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Chapel Hill sees no applications for multi-family housing after LUMO change

An eight-unit one-story home in downtown Chapel Hill is pictured on Tuesday, Oct 11, 2022.

Though the Chapel Hill Town Council passed the land use management ordinance (LUMO) text amendment intended to gently increase housing density on June 21, there has been no increase in multi-family housing projects.

The Town's Building and Development Services has not yet seen any new applications for multi-family homes to be developed.

"We were not expecting a huge initial wave," Corey Liles, the Town's planning manager, said. "In Chapel Hill, things like duplexes and accessory apartments get built at a steady pace of a few a year. We hope that can start to ramp up, but it's a little early to know how much impact we're seeing from the new rules."

Kurt Mueller, company owner of New Vista Development, Inc. in Chapel Hill, said he does not know of any development projects constructing multi-family homes on single-family-zoned lots.

“I think developments have been limited by builders and developers concerned about surrounding neighbors harassing or shutting down their project, even though it has a permit to build and is approved for planning,” Mueller said.

The amendment changes zoning rules and allows for two-family homes to be constructed on all residential lots and three- and four-family homes in some higher-density areas.

The text amendment lists providing affordable and missing middle housing, increasing the walkability of neighborhoods, reducing construction costs with smaller houses and unit sizes and eliminating zoning that historically contributed to segregation and economic exclusion as reasons to increase density.

"I feel there needs to more housing options available within the city and I think it promotes diversity and equality,” Cherilyn Harline, a Chapel Hill resident, said.

Harline also said she thinks the delay in development is part of the “slow rollout” process of increasing housing density and that the amendment intends for development to be gradual.

Christopher Smith, another Chapel Hill resident, said another reason developers may be hesitant to build multiple homes on single lots is because of the upcoming council elections and candidates who seek to repeal the amendment.

“No investor is going to put their money into a system where the rules might suddenly change,” he said.

“If they’re going to do any kind of rezoning, it should be somewhere close to where there are already big buildings and duplexes,” Denny Cook, a Chapel Hill resident, said. 

He said he thinks much of the backlash to the amendment results from building in neighborhoods which were not originally constructed to have multiple units on single lots.

Chapel Hill Town Council candidates Breckany Eckhardt, Elizabeth Sharp, David Adams and Renuka Soll have all expressed their opposition for the ordinance. Mayoral candidate and current town council member Adam Searing has said he will fight to overturn the LUMO change if elected, and he voted against the ordinance this summer. Searing's opponent in the mayoral race, Jessica Anderson, voted for the change.

Some opposing the amendment say it does not address the Town's affordable housing issue, while supporters of the amendment said it creates more missing middle housing and will increase gentle density.  


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