BY Gregory Hall
Town of Chapel Hill and University consider joint development project
The town of Chapel Hill and the university held a joint meeting to discuss a possible new development.
The Town of Chapel Hill and UNC held a neighborhood meeting Monday night about the possibility of a new development on Estes Drive directly across from the University's RR parking lot.
The meeting included a presentation of preliminary plans followed by questions and concerns from those currently living in the neighborhood adjacent to the land being considered for the development. The meeting was led by Mary Jane Nirdlinger, executive director for the Town of Chapel Hill's Department of Planning and Sustainability.
The plans include three or four buildings ranging from 20,000 to 80,000 square feet for the Chapel Hill Police Department, Chapel Hill Fire Department and Chapel Hill Department of Parks and Recreation, along with parking space.
“The town has a police station that is really not in good condition," Nirdlinger said. "We also have our parks and recreation administration in some trailers behind the community center, and our fire administration staff is in some pretty poor facilities."
The land that is currently allotted for the development is owned by UNC, meaning the University would be leasing it to the town.
“This process is complicated by the fact that we’re trying to do this in partnership with the University, so what’s less clear to me is the timeline,” Nirdlinger said.
She said the plan could change depending on the feedback they receive from concerned citizens.
Chapel Hill residents' main concerns were increased storm water runoff, noise and light pollution, the nuisances of construction and how the town plans to place a buffer between the development and the nearby neighborhood.
“I would like to reiterate the storm water runoff issue because we already have that problem in this neighborhood, and however this is configured, the amount of impervious surface being introduced is only going to exacerbate an existing problem," said Joanna Smith, a resident of the neighborhood next to the proposed lot.
Another major concern was what kind of buffer the town plans to build to attempt to limit the amount of noise and light pollution the development will produce, which was brought up by Chapel Hill resident Tim Williams.
“My particular concern is about the buffer and what that means,” Williams said. “Does it mean a few spindly trees that sort of look pleasant, but don’t really buffer, or is it a substantial buffer that really would address noise and light issues?”
Not all of the comments were skeptical of this development. Paul Killough, who has lived on Justice Street — the street next to the lot — for 40 years, welcomed the new development.
“I think that if the University and the town want to develop this — if they act like a University and a town and do it right — then I, for one, am comfortable with that,” he said.
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