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Chapel Hill Town Council votes 7-1 against proposed 12-story development on Rosemary Street

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The Chapel Hill Town Council meeting at the Chapel Hill Town Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023.

The Chapel Hill Town Council met Wednesday to discuss several zoning applications and vote on a proposed 12-story apartment development on the corner of East Rosemary and Henderson streets.

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The Chapel Hill Town Council meeting at the Chapel Hill Town Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023.

What’s new?

  • Anya Grahn-Federmack, the principal planner for the Town of Chapel Hill, presented an application for a conditional zoning modification for Homestead Gardens and requested that the development’s on-street parking be counted toward its off-street parking requirements. 
    • Nancy Oates, a former Community Home Trust board member and former town council member, said that the matter is an equity issue and that streets in question need to be made public to prevent costs from being placed on residents.
    • “The residents of Homestead Gardens will have to pay for street repair and maintenance and snow removal, and hire trash collection and recycling services,” Oates said
    • The application was approved unanimously.
  • Sarah Viñas, the director of affordable housing and community connections for the Town, provided an update on the Affordable Housing Loan Fund and requested $715,000 for it. The recommendation was unanimously approved.
  • The council also opened up public comment on a conditional zoning application for a 12-story residential condo development at 157 E. Rosemary St. 
    • The proposed development would contain 56 units, 14 of which would be priced as affordable at 80 percent of the area median income.
    • Numerous community members attended the meeting to comment on the proposal. Many members of the Gamma Lambda chapter of Phi Mu were in attendance — with Panhellenic adviser Monica McCarty representing the group and speaking for about 15 minutes on time donated by other audience members.
    • “We believe the applicant needs to provide an appropriate buffer on the proposed development site, and what we saw tonight does not meet that,” McCarty said. “And we don’t agree with the applicant’s idea that we should be responsible for modifying our home or planting trees in an area that will not sustain their growth.”
    • McCarty also voiced additional concerns about the building directly bordering the Franklin-Rosemary Historic District and the developers’ plan to cluster affordable housing units together on the lower floors.
    • Only council member Camille Berry was in favor of the plan. She said redevelopment of the property is inevitable and that the Town should focus on being proactive and relocating businesses such as The Gathering Place — which is currently at the location of the proposed building — to better-suited locations.
    • “Let’s be careful about holding onto charm and character, because what is charming and characteristic to one can feel very exclusive to another if you’re outside of that group,” she said.

What decisions were made?

  • A resolution to deny the Rosemary Street development application was passed by a vote of 7-1, with only Berry voting against it.
  • A second conditional zoning application was brought forward regarding the Chapel Hill Life Sciences Center at 306 W. Franklin St. The matter at hand concerned ongoing community engagement and outreach, green space and retail frontage to better connect and utilize Rosemary Street.
    • The application was approved by a vote of 7-1, with only council member Adam Searing in opposition.

What’s next?

  • This was the final business meeting for Mayor Pam Hemminger and council members Michael Parker and Tai Huynh, whose terms have ended.
  • The council will meet for the last time in 2023 on Dec. 18. New council members and mayor-elect Jess Anderson will be sworn in at that meeting.
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