The Carrboro Town Council voted in favor of the ArtsCenter’s relocation and renovation request, 6-1, in a meeting on Tuesday.
After hearing public comment and approving the consent agenda, the council discussed the Special Use Permit-A application for the ArtsCenter’s relocation to and renovation of an existing building at 400 Roberson St. The ArtsCenter is currently located at 300 E. Main St. in Carrboro.
The public hearing for this decision was held on May 24. However, due to Carrboro Mayor Damon Seils' absence at the May 24 meeting, the vote was pushed to this Tuesday.
The ArtsCenter’s new home is 17,143 square feet and boasts an auditorium, painting studio, youth center and various other spaces for artists.
According to Tom Tolley, a North Carolina certified general appraiser, the renovations are unlikely to negatively impact any of the property values of the surrounding properties.
"It’s liable to enhance (surrounding properties) based on the better lighting and the programs that will be brought there for folks that would want to live near an art facility like that," he said in the May 24 meeting.
Tolley added that the renovation of the existing building at 400 North Roberson St. will enhance any residential and commercial properties that are around the site after it is complete.
Mayor Pro Tempore Susan Romaine thanked the applicant team for the center for going above requirements by adding new bike racks, preparing the roof to be solar-ready and providing electric vehicle charging stations.
“I just think of this as being a great bicycle hub with that connectivity to the Libba Cotten (Bikeway) – lots of kids coming and hopefully being able to bicycle,” Romaine said.
Community members residing in houses neighboring the new facility raised concerns about child safety and bus traffic at the May 24 hearing. To solve these issues, buses will drop off children in the ArtsCenter parking lot.
Another issue with the application that was discussed at the May 24 meeting was the possibility of widening the existing sidewalk to the current standard for downtown, which is 10 feet.
A speaker for the applicant team at the meeting said that the center's applicant, engineering and architecture firm Coulter Jewell Thames, P.A., is not supportive of widening the sidewalk at this time but can accommodate for it to be added in the future. The council then discussed setting aside funds so that a sidewalk could be widened at a later date.
Carrboro Development Review Administrator Marty Roupe said that in order to provide the documentation, an estimate of the cost of the proposed sidewalk would have to be conducted by an engineer. Town Attorney Nick Herman said that this would push construction on the ArtsCenter project back for an unknown length of time.
Carrboro Town Council member Danny Nowell made the motion to approve the project, seconded by newly-elected Carrboro Town Council Eliazar Posada.
“This seems like a wonderful project for a wonderful long-time Town partner in a better location than they have previously considered, and I would really hate for us to sit by on red tape,” Nowell said.
Town Council member Sammy Slade argued that there is not enough justification for the sidewalk not to be enlarged.
Nowell said “60 square feet of sidewalk” should not hold up months of work.
The motion was passed, 6-1. The only dissenting vote was from Slade, who said he supports the ArtsCenter but is concerned about the sidewalk issue.
“I’m all for the ArtsCenter, I just really believe and have too often seen the 10-foot sidewalk land use ordinance ignored in large part because there are so many nonprofits in our downtown that we want to support them and expedite things," Slade said. "I think tonight we could have requested and required this of the applicant without having to wait over the summer, and for that reason I am voting no, knowing it is going to pass anyway.”
Seils agreed that this question has come up before and the Town needs to come up with a better solution for future projects.
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