Charterwood threepeat

The Charterwood project has all the buildup and letdown of a Barry White song. If you’re old enough, you remember the cadence – first the muttered low growl, then the music swells, and you’re sure he’s going to burst into song. But then, the music fades, and the growling and mumbling resume.

Last night, Charterwood came back before council for a second reading and third vote. The first vote, last spring, was hit with a protest petition that required a super-majority of council ayes to pass. It failed to pass, 5-4; then it immediately failed to fail, 5-4. The smart-growth, mixed-use development came back to council for another vote on the last Town Council meeting of the 2012 fiscal year in June. Redrawn property lines nullified the protest petition, and Charterwood won a simple majority of the votes. But because it was approved by only a one-vote margin, it had to return for a second reading and vote at the next business meeting, which wasn’t until the new council season began last night.

In the five years or so Charterwood has been working through the approval process, it has received a cumulative 83-3 “yes” votes from all the boards and commissions and council members required to weigh in on the project. And Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt was ready to vote again.

But first, town attorney Ralph Karpinos had taken a course over the summer and learned that the issue of whether a plan complies with the town’s Comprehensive Plan (aka CH2020) should be voted on separately from whether to grant a special use permit. So the mayor prepared to call that vote.

But first, Ed Harrison had to get in his digs against the developer, not the project. Calling it “not the worst project I’ve seen,” Harrison nevertheless objected to the visual impact the development would have on its backdoor neighbors. Harrison said he wouldn’t go so far as to say the developer was “screwing” the neighborhood, but of course, that’s exactly what he did say. Once Harrison had finished his diatribe, the mayor tried once again for a vote.

But first, Matt Czajkowski proposed that with Gene Pease tied up at a work commitment, creating the potential for a tie vote, the applicant be allowed to postpone the vote until all nine council member were present. Karpinos weighed in again that, if the vote were tied, council would vote on it again at its next business meeting. So the mayor once again cocked an eyebrow to signal a vote on whether the applicant’s proposal complied with the Comprehensive Plan.

Four council members said it did; four disagreed, putting Charterwood back on the agenda for Sept. 26.

And at 8:29 p.m., Mayor Kleinschmidt banged down the gavel to close the first council meeting of the 2012-13 season.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. Del Snow

     /  September 14, 2012

    I’d like to give you the benefit of the doubt and guess that all of your information about Charterwood is coming from the applicant. It sure isn’t coming from Council because despite the votes in favor, none of the aye votes have ever been given a basis. Quite to the contrary, comments made by Council include:
    Penny’s concerns about stormwater run-off. In the face of recent damage to Eastwood Lake and Lake Ellen, her concerns were warranted.
    Mark had concerns about affordable housing. He said, on Sept 26, 2011, that he did not want payments in lieu, he wanted units. He went on to say that if a payment in lieu was to be made, he wanted more than what was necessary…that we must set a high bar on payments in lieu. Instead, we are being offered no units, and half the payment in lieu made by comparable developments.
    Donna was excited by the now non-existent workforce housing as well, but said, on April 11, 2011 that she was concerned about the “glut of vacancies and proposed uses.” Now we are being offered luxury apartments and the same uses, including a DRIVE-THRU BANK (is this smart growth??) that exist within a small walkable radius.
    Jim was and continues to be an advocate for the trees, but was concerned with the amount of parking. Is 362 parking spaces smart growth?
    These were concerns that The Council expressed in addition to concerns expressed by citizens.
    Why is there the perception that Charterwood represents “smart growth?” If every square foot of retail is rented (is that likely, given the surrounding shopping and vacancies?) the MAXIMUM sales tax benefit will be $17,000. Do 362 cars represent smart growth? Do luxury apartments fill a need? Do we need more vacant office space? Again, Is a drive thru bank, in this day of on-line banking, and 4 other nearby banks smart? Is it smart to endanger Eastwood Lake, Lake Ellen and old growth trees, especially in the light of Money Magazine’s highlighting of our trees ?
    I ask these questions of you sincerely.

  2. DOM

     /  September 15, 2012

    It seems NO project will ever meet the high ideals that Ms. Snow sets.

