How about yours?

Community members at last Monday’s Town Council meeting turned the “not in Nancy Oatesmy backyard” philosophy on its head, asking instead, “Why not your backyard?”

At the Sept. 21 meeting, developers presented their proposed plan for Amity Station, a tall apartment building on West Rosemary Street where Breadman’s sits now. The parcel is in the Northside Neighborhood Conservation District, and developers would need the 2.2-acre lot rezoned.

Initially, the developers had planned a 10-story building targeting student rentals. But the Community Design Commission expressed disapproval. When the developers came to council last week for a concept plan review, little had changed, other than one story had been lopped off, the pool deleted and the target market rebranded as “market rate” instead of “student rental.” The plan also added some space that purportedly would be affordable offices to give the entrepreneurs at Launch across the street a place to land.

The 242,500-square-foot building would have up to 165 apartments and 340 parking spaces for cars that town staff apparently believes won’t be driven anywhere because staff analysis showed no traffic impact.

Northside residents turned out in force to reiterate what they have said in numerous Rosemary Imagined meetings: This project was too big for their compact community, and Northside could not absorb another tower of student rentals. Residents wanted stores and businesses they would patronize to encourage their neighborhood to be a walkable community.

While developers couched their plans for widening Nunn and Andrews lanes and including grassy areas conducive to “Saturday morning activities,” one resident countered with a murky video of a party in a Northside backyard of about 100 students milling around, plastic cups in hand. The neighborhood has Saturday morning activities seven nights a week, he said.

Other residents noted that if council was intent on adding student housing to the community, it should look for spots on the other end of Rosemary Street in the historic district where housing prices are higher than in the Northside Historic District. (To be fair, the Franklin-Rosemary Historic District has absorbed Lux and may soon see another large student apartment complex nearby.)

One resident asked, “Would you allow this in your neighborhood?”

A UNC student urged the university to renovate dorms on campus into apartment-style residences to incentivize students to remain on campus where it is safer.

Perhaps it’s the magical atmosphere of election season, but council members stood up to developers and in so many words said, “No.”

That shift in policy takes a big step toward creating the town we want to be. If developers believe that council will approve a rezoning for a very tall apartment complex that does not fit in with the community, it destroys all motivation for the developer to propose a less profitable project that better serves the community.

Let’s hope that courage prevails, even after the election is over.
– Nancy Oates

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11 Comments

  1. Terri

     /  September 28, 2015

    According to the CH News report, Ken Broun, ex-mayor, is a vocal opponent of the proposed development along with some of his neighbors at 140 West. Odd that residents from that development would oppose a similar proposal, don’t you think? Why is the Council willing to say that development is too big but Obey Creek and the one on Elliott Road aren’t?

  2. George C

     /  September 28, 2015

    Terri,
    Amity Station is proposed to not only be nearby an existing neighborhood but to actually be WITHIN the neighborhood, and one with a NCD overlay zone to boot. That is a very big difference.

  3. Terri

     /  September 28, 2015

    George,

    Obey Creek is in adjacent to several neighborhoods, will add to significant (and recognized) traffic challenges and lies within the ETJ as well as an area that a previous council had set aside as open space. We were and still are subjected to ridicule and name calling as NIMBYs. I don’t see any difference between that an Amity Station.

  4. Geoff Green

     /  September 28, 2015

    Where’s the story with the report about Ken Broun and his 140 West neighbors and their views on the development? I looked but couldn’t find it.

  5. Deborah Fulghieri

     /  September 29, 2015

    Council voted to rezone Obey Creek specifically because it is not in the back yard of Donna Bell, George Cianciolo, Jim Ward, Maria Palmer, Sally Greene, Lee Storrow, Ed Harrison, and Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt.

  6. anon

     /  September 29, 2015

    people need to be able to call B.S. on a council that considers rezoning a commercial plot into a mixed use residential and claiming it’s good for the existing residents.

    land will only get more valuable so no need to approve anything suboptimal like obey creek or the Edge.

    the council always backs down. For the edge the mayor asked why not put residence right on top of commercial in stead of separating them. Here’s an NC example of exactly that yet the developer said no. this place was a commercial success.
    http://www.explorelakenorman.com/i//Town_of_Huntersville_NC.jpg

  7. Terri

     /  September 30, 2015

    Geoff–I know there was an article that specifically called out 140West residents and quoted Mr. Broun, but I can’t find it know either. Not something I would really dream about….

  8. Terri

     /  September 30, 2015

    Since I was unable to find the news report I read earlier, I listened to the public hearing recording. Ken Broun is indeed opposing the development and he gave several reasons: it’s too big for Northside, it will likely turn into student housing, there is unfilled retail at 140 and University Square, the incubator space isn’t aligned with the plans of the University. Finally, he stated that because the neighbors oppose it, the Council should listen to the neighbors. If only…..

  9. Geoff Green

     /  October 1, 2015

    Thanks for searching and finding Terri.

  10. Bruce H

     /  October 3, 2015

    Nancy mentions the proximity of the election as one reason why Council may have had the backbone to vote against the current Amity Station proposal. I can think of a couple others, one being that the developer is not named Roger Perry.

  11. Cindy W.

     /  October 7, 2015

    I’ve never seen a city council yet that could turn down developer money. Rare to see this one say no to developers and I agree with others that election season is the reason why. Not cynical, just have seen it too many times. Years from now CH will bemoan the decisions of now that let the developers determine the direction of our town.

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