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Chapel Hill Town Council discusses LUMO change in work session

Chapel Hill Town Hall pictured on Saturday, March 6th, 2021.

During a work session on April 10, the Chapel Hill Town Council met to discuss controversial changes to housing ordinances in the Town.

What's new?

  • Anya Grahn-Federmack, a Town planner, presented the Housing Choices for a Complete Community amendment to the council.
    • The proposed text amendment would change the current Land Use Management Ordinance, which has historically encouraged detached, owner-occupied single-family houses and renter-occupied multi-family housing.
      • According to Grahn-Federmack, the purpose of this project is to “clean up” the ordinance, diversify housing types, increase housing production, encourage compatible infill and promote gentle density.
      • Town staff presented housing types to fill “missing middle” housing; the proposed types included accessory apartments, duplexes, cottages on compact lots, triplexes, quadruplexes and cottage courts.
    • Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger opened council comments and questions by acknowledging the need for more housing in Chapel Hill. 
      • “We are landlocked and we agreed not to sprawl,” Hemminger said. “That means that in order to meet these housing demands, we’re going to have to look for ways to do it inside our community.” 
      • Council member Amy Ryan asked for an economic analysis of the proposed new housing and suggested looking at townhomes instead of duplexes.
    • Council member Jessica Anderson said those conversations between the community and Town staff on housing were not done properly and there are many misconceptions about what the Town is doing.
    • Mayor Pro Tempore Karen Stegman expressed concern about the lack of variety in public input Town staff received. She said most of the feedback has been from certain demographics and would like to see broader input on the project going forward.
    • Council member Adam Searing said there is an equity issue surrounding new development in single-family home neighborhoods. He said some wealthier neighborhoods have the organization and money to hire attorneys to exempt themselves from new development.
      • In response to Searing, Tasmaya Lagoo, a senior planner for the Town of Chapel Hill, asked the council whether they want to perpetuate exclusionary policies or not.
    • Searing also asked why the Town's staff is putting in the effort to present these diverse options when it may not actually produce many more units.
    • Lagoo said that although the Town is seeing the most housing production in developments with over 100 units, this does not mean the Town should stop considering other types of housing developments.
      • “It is not an either/or, it is a yes/and,” Lagoo said. 
    • Searing said the plan is not effective and suggested tabling the proposal to focus on more effective developments such as townhome developments.
    • Council member Tai Huynh said he thinks the Town should move away from perpetuating exclusionary policies. He also said the name of the plan is very intentional with what the council and staff are trying to implement.
      • “It’s very intentional that we’re calling this ‘housing choices’ because, at the end of the day, we’re just trying to allow for a greater number of choices for members of our community or people who want to be members of our community,” Huynh said. 
    • Council member Paris Miller-Foushee said the Town Council and staff need to think about the historical context of Chapel Hill’s zoning when moving forward with the proposal. 
      • “We cannot talk about the now without talking about how we got here,” Miller-Foushee said. 
    • Council member Camille Berry said a community member said before the meeting that planners should be required to own property in Chapel Hill. Berry said the comment was disrespectful and does not represent what Chapel Hill hopes to be.
      • "We are not asking our staff to consider ways of how to dismantle the community," she said. "We are asking our staff to figure out ways to enrich the community by bringing in more people."
    • Hemminger said she planned to meet with Interim Town Manager Chris Blue on Tuesday to discuss when this housing plan will come back to the council.  

What’s next?

  • The Chapel Hill Town Council will meet on April 19 for a Town Council meeting. There will not be a council meeting on April 12 in observance of Passover.


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