Rodrigo Parra giggled as he ran around the gravel lot with his friends, releasing energy after a long day of class. His school, Frank Porter Graham Elementary, just reopened after several snow days. The 11-year-old looked, acted and played like any other fifth grade student. The next day, however, he did what most elementary students don’t have to; he fought for his home.
“I had my first steps here, and I don’t want to move,” Parra said through tears while standing on a podium facing the Chapel Hill Town Council. “I had all my memories here. My parents are scared. We don’t have nowhere to move.”
Developers presented a concept plan to the Chapel Hill Town Council Jan. 24 for the construction of a luxury apartment complex on land where the Lakeview Mobile Home Park currently resides.
The sale of the Lakeview property threatens the residents of 33 mobile homes and 2 duplexes. If the town approves the development in later months, Lakeview residents will face relocation.
Ninfa Parra, the mother of Rodrigo Parra, said she doesn’t know where her family will go if they cannot live in Lakeview.
“We were very excited when we moved in,” Parra said through a translator. “The transportation takes me to meetings at schools and the kids’ doctors appointments because I don’t have a license to drive. Everything is close for my needs.”
The town contacted Lakeview residents about the potential sale of the land via letter in early December. The letter encouraged residents to come to council meetings on Dec. 18, 2017 and Jan. 24, 2018 to view the developer’s presentations and give comments.
Over 20 community members signed up to speak at the Jan. 24 meeting, including Lakeview parents, children and representatives from the Orange County NAACP.
Hanover Company, a private real estate company located in Houston, Texas, presented the concept plan for a mixed-use development with office and retail space as well as rental housing which will be called Hanover Chapel Hill. The development plan includes 400,000 square feet for 303 apartments, 18 townhouses and 5,000 square feet of retail space.
A concept plan is not an application, but rather a chance for community members and town council members to provide feedback for a potential application.
At the council meeting, Bo Buchanan, director of property management for Hanover Company, said the company made no attempts to contact Lakeview residents. He also said, with the current plan, residents would need to relocate by June 30, 2019.
Buchanan refused to comment after the Chapel Hill Town Council meeting Jan. 24 because he felt too emotionally drained.
Residents said they found a “For Sale” sign near their neighborhood almost a year ago. When they asked Rick Soles of Rick Soles Property Management, the company to which they pay rent, about the sign, they said they were told to not worry about it.
“When they went to go pay their rent, they would ask Rick Soles, they would ask him, ‘Are you selling?’ and he would say no,” said Mariela Hernandez, zone 6 navigator for the Orange County Family Success Alliance and advocate for the Lakeview community.
County records list Spike II LLC, a company owned by Gregg Ireland of Chapel Hill, as the land owner of the Lakeview property. The Daily Tar Heel could not contact Ireland or Rick Soles Property Management.
The Hanover Chapel Hill concept plan includes a pledge of $75,000 to help with the relocation of current residents. Buchanon presented no relocation plan but said Hanover Company plans to work with the Housing Advisory Board to create one.
The concept plan sets aside 15 percent of the housing units as affordable.The least-expensive affordable-housing option at Hanover Chapel Hill would be affordable to a family making $40,435 per year.
The DTH asked seven Lakeview residents who said they could not afford to live in the affordable housing options at Hanover Chapel Hill.
Hernandez said most residents own their mobile homes and pay around $450 per month to rent the land.
Residents expressed concerns about their children moving schools, a lack of access to public transportation and a lack of access to UNC Hospitals. Council members emphasized the importance of trying to keep the students within Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.
While the sale of the Lakeview property came as a surprise to mobile home residents, council members admitted they knew development on the property could happen.
The Chapel Hill 2020 Land Use Plan identified the over-10-acre property for potential redevelopment.
Council members addressed the lack of communication with Lakeview residents at the meeting.
“I also feel, speaking for myself, that we owe all of you an apology,” Chapel Hill Town Council member Michael Parker said. “We’ve known that this was coming. We didn’t know when — we didn’t know exactly where — but we’ve known for a while that our trailer park land was getting too valuable to resist what developers want to do there. We should have had a plan and we don’t.”
Though the council members expressed dissatisfaction with the concept plan, Mayor Pro Tem Jessica Anderson told residents at the meeting that she thinks relocation will most likely happen.
“If we don’t go forward with this plan, I’m afraid that the person that owns that land will get you out of there very quickly so that they don’t have to deal with you anymore,” Anderson said.
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