The Chapel Hill Town Council moved forward with two affordable housing projects during their Jan. 12 meeting.
A proposed affordable housing site on Trinity Court — just south of Umstead Park — would provide 54 apartments for those making between 30 and 80 percent of the median Chapel Hill income. Trinity Court’s existing buildings, which include 40 affordable housing units, were abandoned in 2017 and 2018.
The project would cost $9.3 million.
A second proposed affordable housing complex on Jay Street would yield 48 residential units. Members of the public expressed concerns during the meeting over road width and pedestrian safety in the Jay Street area, citing a Chapel Hill traffic study that determined the development would cause more cars to travel on the surrounding streets.
The study found that if the Jay Street apartments were built, there would be 254 more vehicle trips on the adjacent streets each day.
“I expect the increased traffic from the Jay Street apartments to profoundly affect the ability of people who live on these Village West streets to be able to get out onto Village Drive to go anywhere,” a long-time resident of the nearby Village West said in the meeting.
Chapel Hill Town Council member Adam Searing said he also had concerns about the Jay Street development and said that it should continue to be used as green space. Searing was the sole vote against the Jay Street development.
“I’ve looked at both of these projects and thought about them for quite a while, and I really do support Trinity Court moving forward ... but the Jay Street project I have some pretty serious questions about,” Searing said in the meeting. “I originally started by supporting this project, and as I learn more and more about it, I think we’re really making a mistake.”
The council approved both resolutions and provided site control to the developers of the sites, allowing them to apply for tax credit programs that would aid the cost of the projects.
South Creek Mixed-Use Project
A third development, the South Creek Mixed Use Project, would bring about 650 dwellings to an area in southern Chapel Hill across U.S. Highway 15-501 from Southern Village — an existing residential and commercial space. Currently, the location does not include affordable housing.
The representative for the developer produced a concept plan which the council reviewed at the Wednesday meeting.
The currently undeveloped South Creek lot, which is about 120 acres, would include 40 acres of residential space, offices, commercial buildings and necessary parking. The remaining 80 acres would be used as a nature preserve.
Rebecca Vidra is a senior lecturer in Duke University’s Nicholas School for the Environment who lives near the South Creek lot. She expressed concerns about the steep slope of the property near Wilson Creek which runs through the middle of the South Creek Mixed Use lot.
“What happens when you build on these slopes is that you cause an incredible amount of runoff,” Vidra said. “Once the development is done, it will continue to have runoff, so you have increased water and increased pollution. All the contaminants from roofs and driveways and roads are going to be basically rushing in, cascading down into Wilson Creek.”
Vidra also said with increasing storms due to climate change, the proposed nature preserve that contains Wilson Creek would not help with flood control.
Lee Bowman, the local land development representative for the developer Beechwood Homes, said the architects and planners hope to provide a wide variety of townhomes and condominiums.
“Our goal is to hit that missing middle that you all have talked about and identified in a couple different studies here recently,” Bowman said.
Council Member Jessica Anderson said the distinction between dwelling types and income levels is important. The Town should be prioritizing the latter in considering housing developments.
“Talking through with our housing and community and looking for that middle income will be really important and very needed,” Anderson said in the meeting.
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