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Chapel Hill Town Council considers future of police station, possible apartments

The Chapel Hill Police Department entrance sign pictured on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2022.

The Chapel Hill Town Council discussed the possibility of developing a municipal services center at the current Chapel Hill Police Department site and decided against the construction of an apartment complex at 701 M.L.K. Jr. Boulevard at their Wednesday night meeting.

What’s new?

  • Interim Town Manager Chris Blue and Deputy Town Manager Mary Jane Nirdlinger shared updates on the Municipal Service Center project at 828 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd., the current location of the Chapel Hill Police Department.
    • Nirdlinger said the Town has been working with the state to address the presence of coal ash at the site. Currently, she said the Town is waiting on guidance from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality on how to proceed with mitigating the effects of coal ash before moving forward with the project.
    • “We need to do something with the coal ash that's not just constructing on top of it,” UNC undergraduate student and Pittsboro native Ember Penney said. “Because as one of the former speakers mentioned, having coal ash just sit there, it will eventually leach to groundwater, it will leach into Bolin Creek, which will then end up in Jordan Lake — which Pittsboro actually sources its drinking water from.”
  • The Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness (OCPEH) shared updates and accomplishments the organization made last year. Sarah Viñas, the director of affordable housing and community connections, introduced the presentation before turning it over to OCPEH manager Rachel Waltz.
    • Viñas said OCPEH amended its memorandum of understanding to add Town Council and staff representation on its leadership team, as well as outlining a plan for the Town and County to jointly fund three positions within the partnership.
    • Waltz said Orange County’s shelter and transitional housing resources served 312 individuals in the fiscal year 2022 — about 40 fewer than the previous year due to reductions in shelter capacity.
    • Furthermore, over 50 percent of people who were unhoused in Orange County last year identified as Black or African-American, a group that makes up 12 percent of the county’s total population.
  • The consideration of a conditional zoning application for Aspen Heights apartments at 701 Martin Luther King. Jr. Blvd. was discussed for a large portion of the meeting. 
    • The apartment complex would include 14 affordable units with 10 designated for tenants who earn 65 percent of the Area Median Income and four for tenants who earn 80 percent of the AMI.
    • Councilmember Michael Parker said he would like for the Aspen Heights project to include a stipulation that the affordable units would be restricted to non-students in the community.
    • Melissa Johnson Lankford, a Chapel Hill resident, said her family has lived near the site of the proposed project for multiple generations. She said she and her parents support the project.
    • “We've been excited about what's to come here,” she said. “We've waited for this vision to be green-lighted. The investment of time and hope have continued to move us forward.”
    • Aaron Nelson, president and CEO of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, said developing more student housing in Chapel Hill would prevent other affordable neighborhoods from being taken over by students.
    • “When we build new student housing, the students move out of others and they leave behind some of the units to be backfilled,” he said.

What decisions were made?

  • Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger introduced a resolution that the council unanimously adopted in opposition of Senate Bill 49, the “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” in order to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community. 
  • The resolution to provide that the Town would be reimbursed for municipal center development at 828 MLK Jr. Blvd. expenses passed 7-1 with Councilmember Adam Searing voting against it.
  • The zoning application for the Aspen apartment building at 701 MLK Jr. Blvd. failed in a 4-4 vote.

What’s next?

  • Advisory board applications are now open for the Town of Chapel Hill.
  • The Town Council will meet again on March 15.


@DTHCityState | 

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