  3. Nancy Oates

     /  September 15, 2012

    Seriously, Del, what would you like to see there? It will be developed by someone. Opposition by you and your neighbors pushed out Ram Development, who recouped its expenses in the sale to the next owner. If Charterwood is not built, the current owner will recoup his thwarted development expenses in his sales price, and the new owner won’t be able to put in affordable housing, either. All of the other concerns of yours and some council members have been addressed in the multiple versions of the plan. Almost everyone in CH needs a car; the town is not set up for non-car living. So 362 parking spaces shows the developer’s concern for your neighborhood. If he didn’t have that many parking spaces, all the overflow parking would spill to the curbs along your streets.

  4. Del Snow

     /  September 15, 2012

    Thanks for responding to my request to start a respectful dialogue on this.

    No one has ever argued against developing this property. I seriously doubt that RAM incurred over a million dollars (the profit they made) in expenses, considering that it only went through concept stage before they realized that it would be too difficult to develop there. This was not because of neighbors’ opposition, which wasn’t all that vocal at that point, but because of the constraints that the Northern Area Task Force specified when it made its specific “lower density” recommendations for this property.

    Because I was chair of the NATF, Mr. Christian asked to meet with me in 2008 before he finalized the purchase of the Altemueller parcel. At that time I made him fully aware of the limitations and he made the choice to go ahead.

    I’m not too sure why those opposed to a specific development are often asked “what should be there instead?” I will describe what would work. A development that is more oriented to MLK and one that takes into account the fact that the land significantly slopes upward. Tall buildings on higher ground cannot be buffered, so a 3 story height restriction would work. The mix of uses proposed have been argued against because they exist plentifully in the area (and Town) and vacancies abound. A half empty development would affect the financial health of the development leading to financial constraints for upkeep, including stormwater. I do not believe that lthere is some outcry for luxury apartments in Chapel Hill, but I do believe that affordable and workforce housing, as you have said many times, is needed. The payment in lieu offered (thanks to CITIZEN pressure) is paltry. The design of Charterwood, if you have looked at it, is mediocre at best. The applicant is resisiting posting a bond to remediate damages to Eastwood Lake (Lake Ellen isn’t even being addressed).

    I actually agree with you that a car is needed and that the Town is not set up for non-car living. It never will be if large amounts of parking is provided. That said, how can the applicant then justify the density proposed on the basis of Charterwood being “transit-oriented?”

    I disagree that concerns have been addressed.

    Additionally, I don’t want to be picky, but there a number of factual errors in your original post. They may not seem like much, but people trust you when you blog. The protest petition temporarily halted Charterwood in January of 2012, not last spring, and the vote was 5-3. It has been in process for four years, and considering that just the recent planning board votes (from which I recused myself) and recent Council votes alone tallied 15, I’m not too sure about where your numbers came from.

    And Dom, thank you for recognizing that I do have high ideals and that all of the projects that I HAVE voted for (the vast majority that I have seen) must have met them.

  5. DOM

     /  September 15, 2012

    Ms. Snow

    “I do not believe that lthere is some outcry for luxury apartments in Chapel Hill, but I do believe that affordable and workforce housing, as you have said many times, is needed.”

    The more costly (and often unreasonable) permitting obstacles we put in place for developers, the less likely we’ll ever get any “affordable” housing. The higher the price for getting approval, the higher the eventual cost of the finished product. Simple math.

    “The applicant is resisiting posting a bond to remediate damages to Eastwood Lake…”

    IMO, he’d be nuts to do that. Judging from the horrific photos that have been submitted to Council members by neighbors of the Eastwood community, that system is already very broken, Let’s face it, it’s a man-made lake that was originally created to add value to the properties there – and it wasn’t done right. To try and set up a situation that would force the Charterwood developer to pay for remedial costs that should have been absorbed a long time ago by the Eastwood Lake association just isn’t fair.

  6. Ed Neely

     /  September 15, 2012

    Quote by Nancy: “If Charterwood is not built, the current owner will recoup his thwarted development expenses in his sales price, and the new owner won’t be able to put in affordable housing, either.”

