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Fate of Northside conservation district questioned

Northside became the first conservation district in Chapel Hill in 2004. The town issues special regulations for the district to preserve the character of the neighborhood.

Limitations on property size, the number of tenants in one house and parking have been an issue for some Northside property owners.

The petition asks for the town to poll Northside property owners about the possibility of getting rid of the district.

Bob Lincoln, a Northside landlord who owns seven rental properties in the neighborhood, said property owners have had no representation in town discussions.

“Most of Northside is owned by investors,” Lincoln said. “They are the driving force behind this petition, and they would like to have their voices represented at Town Council.”

Northside property owner Adam Brown said the town has broken its own guidelines.

A document from the town planning department states that the town cannot institute regulations concerning affordability or attempt to influence the proportion of rental versus owner-occupied property.

“Yet here we are in 2015 with a corrupted NCD that has broken each of those promises,” Brown said.

Although Lincoln said there were at least five property owners who sent in similar petitions, Mark Patmore, owner of Mercia Residential Properties, sent the official petition.

“We were never actually given a vote for the conservation district,” Patmore said. “The district was actually imposed on us. Every other conservation district, they voted to have it.”

Council member Maria Palmer said some of Patmore’s requests go against how the town manages its communities.

“Just because he owns property there, he doesn’t get to decide about the policies for the whole of Chapel Hill or even the neighborhood his property is in,” Palmer said.

Lincoln said his biggest concern is to address the town’s discrimination against students living in Northside.

“Their stated goal for Northside is to increase the number of families and limit the number of student housing,” Lincoln said.

Council member Lee Storrow said communication with Northside residents is imperative.

“There are many important stakeholders in the Northside neighborhood, and it’s important that we are using good communication techniques to make sure everybody feels informed and engaged,” Storrow said.

He said although he is open to making changes to the district, he does not wish to completely end it.

Patmore said the restrictions the town has placed on Northside are holding the neighborhood back.

“This is not a second-class neighborhood,” Patmore said. “So why should we be treated like second-class citizens?”

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