Residents want input in Obey Creek exploratory phase

Apr. 29, 2013 @ 11:03 PM

Community input and the form it should take dominated a discussion Monday about an exploratory process that could lead to a development agreement for the controversial Obey Creek mixed-use development proposed for U.S. 15-501 near Southern Village.
About two dozen residents attended a council work session held at the newly expanded Chapel Hill Public Library to lobby council for a process that would include ample community input.
Residents also expressed concern that important parts of the exploratory process will take place during the summer and asked that an advisory committee be created to ensure council and town staff receive regular feedback from residents.
Jeanne Brown said she is concerned that key issues in the staff’s public engagement outline would occur during June and August when people are vacationing and generally unplugged.
Brown said residents really want to be part enmeshed in the process.
“Giving comment is different from being part of the conversation,” Brown said.
A development agreement is a long-term contract between the town and a property owner that dictates the standards and conditions under which development will take place on a site.
The town first used the development agreement process to negotiate the Carolina North development with UNC.
Councilman Gene Pease said the process so far doesn’t feel like the process that produced the Carolina North development agreement.
“This feels rushed to me,” Pease said.
He said he wouldn’t mind if three or four months were added to the process.
If it takes a little longer, it takes a little longer,” Pease said.
Developer Roger Perry’s initial plans called for 725,000 square feet of office and retail space, a hotel and 600 housing units on 40 acres of the 120-acre tract. The last 80 acres would remain undeveloped.
By comparison, the retail center would be about twice the size of University Mall and include a big box retailer, possibly a Target.
Perry has said the project would cost in the neighborhood of $400 million to develop, and produce significant sales tax and property tax revenue for Chapel Hill and Orange County.
Meanwhile, nearby residents complained that the proposed project was too dense, the site is too ecologically sensitive and would bring too much traffic to U.S. 15-501.
The exploratory phase of the process is just the first phase of a two-phase process.
If the town and developer are in accord after the first phase and a technical review by a consultant, they will then move on to the negotiation phase.