After Duke Forest acquired 27 acres of land off Eubanks Road and stopped plans for development in November, officials in Carrboro said creating a comprehensive plan for development is a high priority.
Trish McGuire, planning director for the Town of Carrboro, said the Town approached eligible property owners for a design workshop in 2011 about possible development projects, including the Eubanks Road site. According to the workshop report released by the Town of Carrboro in 2012, there was a plan to develop housing and commercial space on the land. However, due to concerns about environmental effects, this site will now be preserved as part of Duke Forest.
“We are excited to add this acreage to the Duke Forest’s Blackwood Division, which is critical to our research mission,” Duke Forest officials said in a statement. “The Blackwood Division has long been an important national and international destination for studies related to climate change, atmospheric chemistry, ecosystem health and more.”
Duke Today, a publication written by faculty and staff at Duke University, explained that the planned development would have interfered with long-term research being conducted near the site, and it would have prevented the installation of a major piece of equipment that measures atmospheric carbon molecules and other greenhouse gases.
Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle said balancing environmental concerns with plans for development is always a concern.
“It became evident to everyone, including the developer, that it made more sense to at least put part of that property in preservation,” Lavelle said. “Ultimately, the developer decided to put the whole piece in preservation.”
Lavelle said the Town would be engaging residents and stakeholders in the community to help develop a new comprehensive plan, which would help the Town better identify areas they would want to preserve versus areas that would be appropriate for residential or commercial development.
“I think that the whole process involving that piece of land emphasizes the importance for Carrboro to undergo the creation of a comprehensive land plan,” Lavelle said. “We are going to be doing that over the next couple of years."
McGuire said population density of Carrboro will be considered during the development of the comprehensive plan. The Chamber for a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro 2017 State of the Community Report found that, although Carrboro has only 2% of the land in Orange County, it has 16% of the housing units.
But McGuire said a high population density is not necessarily indicative of a negative economic impact.
“One of the questions that we will look at to see what kind of future this community is envisioning will look more deeply at the economics of various population density scenarios,” she said.
McGuire said the current population density of Carrboro has resulted in some positive development for the community. She said the compact development in some areas has allowed for the Town to have a higher population and a viable transit service.
Although the Eubanks Road project will not continue, there are other projects that have been permitted or are under construction in Carrboro, including the rezoning of Rogers Road, McGuire said.
According to a draft zoning strategies outline released in January, the Rogers Road Zoning Standards Project is a joint effort between the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Some of the project's stated intents include socioeconomic and cultural diversity, greater residential housing choices, and preserving the natural character of the neighborhood.
Lavelle said Carrboro has a rural buffer around it, and it is its responsibility to protect the rural character of the county. She said the Town intends to develop with sound and appropriate policy, and she wants the community to keep an eye out for the upcoming planning process.
“We are in the process of engaging a professional group that can help guide us through this,” Lavelle said. “I want everyone to pay attention to that and give feedback.”
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