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Community support voiced for Rogers Road neighborhood zoning project

Residents of the Rogers Road community gathered on Saturday morning to celebrate the opening of a new facility that will serve as a place to gather and to nurture, educate and protect the children.
Residents of the Rogers Road community gathered on Saturday morning to celebrate the opening of a new facility that will serve as a place to gather and to nurture, educate and protect the children.

A public hearing was opened at Wednesday's Chapel Hill Town Council meeting for the movement to establish new zoning districts in the Historic Rogers Road neighborhood.

Corey Liles, principal planner for Town Building and Development Services, and Caroline Dwyer, a project manager for Renaissance Planning, opened the discussion by giving a presentation to the Town Council about the current state of the proposal. 

The zoning initiative can be traced back to a community report produced in May 2016 by the Roger-Eubanks Neighborhood Association, The Jackson Center (a community development organization), freelance cartographer Tim Stallmann and the Community Unity Board. 

The 44-page report contains four key goals for the future of the neighborhood: retaining families who have lived there for decades and generations, connecting residents with each other and the larger community, preserving socioeconomic and cultural diversity and respecting the physical and natural character of the neighborhood.

More specifically, as Liles and Dwyer stated during the town council meeting, the initiative contains plans to introduce ordinances for a maximum home size, prohibit commercial and retail areas from joining the neighborhood and support a wider range of home-based businesses.

RENA and those that drafted the 2016 report held various community-wide meetings in the process. Since October 2018, there have been six meetings to gauge public opinion, with between 15 to 35 residents or stakeholders attending each meeting.

One of those residents was minister and RENA President Robert Campbell. He and other residents attended the meeting to show their support for the zoning initiative and to speak on its behalf in front of the Council. 

Campbell was the first to speak when the forum was opened to the public at the Town Council meeting. He voiced his passion for his neighborhood and the zoning initiative to the Council Members.

“This is about mapping our future,” he said.

Campbell said he is concerned non-regulated development could lead to discrimination against community members.

“When we identify low-income housing or affordable housing, somehow through the conversation, discrimination comes up. That we are referred to as undesirables,” he said. “[W]e need affordable housing for the teachers that work in our community or law enforcement that work in our community. Are they undesirable?”

Residents attending Wednesday's meeting wore pieces of green tape to signify their support. They were joined by students, including Tai Huynh, a junior at UNC.

Huynh said in an email that he fully supports the work of the Historic Rogers Road community and supports the passing of the rezoning ordinance. 

“We all wore green tape to visually show the council that we were a part of the same group speaking with one voice in support of the rezoning ordinance,” he said. 

Members of the RENA community hope the initiative will help maintain the old community atmosphere of the Rogers Road neighborhood through new ordinances like a maximum home size that could help maintain socioeconomic and cultural diversity.

After Campbell finished speaking, other advocates of the zoning initiative spoke to the council about the necessity of the project. Many of the speakers emphasized the impact residents have made on the community, as well as the impact the community has made on them. 

“It’s going to take we the people in order for this community to become unified and working together for the whole community,” Campbell said.

The Town Council mainly asked logistical questions, and Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said she was glad to see so many people passionate about the initiative.

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