For comparison, the Streets at Southpoint development in Durham takes up about 1.3 million square feet of space.
Ed Harrison was the only member of the council to vote against approving the agreement. He said that although he thought the development seemed well designed, he remained uncertain about some of the traffic and transit issues that had been brought up by residents.
“I’m not ready to vote — on or for,” he said.
Other Town Council members said they thought delaying the vote would only postpone the inevitable.
“In my opinion, the development agreement is a balanced document,” council member Jim Ward said. “We’ve done our very best, and I think it shows in this document.”
Council member Donna Bell said it would not make sense to delay the vote like the council did at the last meeting because a lot of time and consideration had already gone into making the development agreement the best it could be.
“We are at a moment to make a decision,” she said. “This is either the plan, or it’s not the plan. If it is, accept that it is.”
Some residents spoke at the meeting about how they did not feel that their interests were being adequately represented by the Town Council.
Jennifer Newell, a resident of Zapata Lane in Chapel Hill, said she was concerned that the town did not seem to seriously consider a smaller development to minimize traffic impact. She said she did not feel supported by members of the council.
“I have felt over the past five years that we have to look after ourselves,” she said. “And it’s disappointing.”
Arthur Finn, who’s lived in Chapel Hill for 45 years, said he was concerned about the conflict of interest that could arise if the council was taking recommendations from East West Partners, the project’s developer.
“You people are elected officials. You’re supposed to do what we want you to do,” he said. “How can a person who makes a living putting up 90-foot buildings talk about what’s good for Chapel Hill?”
But Roger Perry, from East West Partners, said he thought the developers had taken care to propose plans that would be best for the town.
“There has been a great deal of analysis and study on this — six years worth,” he said.
Perry said the council has done a good job in considering residents’ concerns, taking advice from town staff and making adjustments to the agreement accordingly.
“I have great confidence in you,” he said. “In the face of uncertainty and fear on the part of others, you have consistently shown good judgement in what is best for the town.”
The development is predicted to be built over the next 20 years. It will eventually provide up to 800 apartments and townhouses, 475,000 square feet of retail space and 600,000 square feet of offices.
At the meeting, Town Council members also approved the creation of a zone that would allow the development and the rezoning of the site itself.
“We need to make the best possible choices in our opinion,” Bell said. “That’s not why we’re elected — to go with the easiest option.”