After more than seven years of discussion, the Lloyd Farm property at N.C. 54 and Old Fayetteville Road cleared its first major hurdle to becoming a commercial and residential development.
Longtime Alderwoman Jacqueline Gist said voting to rezone the 40-acre tract was the hardest decision she ever made. However, the long process was good, she said, because the developer responded to more of what the community said it wants.
“In fairness to neighbors, what I’m going to love to see is for you to have as much input and as much power as we move forward as possible,” she said. “I really truly believe that to vote to deny the change of zoning takes away power from the neighbors.”
The 5-2 Board of Aldermen vote changed the town’s land-use plan and rezoned the property to a conditional mixed-use designation that allows taller office buildings, apartments, outdoor displays and curbside grocery pickup, and flexible bike parking and street design.
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Aldermen Sammy Slade and Damon Seils voted against the rezoning. Among Slade’s concerns was that energy-efficiency standards were not among the rezoning conditions.
Seils said the town is missing an opportunity to grow in a “more forward-looking” way.
“That is more moving away from what we are used to in our community and have in many communities throughout the country, which is a sort of mid- to late-century, traditional, suburban model of development,” Seils said. “Fundamentally, it has not changed since two years ago, and that continues to be the reason I oppose it.”
Harris Teeter, senior living
The developer now can submit a more detailed application for a conditional use permit, which will require more meetings and hearings. Construction could start in 2020, if the project is approved, with the first buildings opening by 2022.
Charlotte-based Argus Development Group envisions replacing the former farm with a $105.9 million residential, retail and office community across the highway from Carrboro Plaza. The land is one of the town’s last large, undeveloped sites.
A 64,000-square-foot Harris Teeter could anchor the commercial portion — Shops of Lloyd Farm — alongside four smaller retail buildings, and office and retail space in two three-story buildings. An energy center also is planned, with car-charging and fueling stations, bike repair and shared-vehicle service parking. A lawn and amphitheater for 300 people is planned at the southeastern corner.
Across a curving, central road, the Lofts of Lloyd Farm would offer roughly 220 apartments, duplexes and cottages in a senior-living community. The developer has offered up to $1 million for affordable housing; the final amount depends on whether four permanently affordable, for-sale cottages can be set aside.
About 4.6 wooded acres along James Street would be given to the town. The aldermen agreed Tuesday to seek public input and hold public hearings before deciding how to use the land.
Plan ‘so much better’
Neighbors have raised concerns about already busy traffic and stormwater flooding their homes. Those concerns led the aldermen to reject a previous plan in 2016.
The latest plan exceeds stormwater requirements by meeting a 100-year flood event, which has a 1 percent chance of happening each year. The current standard covers up to a 25-year storm, which has a 4 percent chance of happening each year.
The board agreed with Slade that the town should consider making the 100-year flood a standard for new developments.
Mayor Lydia Lavelle argued the town is getting “an awful lot” from Lloyd Farm, even if it’s not as dense as many wanted. Something will be built soon on the property, she said, but it might not provide the same public input or community benefits.
A plan based on the property’s current — by-right — zoning showed many single-family homes could be built closer to neighboring homes with a smaller landscaping buffer. Stores would be separate and along the highway. Traffic and stormwater effects could have unintended consequences, officials said.
“I appreciate everyone keeping us very honest, asking us hard questions, making us do our research, making us explain our thinking on matters that come before this board,” Lavelle said. “It’s not easy to say this, and I know there’s a lot of folks who disagree with me, but honestly, this plan in my view is so much better than what could go on this site as of right.”
Jobs, property and sales taxes
Lloyd Farm also offers important economic and financial benefits, Alderwomen Bethany Chaney and Barbara Foushee said. Chaney, at times referring to her notes, gave the crowd a tutorial about government budgets and property taxes.
Orange County’s tax assessor has said the $1.15 million Lloyd Farm property could be worth about $64 million once it’s developed. That is the equivalent of more than three Carr Mill Mall developments, she said.
Town staff has estimated Lloyd Farm could bring the town more than $3.8 million in property taxes over 10 years. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools could get about $1.3 million in that time, and the county could get about $5.4 million.
Lloyd Farm also could generate over $10 million in sales taxes in the first 10 years, staff said.
That won’t ease the property tax burden on homeowners, Chaney said, but it could avert a future tax rate increase and generate needed money for schools and services.
The town has missed opportunities for decades, Chaney said, because of its outdated growth plan and zoning rules. Lloyd Farm is the only remaining revenue opportunity, she said.
“We should have been much more proactive decades ago, and I hope that we can correct course as we develop a new comprehensive plan and as we look at our zoning map,” she said.