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New Senate bill requires changes to Northside district

Northside, a historically black, low-income neighborhood, consists mostly of single-family homes that sell for prices below average housing cost in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

“It’s the most incredible, diverse, caring neighborhood,” said Hudson Vaughan, deputy director of the Jackson Center and resident of Northside neighborhood.

The conservation district was originally established in 2004 to preserve the character of Northside by restricting the sizes of new homes, prohibiting most new duplexes and encouraging compatibility between new and old developments.

The bill, signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory in June, will require the town to change district regulations to align with changes made on the state level.

The areas that are affected by the bill are the bedroom and bathroom ratio and some regulations on design, Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said.

The regulation that units with more than two bedrooms may not exceed a one-to-one ratio of bedrooms to bathrooms will be removed.

Also, there will no longer be a mandatory review process for concept plans in single-family homes and duplexes because of the bill.

“Houses will be renovated to be more attractive as rental properties instead of family homes,” Kleinschmidt said. “These were two things we were trying to avoid, and that’s going to hurt the neighborhood.”

Some of the amendments are optional and came about from conversations with residents and a feeling they were inconsistent with goals of the conservation district, said Loryn Clark, executive director for Housing and Community in Chapel Hill.

Some of the optional amendments include increasing the size of duplexes that are restricted for affordable housing and encouraging energy efficient buildings.

“Some of (the amendments) are really good and make a lot of sense, like (adjusting) duplex sizes,” Vaughan said. “Some are more controversial, like changing the concept plan review process.”

Kleinschmidt said he is unhappy with the required changes, but he sees the value in the optional changes.

“The (amendments) we have to make, those hurt,” Kleinschmidt said. “I think it’s disappointing that we have to do this. But I’m glad our staff is constantly working on ways to make the Neighborhood Conservation District work better. Still, I’m not quite sure what the council is going to do.”


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