“Achieving this vision of renewal is a watershed opportunity in the history of this town,” said town planner Eric Feld.
About 30 community members — including residents and property owners — spoke out at the hearing. Many expressed their approval of the plan, but others expressed concerns, particularly the construction of seven-story buildings in a primarily residential area and a potential rise in taxes.
Erin Langston, neighborhood president for Coker Hills, brought forward a letter from 19 residents asking for the timing of the plan to be reconsidered. She said her group had concerns about allowing seven-story buildings in a residential neighborhood and losing existing commercial buildings.
“Are we putting a cart before the horse if the council cannot answer these questions?” she said.
The Town adopted the Ephesus Church/Fordham Boulevard small area plan in June 2011, and the plan’s implementation began that summer. The rezoning is part of the implementation of the plan.
Council members noted that the plan could be beneficial for the town, but they would need to take an in-depth look at all the issues involved.
The Council will examine the issues further at another public hearing on Feb. 17 and a work session on March 3.
The hearing also included a presentation on a concept plan for a new hotel at 1609 E. Franklin St. Several people at the meeting expressed concerns that a hotel in downtown Chapel Hill would disturb existing businesses, such as a psychiatric center and a writing studio.
“Are hotels the next burrito in Chapel Hill?” said Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, expressing concerns that the Chapel HIll-Carrboro area is becoming saturated with hotels.