Downside of up-zoning

I give credit to Arctic explorer Robert Peary for words that have been guiding Nancy Oatesprinciples in my life: “Find a way, or make one,” and, more frequently, “Do it now.”

So I share the impatience of many residents of Rogers Road who want water and sewer service extended to that area, like we promised we’d do, what, 40 years ago, in exchange for them putting up with the landfill in their backyards that has tainted some of their wells.

But it’s a complicated affair, and Town Council heard an update of progress at a public hearing on Sept. 8, and will pick up the topic again in two weeks.

The Historic Rogers Road Neighborhood is located in the Joint Planning Area, which means that Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County have to agree on what needs to be done and follow a formula for who pays how much for what. Chapel Hill has proposed changing the neighborhood from a JPA to an ETJ, an Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction. That would give Chapel Hill sole planning authority over the neighborhood and allow the town to spend more money on improvements, not only extending OWASA service but building a school as development creeps ever northward.

Extending water and sewer that far out of town would cost the town millions of dollars, and once the lines are out there, would cost residents thousands of dollars to extend the lines from the street to their homes. Even so, minister Robert Campbell, a Rogers Road resident and community organizer, urged council to take action on converting the area to ETJ status.

But voting yes for the ETJ comes with a serious drawback: ETJ residents are subject to Town Council’s development decisions but can’t vote council members in or out of office.
Once that area of town north of Eubanks Road has OWASA service, the land becomes much more attractive to developers, which raises its value. And no one could blame Rogers Road residents for selling to developers and retiring comfortably to Mebane. But if residents choose to remain in what is now an affordable neighborhood close to town, they likely will face what many of us in neighborhoods closer to the center of town now contend with: council members approving massive commercial development that increases traffic, the risk of flooding and their property tax bills.

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, a lawyer and former educator, wanted to make sure Rogers Road residents were made aware of the tradeoffs. Judy Johnson of the town’s planning department assured him that the Rogers-Eubanks Neighborhood Association and the Jackson Center would reach out to residents to allow them to make informed choices.

If it’s any consolation to Rogers Road residents, council rarely listens to those of us who can vote for or against them, either.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. Bonnie

     /  September 29, 2014

    Just to clarify, even if the land use designation was changed to ETJ, the county, chapel hill and Carrboro would pay for the sewer service. With an ETJ designation, chapel hill can annex the green tract and other properties for development.

    Plus many of the Rogers Road homes are sitting on several acres. With water and sewer service, the development options become enormous. Hopefully the community and the Jackson Center will be serious beneficiaries. (I worry about predators who are already buying homes in the area.)

    I hope leaders become serious about providing services to the community. Carrboro annexed their portion years ago and still have not provided sidewalks or streetlights, plus they need better transportation.

  2. Terri

     /  September 29, 2014

    ETJ status is the kiss of death for any neighborhood. The County has been the primary driver in providing water and sewer service for Rogers Road. To willingly go into ETJ status makes no sense. Ask Dogwood Acres what support/services they get through their ETJ status…..they have neither water nor sewer service but they’re [most likely] getting Obey Creek.

  3. Fred Black

     /  September 29, 2014

    “If it’s any consolation to Rogers Road residents, council rarely listens to those of us who can vote for or against them, either.
    – Nancy Oates”

    Don’t know what “rarely” means numbers wise, but your take is not what I’ve experienced or observed.

  4. Geoff Green

     /  September 29, 2014

    I’m with Fred. As a minor example, I voted for those Council members last year who I thought would be supportive of projects like instituting a form-based code in Ephesus-Fordham, and I stated my support in my public comments on the project. I was therefore pleased that the FBC was approved.

  5. many

     /  September 29, 2014

    Wonderful testimonials. However, the discussion is not about the current kerfuffle regarding FBCs or the councils obvious short comings. The discussion is about the lack of representation ETJ status affords on development decisions and the effect that status may or may not have on the Rogers Road area.

    These will be interesting times for the property owners and residents of Rogers Road. The truth is that Rogers Road has every reason to be very suspicious of Chapel Hills motives, from Howard Lee right through Hizhoner today and beyond.

    It is of course a decision that belongs to the residents, but it is a true statement that at least remaining a JPA gives them some electoral muscle regarding the zoning and development decisions. Beware; business is business and no one can or will look out for your interests better than you. Pay attention to what happens at Obey Creek. Watch and listen to the puts and takes at Ephesus-Fordham carefully before rushing a decision.

    I wish all of the residents well and I hope they can find a way to be as unified in this decision as they were about the landfill.

  6. Julie McClintock

     /  October 2, 2014

    In my mind, the case was clearly made for relieving the Rogers Rd Community of the landfill albatross, and making amends by providing city water. However providing sewer has never made sense to me. (I make the case unsuccessfully at a Justice United meeting. ) Sewer drives development patterns. That explains why southeastern Durham is growing like gangbusters now they have sewer. I don’t think it was OC and the Towns’ intention to create a “redevelopment haven” when they made the decision to go with full urban services. But the consequence will put the “community” part of Rogers Rd at risk.