    Land prices are not set by expenses, but by the price at which a seller is willing sell and the buyer is willing to pay. The seller may set his asking price based on what he needs to offset costs, but that is of no concern to the buyer. The buyer will pay what the land is worth, regardless of whether the seller makes a profit or even breaks even.

  7. Del Snow

     /  September 17, 2012

    As I have said before, all of the constraints of the Altemueller property were known when the NATF produced its report recommending lower density on this site. That the applicant CHOSE to make up the following:
    “The Council adoption of the Northern Area Task Force’s recommendation for this property accepted the goal of creating a mixed use village, with a combination of housing, retail, office and other uses that would take advantage of existing infrastructure, including the bus, cycling and walking transportation alternatives that exist in the MLK Corridor.”

    …and attribute it to the 2007 NATF report in an effort to fool the Council is reprehensible. I defy anyone to find that in the report or any statement even vaguely like it. I have already submitted this to Council and would have loved a reply…

    When the Council votes on development applications, one would hope that their consideration would be given to the present citizens of Chapel Hill, not theoretical future ones, and not for-profit investors. Charterwood will not help drive the economic growth of Chapel Hill.

    You are right – the pictures were horrific and obviously this will effect Lake Forest home values. Shoud that be a concern? Well, they are citizens too, and have been paying some hefty property taxes because of their home values! Northwoods V and Parkisde, middle class communities, have been paying their taxes and contributing to the community. The applicant does not reside in Chapel Hill and the company that he is partnering with is from Charlotte. Seems like a choice of whom do you represent?

  8. DOM

     /  September 17, 2012

    Ms. Snow –
    ” Charterwood will not help drive the economic growth of Chapel Hill.”

    It’s this kind of subjective, biased belief system that the anti-growth constituency has been employing for years.

    Hopefully the town’s Future Focus Areas’ Leadership committees will not fall for this false and closed-minded rhetoric.

  9. Del Snow

     /  September 17, 2012

    How do you think that Charterwood specifically will help drive the economic growth?
    20,000 sq ft of retail, surrounded by two big shopping centers that both have vacancies?
    30,000 sq ft of office when CH has hundreds of sq ft of office that is vacant and more that has been approved?
    Residential property which at best breaks even with the cost of services?
    I also hope the Future Focus Areas thoroughly explore all financial impacts of growth.

  10. Jason

     /  September 17, 2012

    I love what you suggest Del. 3-story buildings, affordable housing, a fat payment in lieu and a huge bond posted to remediate damages (that already exist). We can call it Del’s Fantasyland and you can be the mayor (since you live right behind it the walkability factor works for you). I sure hope this doesn’t drag on forever because you’ve got to get yourself and your cronies ready to do battle at Obey’s Creek.

  11. DOM

     /  September 17, 2012

    Ms. Snow –
    It’s difficult to understand how someone with views as closed-minded and narrow as yours could possibly serve on a town advisory board and claim to be objective and fair-minded in your decision making.

  12. Del Snow

     /  September 18, 2012

    Well, at least I tried to have a civil and fact-based discourse…
    Obviously, Dom and Jason (whoever you are…you know who I am, we don’t know who you are or where you live…) the best the two of you could respond with are silly insults. How sad.
    My parting thought is that Councilmembers who have liked this project from the beginning, but then call it greatly improved provide an interesting insight. Were they willing to accept the project that was “not as good” (at least in their minds)? Do they regret that it has supposedly gotten better? Do the CMs that think some things have been lost have any problem voting for it?
    Why are they afraid to say no and get the best for Chapel Hill?

  13. Terri Buckner

     /  September 18, 2012

    Dom and Jason,

    I’d like you both to explain your reasoning in supporting Charterwood or any other mixed use development.Do you really believe that the commercial development in Meadowmont or East 54 is offsetting the cost of the residential development? If so, I’d like to hear your analysis.

  14. jason

     /  September 18, 2012

    My prior post simply explains that what Del would recommend for that tract is not feasible. Her conflict of interest in this project combined with her delusionary vision is amusing. I would prefer that the property become home to Chapel Hill’s first Target store mixed with a family diner, a multi-purpose indoor sports complex and a Moe’s. But who in Chapel Hill would want to frequent those types of establishments?

