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Chapel Hill's LUMO update draft to be in front of town council by June 2024

A sign intended to protest against the Chapel Hill Town Council’s rezoning efforts stands in front of a home on Hillsborough Street, Chapel Hill on Tuesday, April 18, 2023.

The Chapel Hill Town Council will update its Land Use Management Ordinance — a document that outlines Chapel Hill's rules for development — over the next two years. The LUMO's regulations determine the design of streets, where parking lots are located, how stormwater infrastructure is laid out and more. 

This two-year plan to update the LUMO is called "Rewriting Our Rules" and will attempt to increase "missing middle housing," according to a report written by Town staff.

Andrew Whittemore, an associate professor in the UNC Department of City and Regional Planning, said the LUMO update is going to change the affordability of housing in the Town. 

"Affordable housing is never deliverable as a single-family house on a large lot," Whittemore said. "It always looks like a duplex or maybe a small town home or apartments."

Geoffrey Green is a planner with a private consulting firm in Chapel Hill and is a member of the Town's Planning Commission. 

Green said a land use ordinance determines what you can do with land and what types of buildings can be built there. This can include how far back from the street buildings need to be, how tall they can be, how much parking there is, whether a sidewalk needs to be built and all other things that govern how land is used in a municipality.

He said he thinks there is a general agreement that the current LUMO is poorly organized and difficult to understand. Green said he is in support of updating the LUMO because it is outdated.

"Hopefully the LUMO rewrite will make it so that it is easier to do the types of development that we want to see," Green said.

The town council voted to adopt the LUMO in 2003 and made minor changes to the set of regulations since then, but has not comprehensively updated it in the past 20 years. 

Camille Berry, a council member, said there is contradictory language in LUMO as it was written, which is why changing it is necessary.

"What we're trying to do is get to the point where there is not conflicting information within that ordinance, so that when our staff, and developers and landowners, anyone else looks to see what are the guidelines, that they are easy to understand," Berry said.

In fall and winter 2023, the council plans to review the first draft of the LUMO changes. After the council makes amendments, by fall 2024 and spring 2025, they plan to adopt the revised LUMO and implement it.

"I think in some neighborhoods, in some areas, where maybe housing has historically been really expensive, where there is only one type of housing — which is a single-family house on a really large lot — there will be more options," Whittemore said.

Katherine Shor, a senior planner for the Town, said in an email that the LUMO update is necessary because it hasn't been updated for over 20 years.

"We need to update our rules to reflect the policies and plans that were created to help us guide the future development of Chapel Hill," Shor said in the email statement. 

She said that updating the LUMO will increase transportation options, incentivize affordable housing and ensure that projects are more resilient to climate change. She also said a new LUMO draft will be available to the town council by June 2024.

@DTHCityState |

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