Our live blog has now concluded! With the approval of the housing choices ordinance, we’re closing down. Thank you so much for reading. We plan to write further analysis in the coming days. Have a great night. (If you enjoyed this, please consider a small donation to TBB, which will help us improve our tech stack and hold events.)
Our live blog is in reverse chronological order.
9:47: OK, here’s what we think happened. There was a motion to approve the ordinance. Council member Ryan made a friendly amendment, which the council member who made the motion accepted. Therefore, there was no vote on the friendly amendment, just on the ordinance. (Robert’s Rules of Order strikes again.) And the ordinance passed 6-3, with Ryan, Berry and Searing voting against. Which is surprising, because while Berry may not have agreed with the no minimum parking provision, she certainly seemed to support the proposal.
9:45: Your blog bloggers got it wrong. That was the vote on the housing choices proposal. IT PASSED!!!!! 6-3 VOTE! Council member Berry voted against.
9:43: The text in the proposed ordinance is for a maximum of four parking spaces per duplex, and that appears to be acceptable. And the friendly amendment is for no minimum parking requirements, and a maximum of four parking spaces for the entire two-unit duplex building. And the parking amendment passes 6-3.
9:37: Some misunderstanding about what is being proposed—appears to be a proposal to impose maximums, but not clear on what types of uses.
9:35: Resolution of consistency approved, motion to approve the resolution has been made, and now there are the amendments that Mayor Hemminger and council members Ryan and Anderson proposed.
9:30: Mayor Hemminger: Notes about the importance of providing more places to live, and more good jobs, all to support town goals of inclusivity and sustainability. Thinks that the proposals are well calibrated, and that check-ins are important and that the council can make adjustments over time. (Wonders why duplexes were removed as an option in the 1980s). Notes that the state imposes limitations which make it so the town can’t do everything it wants, but that the town needs more housing and thinks it was unfortunate that so much misinformation has been shared. Thinks we need to move forward.
9:22: Council member Berry: Reiterates this is not an issue to create affordable housing but to allow for more housing. Appreciates the public comment. Supports parking limits. Notes this is not a panacea and will not solve all issues, but it is a small but necessary step. And no one is going to be forced out of their homes. Says if voting for it costs her reelection, so be it.
9:20: Council member Hyunh: It’s been a while. I support this. Notes that everything they do to make our community incrementally better has opposition, even to building affordable housing and including affordable housing as part of a world-class park. Thanks staff and supports the amendment.
9:14: Council member/mayoral candidate Searing: Repeats what he’s said before: Not voting for this. Notes the unfairness that people in communities with covenants or HOAs may be exempt from the proposal. (You can change your covenants.) (And he once again mentions the townhouse project in Raleigh, which is a terrible comparison. We talked about that four months ago—We need to talk about the $2 million townhouses in Raleigh.) Searing claims that missing middle housing doesn’t work to address affordability. The most affordable for-sale homes in Chapel Hill are missing middle homes. We don’t need a study to demonstrate that. Searing calls housing choices a waste of time and effort. We could have used that time not to focus on housing but to instead build 10 splash pads (yes, he actually said that in a public setting).
9:09: Council member Stegman: Notes that everywhere this type of policy has been implemented, change has been incremental, and so there will be opportunities to adapt over time. In support of moving forward. And once again clarifies that the goal of this project is not to provide affordable housing (that is addressed through the town’s effective affordable housing strategy) but to increase housing supply and the diversity of housing types. The beneficiaries are people—students and non-students. Rejects some of the falsehoods that have been circulating in the community. And once again reiterates that the issue of racism is historic and structural, and that no one is claiming that particular individuals in the community are racist or exclusionary but that it is a system that has had huge impacts.”It is uncomfortable, and it should be.” Very supportive.
