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