It’s hard enough to make council members happy with a new development project, even more so as the clock moves toward midnight on a night that council members already had listened for more than three hours to impassioned citizens making their cases for or against urban archery, followed by an hour and a half of discussion about a proposed new church complex on Homestead Road at Merin Circle. So give the developers of Bridgepoint credit for cheerfully presenting their vision for a new mixed-use development on the corner of Homestead and Weaver Dairy Extension — and for council members for doggedly pursuing their concerns.

You had to figure that some of the newest members, sitting through their second meeting in a month that ended long after midnight, were wondering why they wanted that seat in the first place.

Before the Bridgepoint presentation began, Town Manager Roger Stancil warned council that this particular development falls in an area cited by the Northern Area Task Force as both an environmentally sensitive area and a Development Opportunity area. The objectives of each conflicted.

Bridgepoint developers proposed 23 townhouses (with the option of expanding to 32 units via condos), most with attached two-car garages, totaling about 50,000 square feet on the west side of the property and two commercial buildings totaling 27,400 square feet with 87 parking spaces on the south and east edges of the lot. Robert Dowling, director of the Community Land Trust, hung in there past midnight to comment on how accommodating the developers had been in working with his organization.

But neighbors to the proposed project also stayed late to voice objections to the additional traffic congestion that the commercial area would bring. One called it “the Caryfication of Chapel Hill.” Council members were divided on whether the commercial buildings would be an attribute or a detriment, but they united over the need for a traffic signal or roundabout at the Homestead-Weaver Dairy intersection.

Traffic Engineer Kumar Neppalli took the microphone post-midnight to explain that a traffic signal, which would cost about $65,000 to $75,000, would be more affordable than a roundabout, which could run from $200,000 to $400,000. Carolina North plans call for a roundabout to be constructed there in the future. Council members felt strongly that the intersection needed amelioration now, but hesitated at the thought of putting in a traffic light only to have Carolina North take it out at some point in the near or distant future.

The discussion will continue at the May 24 council meeting.
— Nancy Oates

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  1. Mark Marcoplos

     /  April 21, 2010

    I wonder what the life-cycle cost of a traffic light is – energy use, repairs, potential for lines getting knocked down? And it would be realistic to factor in some “ugliness” costs.

  2. steve lonegan

     /  April 21, 2010

    The developers of yet another development on Homestead Road will present their plan for the first time TONITE to the town’s “Community Design Commission” at Town Hall. 7pm and the public is welcome. This one dwarfs Bridgepoint in terms of size and parking spaces. It’s basically an undergrad student housing complex on 33 acres withe 1175 parking spaces. It would be directly across from Bridgepoint. Have a look at the plot, the notice, and a 16 page proposal here:

    Site plan, notice

    16 Page PDF

  3. Bill

     /  April 21, 2010

    “this particular development falls in an area cited by the Northern Area Task Force as both an environmentally sensitive area and a Development Opportunity area. The objectives of each conflicted.”

    So, is there any place in Chapel Hill that someone does not consider “environmentally sensitive”??

    And, is there any real shock that a “task force” came up with such obviously conflicting recommendations? After all, it is another example of committee “groupthink”.

    I for one hope they build some commercial space there, it is sorely needed- a small store would make Weaver ext. more “walkable” which we all love, right?

  4. Thank you Steve for getting the message out on that new project proposal. As far as use, the plan is not compatible with the original intent behind the NATF.

    Bill, one of the reasons that there is inherent conflicts between components of the NATF is that the process was somewhat “hijacked” along the way. That said, within any of these type plans – the comprehensive plan, NATF, Rogers Rd. small area, etc. – there should be a clear mechanism for discussing, measuring and evaluating trade-offs – not just for the community’s understanding but for developers sake. Clarity in process and purpose serves both the wider community’s interest and the desire by developers to understand if their proposals have a halfway decent chance of approval.