9:03: Council member Miller-Foushee: Appreciates staff and agrees with Parker. Knows that these proposals won’t erase racial disparities that were institutionalized by prior policies, but it is an important tool in the toolbox. Step in the right direction for our town’s future, and will have broad social benefits such as providing more choices, more housing types, and reducing barriers to infill development. Notes that it is different from the town’s robust affordable housing strategy. Says that our current system imposes incredible costs which fall on particular communities, and that waiting will continue to impose these costs. Focuses on the decreasing homeownership rates of our Black and Latino communities. Will vote in favor.
8:58: Council member Parker; Appreciates staff. Wants to thank the public. Well-thought out proposal. Concerns about historic district are overblown. The most affluent people shouldn’t be exempt because of that. Some of our most cherished neighborhoods were really controversial when they were proposed. We need to look forward. Be an innovative college town.
8:55: Council member Ryan: Supports more housing options, and discusses her proposal with council members Anderson and the mayor to establish some new guardrails. Concerned about investors building student housing, and the impacts on the historic district. Appreciates the new tree canopy provision, and would like to (later) contemplate extending the standards to more land uses.
8:50: Council member Anderson: With UNC relocating its facilities and climate change, and kicking the can down the road is not responsible. “We’re at a pivotal moment. Things are changing.” Notes that we have committed to a denser urban community with Chapel Hill Transit and the rural buffer, the development of additional affordable housing, a mobility plan that builds stronger connections between neighborhoods and schools, begun approving more middle housing such as townhomes, and recognized the importance of land use planning in addressing sustainability (as well as the North-South BRT project). Knows that gentle infill can fit into existing neighborhoods, promote inclusivity, and support environmental goals. Wants students but not student stuffers; want more housing but want to preserve trees. Delicate balance. Incremental progress but important, and thinks some amendments would be appropriate.
After 20 speakers, public comment is done. Council comments begin.
Darren Campbell:Important issue for Black people and others directly affected by the lack of affordable housing. Says we need more diversity in more of these neighborhoods in town. Shelving this proposal now will just add more and more reason for people to push back—needed to be passed months ago.Need to act.
Linda B. Brown: Concerned about continued changes to the proposal, which were made in response to comments largely from opponents to the original proposal. (Not sure how staff is supposed to respond to comments without making changes.)
Robin Langdon: Analytical economist, doesn’t support the economist because she’s exclusionary or hates diversity but because not enough analysis has been done. Wants there to be another debate. Wants more analysis. Doesn’t want student housing, likes students but worried about unintended consequences.
Susan Smith: Thinks we need to listen to each other and work towards a proposal everyone can live with. Wants more time for staff and the public to create a more balanced piece of legislation. Guardrails! (Drink!) Knows a family who moved because of duplexes.
Steven Fleck: In favor of using the land for “sensible development,” but opposes “lack of guardrails.” Fleck started opposing any new development almost immediately after moving to Chapel Hill 8 years ago.
Christy Osborne: Concerned about the lack of notice to people of this proposal, which was released in September, has had countless neighborhood meetings and information sessions and discussions, but people need mailed signs and letters.
Jordan Willkie: Homeonwer in Chapel Hill, supports the recommendation to help preserve the value of his property because without, his neighborhoods will continue to become less diverse, and says it would be a moral failure not to move forward with the proposal.
Maria Palmer: Do it. Notes she couldn’t afford to live here if she had to buy now thanks to the big rise in housing costs.
Leif Rasmussen: Says he tries to get around using alternative transportation, but destinations are so far apart, and it’s important to increase walkability for folks his mother, who is visually impaired. And you can’t make walkable neighborhoods without more density, and supports these efforts.
Angus Ewing: Has seen two arguments that boggle the mind. First, “environment” vs nature” and notes that density is better for the environment. He notes that what’s being cared is not the environment as in the climate, but their own personal property. Also says we’re an inclusive community and should act like one, and shouldn’t do thinks that block recent graduates out of the market just because we’re “progressive” on other topics.
Theodore Nollert: Thinks this is heading in the right direction but wants to go even further. (You can read his comments from the last meeting.)
Anne Hartley: Is wearing a hat which she calls her solution strategy hat. (Is a good hat!) Is concerned.
