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Saturday June 3rd

After decades of delays, plans for the Greene Tract are finally moving forward

The Greene Tract is an undeveloped 164 acre property north of Chapel Hill on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019.
Buy Photos The Greene Tract owned by Orange County, Carrboro and Chapel Hill has new plans for its development as of a July 2019 town meeting.

After years of extensive meetings and exhaustive debate, the governments of Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County passed a resolution to address the future of the Greene Tract project.

For residents of surrounding communities such as the Rogers-Eubanks neighborhood, the proposed developments include affordable housing units, mixed-use space, a nature preserve and a school. And they are a long time coming.

Development on parts of the land has been in discussion since it was purchased jointly by the three governments in 1984.

Delores Bailey, executive director of EmPOWERment and a longtime Rogers-Eubanks resident, urged the government bodies to work quickly. She said the project’s timeline extension was unfair to community members.

"I don't find that acceptable, and I think we can do better than that," Bailey said to the Orange County Board of Commissioners at its meeting on Tuesday.

At their respective meetings, the governments all acknowledged how frustrating the lack of progress on the tract had been.

Orange County Commissioner Earl McKee urged the board to pass the resolution despite concerns about land use details.

"I realize we're moving like a herd of turtles on this," McKee said at the meeting. "We've been working on this for 10 years.” 

The resolution was delayed in July 2019 after the Chapel Hill Town Council approved a different version of the resolution than its counterparts.

This revised resolution also had some last-minute changes. Carrboro amended the resolution this week to honor the work of the Historic Rogers Road Neighborhood Task Force’s 2013 report, and Chapel Hill added an amendment to call for community input.

Many public officials, including Orange County Commissioner Jamezetta Bedford, were adamant about the need for the public to remain informed on plans for the area. Leaders from all three jurisdictions spoke out on the matter.  

“If this is actually about what the land uses are, and more, I would think the public absolutely should be giving input and have a formal opportunity for hearings,” Bedford said.  

Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle expressed her excitement for the collaboration.

“The property is a unique opportunity for the jurisdictions to come together and provide a variety of housing in a manner that is perhaps more cost-effective than others because we own the property,” Lavelle said. 

If no agreement can be reached on the property's use, the land may have to be partitioned among Chapel Hill, Orange County and Carrboro. But Orange County Attorney John Roberts said this “nuclear option” was not ideal.

“That would be the final option that nobody wants, and hopefully we don’t ever get there,” Roberts said.

For neighborhood, town and county leaders, the resolution is hopefully one of the final steps toward a developed Greene Tract. Lavelle said she hopes this resolution is the first step in the project’s faster, more inclusive future. 

“My goal is, as it has been for many years, to be a little bit more expedient and really clear,” she said. 

Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said she is hopeful that this triply-approved resolution hails the final chapter of the Greene Tract story.

“I’m pragmatic that if we continue on these steps we’ll get to the end,” Hemminger said.

In the Rogers-Eubanks neighborhood and other surrounding communities, the hope is that this project begins before its 20th year. 

"Just understand, our hearts are heavy to have this resolved in some way," Bailey said.

The three entities will discuss the future of the project at the Jan. 28 Assembly of Governments. 

@sclaire_perry | @GMolero1

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