recent Chapel Hill developments are following that same pattern by specifically catering to upper-class students.

“They even call it LUX, lest there be any confusion about who they’re appealing to,” Schwartz said.

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