Part of Ephesus-Fordham rezoned
New zoning regulations were approved for parts of the Ephesus Church-Fordham Boulevard area, paving the way for future mixed-used developments that are projected to stimulate economic growth.
The 6-3 vote had Councilmen Matt Czajkowski, Jim Ward and Ed Harrison in opposition to the rest of the board members, who felt that adequate work and public input had been gathered to approve the zoning changes.
The rezoned areas include property along Elliott Road by Village Plaza up through the Eastgate Shopping Center and Ram’s Plaza, continuing through to the Europa Center and on to the edge of the Chapel Hill Cemetery and down Legion Road to Ephesus Church Road back by Colony Apartments and about a block north of Francis Street.
Four parcels south of Elliott Road were excluded from the rezoning. A parcel near the Chapel Hill Cemetery was unanimously approved for rezoning to allow non-profit affordable housing provider DHIC to move forward with its project to build affordable rental units on the property.
The rezoning is the first step in a larger renewal project for the area that includes improvements to stormwater management in the area, the public transit system and addresses traffic concerns to the tune of $10 million.
Among public and council concerns was the funding for the project, the correct order in which to make improvements in the area that would be made and whether form-based code was the best way to renew the area.
Councilwoman Sally Greene said that there are tremendous holistic benefits to the plan and that “I can’t imagine contemplating this (form based code) to any other part of town. This is a very good solution for a very particular problem.”
“If we approve this retail stuff, we could end up with the exact opposite of what we said we wanted to achieve,” Czajkowski said.
“I’m not ready to vote for these,” Harrison said. “For the time being, let’s defer to the studied skepticism of neighbors and friends. This doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t vote for this in the future.”
Ward expressed frustration that staff didn’t inform the board on unsuccessful incentives municipalities had used to entice developers and that the energy efficiency incentives did not have enough substance and too much soft language.
He added that he was sorry he could not support this matter and that the plan needs to go to the Orange County commissioners to see how and if they contribute funds to the project prior to their approval.
Councilwoman Maria Palmer said that she is thinking of the future of Chapel Hill and contended that the council was not voting on faith alone that this plan will bring about results, including affordable housing.
“It’s not faith. … It’s trusting that we have done our research and that Chapel Hill needs the density and a corner of urban housing,” she said. “We need to do something different. We need lots of middle class housing for people who want to live and work in Chapel Hill.”
Councilman George Cianciolo said that he believes “that the staff, the consultants, the members of the council who are supportive of this believe it will succeed. I do believe
this will be successful for Chapel Hill.”