Council agrees to get more info on Obey Creek plan

Jan. 23, 2014 @ 11:58 AM

Following widespread confusion on the board’s next step in proposed Obey Creek development, the Town Council adopted revised terminology and a community suggested flow chart to clear the air.
The proposed project calls for a mixed-use development along Obey Creek across U.S. 15-501 from Southern Village. It would include an anchor retailer, housing options, hotels, office space and recreational space.
Residents’ concerns at the Town Council meeting earlier this month stemmed largely from whether information was coming too far along the process, and concerns that Phase 2 of the project was labeled as a stage for negotiation.
Phase 2 consists of the gathering of more information on various concerns including traffic, economic benefit and impact on local schools along with more weigh-ins and votes from the council. A third phase would involve negotiations followed by another phase with a final decision.
Councilman Jim Ward said that the problem seemed to be with labeling the phase as one for negotiations.
“If I vote to go to the Phase 2, we’re not voting to sit in a closed room with negotiators,” Ward said. “The next step is to get the technical information we need based on a plan. We are a long way from that (negotiations). We’re not moving anywhere with out a full understanding of what DOT (N.C. Department of Transportation) will do.”
Councilman Ed Harris agreed that calling it the negotiation phase had people concerned and puzzled.
“We have a lot of things that we want to find out, that the community wants to find out,” he said.
Resident Patrick McGowan said that “figuring it out in Phase 2 isn’t good enough,” adding that he’s “concerned that we’re marching toward a pre-determined outcome” while there is a disconnect between the community and the planning process and the scale of the project.
After much discussion and public input, the council approved the town staff’s resolution to better define what each phase means, with an addition proposed by Chapel Hill resident Julie Richardson that incorporates the Obey Creek Compass Committee’s report.
The OCCC report recommends that the technical team be expanded to evaluate the proposed development in the context of existing development, to add a checkpoint to the comprehensive review part of the process that allows the developer to provide an updated plan and a vote for the council on whether or not to move forward and for Phase 3 to delineate formal council negotiations and a final decision.
The Obey Creek Compass Committee reported its findings and noted several challenges to the existing project including not having information on possible impacts on traffic, connectivity for pedestrians and cyclists, the environment, economic benefits and the overall scale of the development.
Citizens expressed concern over the impact to the schools in the Obey Creek area that would be affected by the new residents moving in and what the state Department of Transportation would allow the town to do with U.S. 15-501.
“You’re looking at nine people who want exactly what you want -- the numbers -- to see if this is feasible,” Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said.