  15. DOM

     /  September 18, 2012

    Ms. Buckner:
    At no point in this discussion have I mentioned anything about supporting Charterwood. I’m simply trying to point out how specious and lopsided Ms. Snow’s arguments have been against it.

    That she presumes to know what’s best for Chapel Hill’s economic future without facts and figures to back her position up is downright scary, especially when she sits on two of the town’s most powerful boards.

  16. Terri Buckner

     /  September 19, 2012

    This is sad. Neither of you are willing to support the Charterwood application, but you are willing to mock someone who is. I don’t see how that 1) helps the town bring in good development or 2) protects the town from bad development. In fact, all it does is send a message to anyone who wants to be actively involved that they open themselves up to personal attacks.

    Regarding Dom’s statement that Del is presuming to know what’s best for Chapel Hill’s economics future: Del is not presuming. There have been studies that say we need a larger variety of office space instead of the same old chopped up small spaces that would result from the Charterwood plan. We also know that we can’t build a local economy on sales tax. Sales tax may play a role, but it is inconsistent, unreliable as to amount or timing of receipt, and comes from businesses that pay relatively low wages. Everything Del has said is based on this factual information.

    Instead of levying blanket accusations against Del, why don’t you tell us what kind of economy you want to see develop and how it can be reflected in the build out of the few remaining spaces inside the rural buffer.

  17. Jason

     /  September 19, 2012

    Terri – why do I need to support Charterwood? I’ve given you a better use for that piece of land. Would you be ok if it was developed like that? The development process in CH is a broken joke. I have no idea how to fix it. If you think otherwise I want some of the koolaid you are drinking.

  18. Terri Buckner

     /  September 19, 2012

    Jason–I agree with you. I think any town should be asking whether a new development is going to benefit the citizens of the town before it is approved. Is it going to generate revenue? Is it going to enhance liveability? Is it going to be welcomed by neighbors? If the majority of the answers are no, then it shouldn’t be approved. But that isn’t how the approval process works. Personally, I admire Del’s efforts to stop a development that is not going to create a net positive gain for the town.

  19. Steve Wells

     /  September 20, 2012


    Just a point of order. The neighbors didn’t welcome the IFC Shelter, but you said that didn’t matter. Where was this passion for the “neighborhood approval” then?

    The space for Charterwood will be developed. When Del bought her lot that borders it directly abutting it she knew it was Private Property, not Parkland.

    I would much prefer the kind of development being discussed than a Big Box store or crap restaurant.

  20. DOM

     /  September 20, 2012

    Ms. Buckner:

    I never said I didn’t support the Charterwood application. And I didn’t “mock” anyone either. I simply pointed why I think Ms. Snow’s argument (and yours, apparently) is specious.

  21. Jon DeHart

     /  September 20, 2012

    Most people in Chapel Hill do not want the develpoment process fixed. Chapel Hill is a funny place, for such a Liberal place, there are many people who are conservative with a small c and do not want any change .

    I don’t know the exact highest and best use of the land but I know that the developer met all the requirements as he went before the multiple boards that are required, passed each one and then has had a extended time in front of Council. This time extension makes all prices go up .

    I don’t personally want alot of growth in Chapel Hill.

    I would like to see a really tight and stringent develpoment process but where the rules are clear and specific .Just tell the developer “NO” early, instead of stretching out the process . We don’t have to lower our standards while being timely and efficient .

  22. delsnow

     /  September 20, 2012

    I agree Jon, Mr. Christian should have been told No in the beginning. And he was. That is why he has been toying with the Council for all of these years, He came in with the built in concessions that Mr. Pease has brought up many times and somehow has parlayed that into being “:responsive.”

    And, for the record, NOTHING is being built behind my house, and nothing was ever proposed to be built there. I have yet to see anyone on this site, or any of the aye votes on council, come up with one solid fact based reason for Charterwood to be approved other than it has been going on so long….what a great reason!

  23. Fred Black

     /  September 20, 2012

    Del, can you explain to those who have not been following this why all of the boards that considered this voted to support it? And if it passes Monday night, what’s your next step?

