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Senior housing project on Homestead Road has been in the works for years

town development
The Courtyards at Homestead Road is one of Chapel Hill's new development projects that the town has been discussing recently.

A project being developed on Homestead Road has fueled discussion and interest in Chapel Hill, as the Town of Chapel Hill decides how to proceed.

The project will be a 190 unit retirement apartment development on just under 16 acres of area. Originally, four floors were planned for the building, but it has now been changed to three floors.

There will be an affordable housing element included in the project, which will cater toward senior citizens.

The Town requested that 20 units in the development complex be made available for affordable housing. These units would be reserved for 30 years for residents making 60 percent of the area median income. Richard Gurlitz, the owner of Gurlitz Architectural Group, which is developing the project, explained that the affordable housing units aren't going to affect how the project is developed.

“The affordable units are not designated units, meaning that all units in the building will be built to the same standards, and the affordable ones will simply be any unit that is available at any given time,” he said.

Gurlitz said that although the project is still in the planning stages, the developers are in the final steps of presenting proposals to the Town. Loryn Clark, executive director of housing and community at the Town, said the company is requesting rezoning of the property and applying for a special use permit.

"Essentially, there are two pieces to it. They are asking for a rezoning of the property, so that they can build more densely on the site," Clark said. "The second piece of that, the separate action the council would have to take to approve what's called the special use permit, which allows the specific guidelines that govern the development that could occur on the property."

The project began in September 2017, and there have been nine subsequent meetings to discuss progress. The council recently met on Jan. 30 to hear neighbors' concerns but couldn't come to an agreement, so it postponed discussion until Feb. 13. At that meeting, they postponed again because they weren't satisfied with the information the applicant provided.

While there have been some concerns expressed about the project, Gurlitz said in an email that there have been ongoing discussions between the firm and the people in the neighborhood, like another senior housing community nearby called The Courtyards.

“The neighbors at The Courtyards are in support of the project," he said. "The Home Owners Association president spoke at the last public hearing in support.”

Gurlitz added that, following the dialogues between the company and the neighbors, some of the feedback will now be incorporated into the plan. Gurlitz said one of the reasons the project now has support is because the neighbors have greater familiarity with it. Elements like the 55+ designation for senior residency have received support from the community.

Gurlitz and Clark both stressed increased traffic as one of the main concerns of the project. Clark said there's a need to address the lack of connectivity between the site of the project and The Courtyard.

“This has a major impact on traffic," Gurlitz said.

Finally, there are also some concerns about stormwater, which have been discussed in previous meetings for the project. Gurlitz quelled these concerns, arguing the project is designed to accommodate stormwater and meets Town and state stormwater ordinances.

The council suspended the discussion on the project until a later unknown date.


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