Rogers Road victory

The historically black Rogers Road neighborhood crossed the finish line this past week on quality-of-life improvements years in the making. Town Council approved rezoning that would protect the neighborhood from the over-development expected once the sewer line extends into the area.

The neighborhood, north of Homestead Road and east of Rogers Road, sits just south of the Orange County landfill, which has tainted some wells in an area that had no access to public water and sewer since the community’s inception in the 1700s.

The homes are in one of the town’s Extraterritorial Jurisdictions (ETJ), which means the property owners are governed by Chapel Hill’s land development regulations but can’t vote in town elections. They pay only county and school district taxes, not town taxes, and their children may attend Chapel Hill-Carrboro public schools.

In 2011, OWASA extended water service to the neighborhood. The sewer line will be completed any day now. Without public utilities, the neighborhood was able to retain its rural character. Recognizing that developers would take interest once the area had access to water and sewer, the residents of the Rogers Road community conducted a nine-month planning effort to shape growth in the coming years. The Mapping Our Community’s Future report came out in May 2016.

To give teeth to the report, Chapel Hill planners proposed formally rezoning the area. The town hired a consultant and held numerous community meetings over the past couple of years. Rogers Road residents remained adamant that their vision detailed in Mapping Our Community’s Future be respected.

Town staff presented a proposed rezoning at our April 22 council meeting that hewed fairly closely to the mapping report. Public comment at the meeting underscored the desire to hold to the mapping report, to remove proposed roads that ran through private property and to limit the rezoning to only the historically black neighborhood.

When town staff came back to council with the plan last Wednesday, clearly they had listened to the feedback from property owners. (This is rarer than you’d think.)

The night before our council meeting, the chair of the Orange County commissioners emailed a request to council members to delay voting on the rezoning until the commissioners had formally weighed in. However, delaying the vote would have left Rogers Road property owners vulnerable to developers taking advantage of access to the newly completed public utilities and proposing development that did not fit with the neighbors’ vision. As county staff had been involved in the rezoning process from the start and briefing commissioners along the way, council members and town staff so no need to subject the Rogers Road property owners to unnecessary risk.

The rezoning allows home-based businesses; triplexes, as long as they are affordable to people of modest means, and some duplexes that make room for growth. The quality of life has improved, and the character has been preserved.

— Nancy Oates

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  1. Terri

     /  May 27, 2019

    At the May 21 meeting of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, the Rogers Road community sent a representative to the commissioners to ask them to get involved because they did not feel like CH staff had listened to them and that their community was in jeopardy from the rezoning. Did the Council contact the community leaders in that area and ask for an explanation?

  2. Nancy Oates

     /  May 27, 2019

    I didn’t, because I didn’t know about them. They did not speak at the Town Council meeting. I was very pleased that town staff did listen to the community members who spoke at the council meeting and made changes based on what they heard. That doesn’t always happen.

  3. Terri

     /  May 28, 2019

    But there’s a problem when residents have to go to the county because they feel they are being ignored by the town. I don’t know the full story, but it sounds so familiar to me based on my experience with Obey Creek.

  4. Plurimus

     /  May 28, 2019

    I think the problem is that for many people it is not clear which to go to the town or county and when. The two often seem at odds or at least disengaged. The Rogers Road area is particularly vulnerable to this because it is where the jurisdictions meet and overlap. As Terri points out, the Obey Creek saga seems like it was another.

    If there was ever a need for an Ombudsman it is here and in places where the services boundary is being expanded.