Ed Berke: Points out that the proposal will not produce “affordable” housing, and is a bit affronted that the fact that there is “exclusionary zoning” does not mean that the people living there are “exclusionary people.” Also notes the unintended consequences for “powerful, out-for-town, tax-sheltered developers and investors,” though he doesn’t note the massive unearned increase in wealth that homeowners have gained thanks to our limits on housing construction..
Michael Beauregard(UNC graduate student and Town Council candidate):Thanks town staff for their heroic efforts. Supports the proposal for the future of Chapel Hill, so that the town housing stock doesn’t just consist of luxury single-family homes. (Someone is shaking her head as Michael says we need more housing units for people to live. Oof.)
Phillip Lyons: President of Preservation Chapel Hill, concurred that the amendments will increase the incentives to demolish historic structures. (Read what we wrote about the town’s “historic districts” earlier today.)
Jeffrey Hoagland: Says landowners will tear down buildings to build duplexes, and that will temporarily reduce housing. K. (Planning estimates maybe 5 of these a year.)
Nancy Watkins: Notes she has had to bounce around rental locations due to the lack of safe, affordable housing for low-income people. Doesn’t speak directly to the housing choices proposal.
David Anderson: Supports it. Option of doing nothing means prices just go up. Don’t delay. Don’t make more committees.
David Adams: Reads from a letter sent from 14 signatories asking to stop the process. Doesn’t like that the language has changed (which has occurred as the town has modified the plan as the request of David Adams). Also because there is a state bill that may adjust ADU regulations, and somehow that bill may sometime become law?
Joe Patterson: Compares supporters of this plan to Trump-supporting election deniers, who refuse to believe “scientific evidence” (which, ummmm, huh?)
8:10: Public comment time! Grab the popcorn!
8:08: (We have concerns that the tree canopy requirements will make it even more difficult to build duplexes, and continue to add yet more requirements to duplexes that don’t apply to single-family homes.)
8:07: One change in the proposal is a 40% tree canopy coverage requirement for duplexes. Now, as for single-family homes, there is no requirement. And, for single-family homes, there will continue to be no requirement. You don’t hear housing choices opponents complaining about that.
8:04 pm: First proposed in September, and right now (hopefully) up for a final vote! The items starts with a presentation from Town planner Anya Grahn-Federmack, who’s been in the trenches for months.
8:03: And UNC Health Eastowne is approved! The votes pass 8-1, with council member Searing voting against.
8:01: One thing to note—the parking deck would be constructed at the end of project build-out, and there’s at least a chance that it won’t be needed. (One way we can make sure it’s not needed is to provide more housing options nearby that have good walk, bike, and transit access.)
7:59: Council members Berry and Ryan express their support, as did Miller-Foushee.
7:54: Council member Searing says he wishes the $5 million loan fund wasn’t linked to the parking deck on the Northern 20, and suggests what might have happened if the Botanical Garden has offered $5 million to preserve the land. To which we say, huh? The $5 million is liked to the project, not to the parking deck in the Northern 20.
7:50: Council member Anderson supports the proposal, wishes the Northern 20 were preserved, but notes (as Stegman and Parker did) that the Town doesn’t own the property. (And, of course, NCDOT plans to ram a road right through the middle of it.)
7:48: Council member Stegman notes (like Parker did) that UNC Health is a real asset to Chapel Hill and it’s great to have them here, and notes the possibilities that the $5 million loan presents.
7:46: Presentations and questions complete, and council members providing comments. Council member Parker says he’s excited about the project and think it’s really improved over the last few years it has been under consideration — less square footage, unprecedented financial contribution to affordable housing, and a grat example of cooperation between the Town and UNC Health on addressing big town challenges.
7:36: Simon George from UNC Health says that they have adjusted its proposal to preserve at least 12 acres of the sensitive “Northern 20” heritage area, and she establishes standards for when the parking structure would be built, if needed. He also discusses three community benefit options—$5 million 20 year loan with no interest; or $4 million loan with $15,000 per building per year, or $3 million with $30,000 per building per year. Manager Blue expressed a preference for the $5 million.