  24. Steve Wells

     /  September 20, 2012

    Okay Del

    Near. Thanks to the modification, there will be a nice buffer.

  25. Del Snow

     /  September 21, 2012

    No Steve, no modification anywhere near my house, sorry.
    I still haven’t heard the economic benefit facts, the afforable housing facts, the environmental protection facts, and yes, the neighbohood protection facts supporting Charterwood.

    All I have heard are personal attacks.

  26. Nancy Oates

     /  September 21, 2012

    Del — Did you move recently? My 2010 phone book lists your address as a home that backs onto the new buffer between your neighborhood and Charterwood.

  27. Del Snow

     /  September 21, 2012

    There is no new buffer and I did not move. There has NEVER been a plan that puts anything in back of my house. I live behind the fire station burn building and nothing has ever been planned for that area for obvious reasons. Who is perpetuating this myth?????? And why???????
    Come visit, I mean this sincerely, and I will show you. Otherwise, don’t write things that are not true.

  28. Jason

     /  September 21, 2012

    Boy Dell you are getting awfully defensive. Nancy is just asking for clarification. Can you clarify what you would like to see as a affordable housing component. The current ordinance was designed for AH during healthy market conditions. I’ve heard that is no longer a feasible option for developers because the market rate product can’t subsidize it anymore. Maybe a reasonable payment in lieu to help maintain the existing stock of AH’s is a good idea.

  29. Jon DeHart

     /  September 21, 2012

    I can see where Del would be defensive here. She is at least answering all questions , I give her credit for that . And we agreed that the process is bad .

    Unless Del moved, she would have to be at least indirectly affected by the new development . Her house is close by. I live in Larkspur and the development would affect me and I live a mile away.

    The problem is the system/process. As a town we do not want it to change ., If we did , we would elect different people to change it .

    I would say Del is representative of an average Chapel Hill resident, who does not want any new growth now that she lives here .

  30. Fred Black

     /  September 21, 2012

    Answering all the questions? I’m still waiting for my question to be answered.

  31. Jon DeHart

     /  September 21, 2012

    I missed yours, sorry about that .

  32. Del Snow

     /  September 22, 2012

    “I would say Del is representative of an average Chapel Hill resident, who does not want any new growth now that she lives here .”

    What I would say is Jon doesn’t know me from Adam. I didn’t read about anyone complaining about me when I spoke to council in favor of Bridgepoint which is as close to my house as Charterwood is to Jon’s. I will,as everyone else in Chapel Hill, will be affected by all development in Chapel Hill, positively or negatively.

    And Fred, “Answering all the questions? I’m still waiting for my question to be answered”
    Am I in kangaroo court?
    Here is your answer: I do not speak for other boards and I could not attend the reviews. If Charterwood passes on Monday night, I plan on waking up on Tuesday morning.

    Beyond you big guys picking on me, I STILL haven’t read any fact based reasons about why you all so ardently support Charterwood.

  33. Terri Buckner

     /  September 22, 2012

    If anyone wants to understand the problems we have around development in this town, they can read this thread. First, statements are made as fact that are incorrect. Then, corrections are offered and the peanut gallery jumps in to start the attacks. So no one ever gets a real understanding of the pros and cons of any project. Assumptions are made that assign opinions or beliefs to others, and then between the attacks and assumptions, defenses go up.

    Does anyone really want to understand why Del opposes this project or does everyone already “know” what she thinks?

    What I don’t understand is why those who are so willing to attack can’t say they support the project at hand. And if they don’t support it, what value are they adding to the conversation?

    Charterwood is a major project on one of the last remaining open spaces in the northern area. Wouldn’t it be better to listen to everyone’s objections, offer your own opinions, and have a productive dialogue that serves to benefit everyone in town? What purpose do the attacks serve?

  34. Fred Black

     /  September 22, 2012

    Del, I really hope that asking you a question is not considered “picking” on you. Didn’t the board you chair also vote to approve the project? You dont know why? I don’t know who the “big guys” are but it seems to me that you are overacting to something not in my question.

  35. Jon DeHart

     /  September 23, 2012

    I know exactly who you are . I knocked on your door twice while campaigning in different years. I have watched you on the boards and when you have spoken at council.