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Chapel Hill has not received applications for newly allowed housing after LUMO change

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.

Since the Chapel Hill Town Council passed a land use management ordinance text amendment in June, there have not been any applications for the development of multi-family housing projects newly allowed by the amendment.

Chapel Hill mayor Jess Anderson said she is not surprised by the lack of applications the Town has received so far.

“We were not expecting a huge influx,” Anderson said. “In fact, if I’m not mistaken, our staff had projected that there might be two applications a year.”

Kristie Mather, a Chapel Hill resident who supported the passing of the LUMO text amendment, said the fact the Town hasn’t received any applications was consistent with her expectations.

Council member Karen Stegman said while the lack of applications could be due to a variety of factors including high interest rates and material costs, the Town’s planning staff has identified certain barriers developers may face within the existing LUMO code.

“Even though we changed the zoning itself there's still barriers within our existing code that is just making it pretty difficult to build the kinds of small infill and missing middle-type housing that we're aiming to have,” Stegman said.

The Town will have the ability to address and amend these barriers as it completes a comprehensive rewrite of the LUMO, which is set to be completed this year.

Anderson said the Town’s current LUMO is outdated and was written for a more suburban area.

“What is really clear is that when we make [the LUMO application process] very expensive and time consuming, and it's risky — like people don't know if they'll be approved — they pass on all that cost to the project, which means future residents or tenants,” Anderson said. “And so it just adds to the affordability issue that we're grappling with already.”

Council member Melissa McCullough said the LUMO, as currently written, is driving out smaller, local developers that might be better equipped to provide the type of housing the Town needs. She said the Town needs to make the LUMO clearer to incentivize missing middle housing.

Anderson said she hopes Town residents will engage with the council and Town staff as they hold sessions discussing the LUMO rewrite. 

Alongside the community itself, the guiding document for the LUMO rewrite will be the Complete Communities Strategythe town council approved last year, Stegman said.

“That's really the guide for all our future land use, that we're really excited about, that is really focusing on creating complete communities with all of our new investments, whether it's development or infrastructure,” she said.

Mather said she hopes to see the Town reach out to the community in a variety of ways, including emails, public forums and talking to community leaders as the rewrite of the LUMO evolves.

Chapel Hill resident Naomi Slifkin said she thinks the council needs to be guided by people in the community when considering what to address in the LUMO rewrite.

“I just want to emphasize the need for a focus group, with people from diverse parts of our community to be able to contribute to the planning of this and thinking it through,” Slifkin said. “So we don't regret, after the fact, some of the actions we've made.” 

@DTHCityState |

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