7:29: Manager Blue talks about how the project is aligned with the town’s goals, and that the proposed $5 million contribution from UNC can be leveraged into a $20-$40 million loan fund. He calls it much more valuable than the proposed alternative, which provides a payment for cost of services for the town as each building comes online. Also notes it’s UNC Health’s first direct contribution to addressing the town’s affordable housing need.
7:26: First item of business—the UNC Health at Eastowne legislative hearing and conditional zoning application. You know it’s a big deal because the (interim) town manager, Chris Blue, is making the presentation.
UNC Health at Eastowne
7:24: Final petition is from Paris Miller-Foushee and other council members, requesting an evaluation of advisory board roles and their membership. You can read the petition here.
7:23: The mayor announces that tonight’s consent agenda includes some measures to slow traffic on Roberson.
7:20: Fifth petition is from Eugene Farrar, past President of the Carrboro-Chapel Hill NAACP., requesting measures to slow traffic on Roberson Drive where cars travel well above the speed limit, and expresses his appreciation of actions that have been taken so far.
7:18: Fourth petition is from Planning Commission chair Jon Mitchell, discussing the Planning Commission’s recommended changes to the Town’s parking policies, and recommends that the changes be advanced ahead of the full LUMO rewrite. Key recommendations 1) Eliminate parking minimums town wide; 2) Make the current parking minimums into maximums; 3) Require developers to unbundle the cost of housing from the cost of parking. (These are all ideas we love!)
7:17: Third petition is from Dolores Bailey, talking about the Peach Apartments affordable housing development which serves people making less than 30% of the Area Median Income, the very hardest population to house. She reports they have raised $3.5 million to build the apartments and will build it debt-free—such great news! She says ground will be broken in August or September.
(While we wait for the main event, check out council member Karen Stegman’s newsletter today about tonight’s housing choices proposal.)
7:15: Second petition is from John Weis, chair of the Community Design Commission speaking on the board’s behalf about affordable housing in the Blue Hill district.
7:10: Petition time! Because the agenda is not packed enough. First petition is from BJ Warsaw who represents the Southern Entryway Alliance, commenting on the Chamber’s request last week to study extending water and sewer service further south, into the Town’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, to provide more opportunities for development (particularly residential development, which we so desperately need).
7:08: The mayor makes a couple of announcements. The Town of Chapel Hill is offering a Bike the Trail Ride taking place along the Bolin Creek Trail on Friday June 23 from 6 – 8 p.m. It commemorates Jim Hugerich, and you can read more about him here. Second, there will be fireworks again at Southern Community Park, coming up on July 4.
7:05: We’re getting a proclamation for Parks and Rec Month. On July 16 at 1pm, there’s a parks and rec bus tour with Chapel Hill Transit. July 21 is parks and rec professionals day. Happy Parks and Recreation Month to all who celebrate.
7:04: TBB correspondents at the meeting says it’s a full house and we have all Town Council members in attendance.
7 pm: And we’re live. Mayor Pam says we have five items on the agenda. But first, we’re watching a video about the Town of Chapel Hill’s HR department and their efforts to hire, promote, and retain employees.
This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend.
It’s all led up to this—the final Chapel Hill Town Council meeting of the spring! Tonight’s agenda is packed, and the highlight is the likely final vote on the long-gestating “housing choices” proposal to allow duplexes in most single-family neighborhoods, and make other changes to make it easier to build more types of housing in Chapel Hill.
There’s a lot more on the agenda. Highlights include:
- Consideration of UNC Health’s large Eastowne medical campus project, which will be built over several decades,
- Modification of the Interfaith Coalition’s (IFC’s) “Good Neighbor” program to serve homeless people in our community.
- A status report on the much-anticipated update of the Town’s creaky Land Use Management Ordinance (LUMO), which governs how land can be developed.
We’ll be your live-blogging companions for this evening, and we hope you’ll join us! You can stream online from this link. See you back here around 7 pm!