Second chance for Charterwood

We can all agree: $4.3 million is a serious amount of money to invest and a foolish amount to gamble. Yet when developers go before Town Council with a development project, the money they spend to plan, present, readjust and repeat frequently comes down to the mood council members are in.

The Charterwood developers, after spending $4.3 million over four years to make council members happy, got their hearts broken when five council members voted for the project, but they needed a sixth because a protest petition had been filed, forcing a three-quarters majority of yea votes for the project to continue.

The Weekly broke a story yesterday about new life for Charterwood. Bill Christian and Crescent Properties may have found a way around the super-majority vote constraint to seek approval for their proposed mixed-use development on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, north of Homestead Road. If the developers redraw their property lines on the parcels they are combining to create space for the development, neighbors would be prohibited from submitting a petition that would require a three-quarters majority of council members to vote for the rezoning and the special use permit.

Charterwood failed to win approval for the rezoning last month, which automatically quashed the special use permit application, even though a simple majority of five council members voted for the project to move forward. If Charterwood resubmits its plan, with the redrawn property lines, council would only need five votes to approve rezoning.

Are the developers gaming the system? Yes, just as the person organizing the protest petition did. It’s too bad that our development decisions come down to who’s got the last ace up their sleeve. But $4.3 million is a lot of money to leave on the table and walk away.

Pick up a copy of The Weekly. Find it wherever fine news publications are distributed.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. Del Snow

     /  March 7, 2012

    not FROM anyone.

    One of our Comprehensive Plan’s major themes is neighborhood protection. This encompasses a right to privacy (with Charterwood, difficult because Charterwood land lies significantly higher than Tremont Circle so multi-story buildings look “down” on homes), protection from light pollution (the area behind the fire station will be clear cut, and the station has lights on all night facing Tremont Circle bedrooms), protection from noise (parking lot facing bedrooms in clear cut area, smoke from the burn building increased because of clear cutting….all the rights homeowners consider quality of life issues. Approval of a special use permit, as you know, has conditions including finding that the development “be located, DESIGNED and proposed so as to maintain or promote the public health, safety and general welfare.”

  2. Road Warrior

     /  March 7, 2012


    Please don’t take this the wrong way, but anti-tax people are part of the problem. I pay over $6,000 in taxes to the Town and County. Is it fair, well it is a lot cheaper than Private School.

    How come people seem to forget that more people means more Sales Tax at the Grocery Store (remember we raised that) and more people needing services of local business?

    Again, with all due respect, do you honestly believe that having a huge parcel of prime real estate vacant with a rotting building on a major road is getting the best Tax Value for Chapel Hill?

    As for Gaming the system, Super Majorities are unfair and designed to “Game the system.” I like the idea of a buffer – let’s put it in a trust or create walking trails.

    Jesse Helms was famously known as “Senator No.” I don’t think we need make Chapel Hill a place where ridiculous rules about Super Majorities limit the will of the majority. Isn’t Democracy, Minority Voice, Majority Rule?

    What’s funny to me is that we are ringing hands over the effect of this Development, but the idea of putting an Emergency Homeless Shelter next to Homestead Park was pushed through saying that they were like any other Developer. Yet, here we have a Developer playing by the rules, actually trying to work with the community and he is a villain.

    Seriously, if we don’t let it go through, I think it will be a huge waste of taxpayer money when he sues.

  3. Del Snow

     /  March 7, 2012

    “Road Warrior”-
    Um…I didn’t actually “approve an emergency homeless shelter next to a park,” but I did not oppose Community House, either as a Board member or resident of both Chapel Hill and the area.
    As far as fighting developments “near my house,” other than Charterwood, I have spoken to the Council in favor of Bridgepoint, down the block from my house, I have been in touch with Walgreen’s corporate headquarters to find out if they are still planning on building on the land they own DIRECTLY ACROSS THE STREET FROM CHARTERWOOD and I would certainly hope that a Walgreen’s would be part of a dense mixed use development on that spot. I never expressed a view on Larkspur or Northwoods by Centex. What other developments are you talking about?

