The Northside and Pine Knolls Community Plan Working Group was created in 2012 to come up with a long term plan for the community, but property owners say they’ve been left out of many of the group’s discussions.
“They aren’t represented on this committee or any other committee,” said Bob Lincoln, who owns seven rental properties in Northside. “I don’t think it’s fair or that the decisions will be very balanced because of that.”
The committee is comprised of staff from the town; the Jackson Center, which chronicles the history of Northside and advocates for its preservation; EmPOWERment, Inc., a Chapel Hill-based organization that connects people to affordable housing; and other community organizations and residents.
Lincoln said those organizations are important voices that need to be respected when it comes to the neighborhood, but there are other groups that have a stake in decision-making.
He said most Northside residences are rentals owned by investors and many tenants are students, despite the neighborhood being a historically black, low-income community.
“The landlords are trying to create a good place and many of us think Northside has become a much better place than 10 years ago,” he said. “I just don’t think the town respects the students enough and the contribution they make.”
Northside landlord Mark Patmore, who owns Mercia Residential Properties, said the town should appoint a permanent Northside neighborhood committee and require that one member be a property owner.
“The neighborhood belongs to property owners — we own the neighborhood,” he said. “Let’s say they ban duplexes and you want to build one and now you can’t — that has a direct financial impact to the property.”
Chapel Hill Town Council members say property owners have been provided opportunities to speak out.
“Since I have been on council, every formal change on town ordinances impacting Northside has happened after public forums that the town invites anyone and everyone to weigh in on,” said council member Lee Storrow.
Council member Maria Palmer said the town doesn’t want to exclude anyone from the conversation.
“It is not some secret meeting or some people planning changes,” she said.
But Patmore said property owners are often not included until the council has already decided what to do.
“We are not represented and when we are invited in to the equation there have been meetings for years behind our backs,” he said.
Lincoln said one recent issue property owners have been affected by is stricter parking limits.
“There were thousands of signatures and we never heard one word from the Town Council,” he said about a petition that was created to stop the parking restrictions.
Students and landlords have also advocated for allowing more than four unrelated people to occupy the residences in the neighborhood.
“I think we are always going to have a hard time and there are many pressures,” Storrow said. “We are never going to find a perfect solution that makes everyone happy.”