The 36-acre lot is located near the Ephesus-Fordham area and is currently under contract with Woodfield Acquisitions LLC for $10 million, who have plans to build an apartment complex with 600 luxury units on the land.
Largely undeveloped, the council opened up a conversation about the future of the lot.
Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said in an email that the future of the American Legion lot was brought up during a work session to see what council members thought should be done to the land and to explore other options for the land.
“What I heard from members of the council is that they are interested in exploring other options and that, before weighing proposals or exploring options, they would like to have additional information about the property, infrastructure and how it will fit in with future growth in that area of town,” Hemminger said.
Council member Nancy Oates said in an email that the council has no power to interfere with the actual deal between Woodfield Acquisitions and the American Legion.
But Oates also said that the land would need to be rezoned to allow for high-density residential zoning before the apartments could be built.
Oates added that the Town Council had not guaranteed that the land would be rezoned.
Council member Michael Parker said that he thinks the council members need to take a step back and need to look at the entire area surrounding the lot and think about the development in terms of how the area will develop in the next several years.
He said that the American Legion lot is large enough to be used for a mixed-use development.
“I see it more as let’s, as a council, and ultimately as a town, think about what might be a really beneficial mix of uses on that site,” Parker said.
Some of the land is part of a conservation district where no development is allowed, but Parker said there are still around 20 acres of land that can be used for development.
Bill Munsee, American Legion Post 6 commander, said in an email he could not comment on any scenario while the American Legion is under contract with Woodfield Acquisitions.
Munsee said that the land was offered to the town at a lower price of $9 million, but that offer was refused in a closed session held by the Town Council on Nov. 9.
Munsee also said the American Legion is focused on serving the needs of younger veterans, which is not possible with the current building the organization has on Legion Road.
“It is the obligation of the American Legion to preserve the legacy of our forefathers who resided in Chapel Hill,” Munsee said.
Both Hemminger and Oates said the council is taking a proactive approach to the development of the land rather than simply reacting to a developer’s proposal.
“We want to assess what the town needs then find someone willing to provide it,” Oates said in an email.