  4. Del Snow

     /  March 7, 2012

    It’s not a buffer-the same exact SUP will be submitted. BTW, I never said, nor do I think, that the property should not be developed. BUT, do you honestly think that this design is the best that we can do???
    It’s interesting that somehow the applicant is being portrayed as a “victim” when he went into this project knowing all the constraints. I guess he thought he would “game the system” from the start. He himself is quoted in today’s CH News as claiming to have “taken the high road” but now….yes he will be taking the LOW road.

  5. Jason

     /  March 7, 2012

    George – I understand that each member of the planning board gets one vote and that Del voted against Charterwood. Did I imply that there was extra pay involved (insert smiley face here)? Hypothetically, if I chaired the planning board and there was an application for Costco to build a store near my house. I love Costco (as much as Del loves neighborhood protection) so I really want to see it be built. But I’m the only one on the planning board who feels this way. So I decide to form a coalition of like minded pro Costco folks. I’m the vocal leader of this group and although I’m chairing the planning board there is no conflict of interest. And guess what, the council approves it. Really? It would never fly.

  6. DOM

     /  March 7, 2012

    Jason –
    Re: Costco fan vs. Nimby radical

    A great example of the hypocrisy of Del Snow’s recent actions regarding Charterwood.

  7. Deborah Fulghieri

     /  March 7, 2012

    The Planning Board’s recommendation to approve Charterwood went to Council, which voted it down with one member absent. Why forget to criticize the absent member and the 3 council members who voted against Charterwood? After all, it was Council that voted down the proposal.

  8. Jason

     /  March 7, 2012

    …and the leader of Charterwood’s opposition, the one rallying the troops to potentially influence the council, is also chairing the planning board. Do you think that’s a conflict of interest? The high road for Del would have been to remove herself from either leading the opposition or chairing the PB. That would have been the ethical thing to do.

  9. Del Snow

     /  March 7, 2012

    You know guys, you are giving me way too much credit! I’m just a CH citizen no different than you or Mark Peters.

    So-how about, if instead of name calling, which is easy, you come up with some solid suggestions for what you would envision on this property. I note that even amongst my throngs of critics there are differences of opinion-some of you say it should be residential, some say commercial, and Aaron Nelson was quoted by the CH News on 9/25/11 as saying the town should evaluate mixed use “I think it’s time for our regulators to think about whether that’s the best strategy anymore. Maybe we need to be leaning toward something else.”

  10. DOM

     /  March 7, 2012

    “you come up with some solid suggestions for what you would envision on this property.”

    How about the Charterwood project?

  11. Del Snow

     /  March 7, 2012

    OK-sell it-how much money will the Town see? Who will live there? How long will the office space remain vacant? Cosgrove Hill, after all this time, has 2 tenants. How will it impact the environment? Are the trees that are well over 100 years old expendable?

  12. jason

     /  March 7, 2012

    Del – you mean the Charterwood trees behind your house?

  13. Terri Buckner

     /  March 7, 2012

    Hang in there, Del. Those who want to criticize but offer no alternatives except my-way-or-the-highway may not be worth trying to have a serious discussion with. I think you’re asking the right questions, and the fact that the developers or the town planners can’t answer them is sufficient reason to not pursue the development.

  14. Del Snow

     /  March 7, 2012

    actually, I have mostly pines that will be clear cut behind my house, sorry. Then I will be able to see the fire station more clearly 🙂 The old trees are more on the MLK side and behind the cul de sac.

    Terri-Thank you, I was feeling a little overwhelmed!

  15. Deborah Fulghieri

     /  March 11, 2012

    Road Warrior:

    For the county to realize the same tax revenue in sales tax as it receives from you as property tax (you said $6000 County plus Town, so about $4000 to the county), you would have to spend $200,000 on taxable items.

    Many people in single family homes in Chapel Hill are paying over $20,000 per year just in property taxes. The burden is high, and the problem is that the same services have to be delivered to all residents regardless of taxes paid. The more dwellings that are created, the more police and fire stations are expanded, the more garbage trucks are purchased, the more schools are built, and all these are staffed by salaried persons with benefits.

    As for super-majorities, they’re mandated by NC state law, not Chapel Hill’s.

