At what price?

When has Chapel Hill ever forced an entire neighborhood to pack up and move away? When has the town ever told more than 100 of its residents they must leave their homes en masse and find other housing?

It sure looks like that’s about to happen to the Lakeview mobile home community in north Chapel Hill off Weaver Dairy Road. Texas-based developer Hanover Co. proposes building 303 apartments, 18 townhomes and a 5,000-square-foot commercial building on the plot of land that now houses more than 120 low-income Chapel Hillians in 34 mobile homes and two duplexes.

The housing that Hanover proposes to build will not be affordable to these good neighbors. Hanover has proposed housing that not even the average worker in Chapel Hill could afford. More important, the housing it wants to build is not what the town needs.

Lakeview is made up of folks who are hard workers, committed to their children, their neighbors and the community. These residents chose Chapel Hill for the same reasons many of us did — jobs, good schools, medical facilities and friendliness. They have put down roots here.

Hanover, on the other hand, chose this community because it sees a way to make a quick profit by reselling the project and moving on to its next profit-making endeavor.

So Hanover’s legacy for Chapel Hill will not be as good neighbors that contribute to the well-being of the community — it will be the destruction of a neighborhood.

Why would Chapel Hill choose to impose a massive disruption on these neighbors? At what point does a community embrace its residents rather than a business that is just passing through?

Every resident who spoke at the Jan. 24 council meeting told of access to jobs in town and families and friends they had known for years and even decades. The developer would disrupt those relationships and an established neighborhood, destroy its history and social network, just to build something that, as Hanover project manager Bo Buchanan told the council, would bring in more tax revenue for the town.

Several council members mentioned that the sale of the land is inevitable. They urged an effort to relocate the Lakeview residents to land that will keep them in Chapel Hill, close to the jobs our town depends on them to do and the schools that are helping their children succeed. Unfortunately, there is no such place right now. Town Council has not planned well for this disruption.

Hanover volunteered to contribute $75,000 toward relocating the neighborhood, in exchange for the privilege of making a sizeable profit for its investors.

What price can be put on a neighborhood or the social and personal anguish and disruption that would be caused by its upheaval? How much is it worth to help children in low-income families succeed and rise out of poverty? Chapel Hill has to decide which it values more: residents who comprise a stable workforce in hard-to-fill, modestly paying jobs or more luxury apartments in an already glutted market.

— Don Evans

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  1. Terri

     /  January 30, 2018

    Realistically, this isn’t an either/or support the residents or embrace luxury apartments. It’s private property and the owners, rather than the developers, are the ones we need to be talking to. Shame on them. Isn’t this one of the situations where the community outreach coordinator and the sustainability manager needs to be negotiating instead of land planners?

  2. George C

     /  January 30, 2018

    Well, here’s an opportunity for Chapel Hill to put its money where its principles are, so to speak. It has about 35 acres of land over on Legion Road (probably 2/3 suitable) on which those trailers could be re-located. Sewer and water is already in place and there is transit service available. In addition it is within walking distance of a supermarket, a pharmacy, a bakery and a variety of eating places.
    So what is the excuse for not considering this?

  3. Terri

     /  January 30, 2018

    Great idea George. It’s also an opportunity to help the residents set up a resident-owned cooperative.

  4. Don EVANS

     /  January 30, 2018

    Agree that the town should put its money where its principles are. Too bad that a prior Town Council refused to do that with “Blue Hill” by not allowing any incentives for including affordable housing.
    The town has many values/priorities, including parks, greenways and recreation. Park space becomes all the more important as we pack the town so densely with apartment dwellers who have no other park space.
    The town can’t create open land for a park, but the town could do infill affordable housing development, which would be in keeping with the values it embraced in its Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance (which prior councils gave a pass on in all but one development).
    Finally, let’s not put all the low-income people in one area of town. Instead, council should encourage mixed-income housing, which was the intent of the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance.

  5. George C

     /  January 31, 2018


    “Finally, let’s not put all the low-income people in one area of town.” Who’s being protected by not putting all the low income people in one area? The folks in the trailers who are being considered for relocation to another park, out past the Town operations center on Millhouse Road, where there are no grocery stores, pharmacies, eateries or other services (except transit) within walking distance? or the NIMBYs who will soon be saddled with those low income folks living in those brand new rentals on Legion Road? The argument that you don’t want to put too much low income housing in one place is tenuous at best and holds no water when the other option is to put it outside of town and about as far away from services as you can get.

  6. Terri

     /  January 31, 2018

    There are decades of research and experience documenting the benefits of mixed income development. Inclusionary zoning hasn’t achieved those benefits in Chapel Hill or Carrboro, but it’s worth looking at how it can be improved.

  7. Del Snow

     /  January 31, 2018

    “Conduct a census of the mobile home parks in order to provide for increased affordable opportunities if those sites are developed.”
    “Apply for State Affordable Housing Bond Money for replacement of mobile home parks.”

    Look familiar, George? Those were two of the follow-up actions that you voted to include in the Northern Area Task Force Report when you were a member. That report was dated 8/30/2007 and nothing was done until very recently. We KNEW this was going to happen back then.

  8. Deborah Fulghieri

     /  February 1, 2018

    “The sale of the land is inevitable,” and staff are pushing council to rezone so as to have more residential building in town. So the question is, is rezoning inevitable?
    Also, why do commercial developments keep turning tax-exempt?

  9. George C

     /  February 2, 2018


    What commercial developments turned tax-exempt?

  10. Nancy

     /  February 4, 2018

    George, a mobile home park is a suburban option not suitable for high-density development areas. Otherwise, why not put it on Parking Lot #2, which is ready for redevelopment now, as opposed to the American Legion land, which we won’t own and can’t touch until spring 2019. Carraway Village will bring a grocery store, pharmacy, eateries and other services, including public transit. And talks are underway to allow children who would be affected should the Lakeview community relocate to Millhouse Road to stay in CHCCS.

  11. Deborah Fulghieri

     /  February 4, 2018

    George: The office building on the corner of Weaver Dairy and MLK, the ABC store, the Goodwill store. All were presented to the PB before 2015 as stimulating commercial activity in the area, bringing much-needed tax inflow to the town.

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