  16. Susan

     /  March 27, 2012

    Unless I am missing something it is clear that Del Snow is pursuing her own personal interests here and making a mockery of the system by using her position to lobby the council. It is a huge conflict of interest for her to be involved in this process at all. She is the chairwoman of the planning board, which by the way voted unanimously in favor of the project, the only vote against coming from Del herself. Checks and balances anyone? Why would she not recuse herself from the vote since there is obviously a conflict of interest? It seems to me as a tax paying Chapel Hill resident that she has blatant disregard for the system and has only her own interests in mind. Currently there are many homeless people living, looting, and littering on this gateway property. Del would have you believe that the town would be better off with a group of homeless people living and stealing from property on a major corridor into Chapel Hill then to have a nice well-planned development, simply because it is “near” her home. Hmmm the term NIMBY suddenly comes to mind 🙂 Clearly a nice development is superior to its current condition and what better person to plan it then a Chapel Hill resident himself who is a part of the community. This approval process has gone on now for 5 years and the developer has addressed all of the concerns of the town council members at every step. What does it say about this process when you do everything that is asked of you by the members of the council and you are still denied without adequate reason or justification. It proves to be a wonderful project and it will be a terrible failure if the council continues to allow themselves to be lobbied by a clear cut NIMBY. Take the politics out of it and let the developer work with the town to build something here that the town will be proud of. It is very worrisome to me after attending some of the meetings and reading news articles about the project that someone so biased is given the opportunity to affect the process in her own favor like this. I feel sorry for the members of the council who have to listen to her rants and hope that at this point they can see right through her.

  17. Lauren

     /  March 27, 2012


    Talk about calling the kettle black! For you to sit there and give quotes to the newspaper about “gaming the system” is laughable. You are the one gaming the system and you have been doing it for years! Also, it is the unproductive nature and vagueness of this approval process that makes everything so expensive in the first place. Cut out all the bureaucracy and the petition from a few NIMBYs and suddenly you have a very attractive, affordable development. I really hope the town corrects its mistake and brings Charterwood to town. It shouldn’t be the case where one woman uses her position on the planning board and walks door to door in the Town Hall pushing her agenda to anybody who will listen.

  18. Del Snow

     /  March 31, 2012

    The attacks on me are a diversion from the real issues and really betray the lack of quality and creativity of the current proposal. It would be great if someone from the Bill Christian fan club could defend Charterwood, as proposed, based on facts.

    Susan and Lauren, (by the way-who are the two of you?), you seem to think you both know me quite well, yet I don’t even know your last names. I find your posts quite pitiful and am actually embarrassed for you. Either you know that you are purposely making things up, or worse, you are just repeating things you have heard without checking them out yourselves. Even the few concrete items you try to say are rife with errors.

    Anyway, I do want to correct some of your specific mistakes-not about statements about me, which are delusional , but about Charterwood because if this is representative of what you say on the small issues, I cringe at what you would say about the large ones.

    a) Mr. Christian is not a Chapel Hill resident-he is an Orange County resident.
    b) 75 % of Mr. Christian’s last proposal was to be developed by Crescent Resources, a Charlotte business.
    c) My definition of affordable is NOT $1650-$1750/month for a 2 bedroom apartment behind a fire station.
    d) No one is living on the property now, though there was a nice couple living there with Mr. Christian’s blessings.
    e) A protest petition is a state right granted in 1923 because development consequences hit those who live the closest the hardest. The only purpose of the recombination tactic used by Mr. Christian is to deny that right to Chapel Hill citizens.
    f) There is no “NIMBY” issue here-nothing is happening near my house.

    I have always found the Council amenable to the presentation of verifiable and factual information. What I would ask the Council (and you should too, if you are CH citizens) is what do they think is fair? Is it really fair to support a maneuver like this? What will happen the next time there is a protest petition and the same ploy is used? What message will it send to CH citizens-that this is a game?? Or, do they believe that rules and rights mean something?

  19. Terri Buckner

     /  March 31, 2012

    If the council was prone to listening to its advisory boards, Susan and Lauren might have something concrete to base their accusations upon, but even then, one person can’t stop a proposal, whether she is the chair of planning board or not. Look at what happened with Carol Ann Zinn’s proposal over on Hwy 54. From what I hear, all of the advisory boards signed off on it and yet the council voted against it anyway.

    There really must be a way for people in this highly educated community to express their concerns over decisions without including personal attacks. They lower the quality of any argument and the credibility of the writer, IMHO.