Orange County

Carrboro neighborhood asks for help before more students move in

The Carrboro aldermen want to keep older single-family homes from being redeveloped into student rentals. “It’s devastating to rents for middle-class families, just devastating,” Alderwoman Jacquie Gist says.
The Carrboro aldermen want to keep older single-family homes from being redeveloped into student rentals. “It’s devastating to rents for middle-class families, just devastating,” Alderwoman Jacquie Gist says. News and Observer file photo

People from a downtown Carrboro neighborhood went to Town Hall Tuesday night seeking help from the town.

About two dozen people who live in the Lloyd-Broad streets neighborhood attended a public hearing that could shape the future of their community. They want the town to establish an overlay district for their neighborhood that would restrict development there. An overlay district is comparable to the neighborhood conservation districts found in Chapel Hill.

Residents say they're feeling overrun by college students renting in their neighborhood.

"When it is one or two houses, it is easier to deal with," said Hudson Vaughan, who lives in the neighborhood and is an affordable housing advocate. "But it is growing exponentially."

In the past year, five more houses in the neighborhood were converted into rentals, he said.

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Alderwoman Jacquie Gist said she's been watching Carrboro change for more than a decade.

"We've been talking about studentification in Carrboro for 10 years," Gist said. "It is happening in other places like Mill Valley and Old Pittsboro."

Gist wants a comprehensive plan that covers all of Carrboro. The board is looking to update its occupancy rules by limiting the number of unrelated people who can live together.

"Our rooming-house regulations need to cover the whole town," Gist said. "When we do it, it means we're protecting downtown, too."

She warned that a piecemeal approach could have unforeseen consequences in other parts of town.

"If you squeeze here, it will pop out there," she said.

The challenge Carrboro faces is similar to what the Northside neighborhood in Chapel Hill has faced in recent years as students moved in. In Chatham County, Pittsboro is also considering an overlay restricting development to preserve its downtown's historic character.

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An attractive location

When Chapel Hill tightened its ordinances for renters, developers began looking next door.

The Lloyd-Broad neighborhood sits just west of boundary between Carrboro and Chapel Hill. It's an easy walk to The ArtsCenter, Weaver Street Market and many other locally owned cafes and eateries.

The vast majority of the nearly 90 properties in the neighborhood are single-family homes. But it is beginning to feel the pressures of gentrification creeping in. Once the centerpiece of a thriving African-American population in Carrboro, it has evolved into a racially diverse community of newcomers and older residents whose ties to the neighborhood are generational.

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This is the proposed boundary for the the Lloyd-Broad neighborhood overlay district. Town of Carrboro

Alderman Damon Seils said Lloyd-Broad was a natural opportunity for developers to pursue because of the restrictions in Chapel Hill. After the town reworked its ordinances to limit the number of unrelated people who can live together to four in a household, developers started scouting for property in Carrboro.

The board discussed several potential amendments to the town code, including one that is similar to the Chapel Hill ordinance.

The trigger

College students have rented in Lloyd-Broad for years. Long-time residents said some students were good neighbors and others were not. Their common complaints about the student renters are noise, trash and parking.

An influx of students could increase those tensions. A new 3,000-square-foot house with eight rentable rooms is being built at 308 Lloyd St. It stands about 30 feet tall and will tower over a nearby daycare center and neighboring homes.

Gist described it as a "mini dorm."

There are apartment buildings on the other side of Lloyd Street but this building would sit inside the proposed overlay district.

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Residents say another such a building would hurt the character of their neighborhood.

"The issue we're experiencing is specific to our neighborhood," said Leo Gaev. "We believe there has to be restrictions put in place to protect our neighborhood."

What residents want

To protect Lloyd-Broad, residents want the overlay district to establish setback rules, maximum building heights and maximum heated area for homes in the neighborhood.

The numbers they suggested for these three components would keep homes compact and make sure additions fit in . They'd like to see setbacks of 15 to 25 feet, buildings no taller than 22 feet from the front entranceway and homes with no more than 1,750 heated square feet.

They also want to tighten parking zones in the neighborhood, particularly on-street parking. Residents say more students often means more cars parked on the streets.

The board adopted some parking changes in the neighborhood Tuesday night that did not require a public hearing. They prohibited parking on sections of Broad Street and Starlight Drive.

The board did not make a final decision on the overlay, though. It likely will come at their meeting on June 26.

"Protecting the neighborhood is a real concern," said Alderwoman Randee Haven-O'Donnell. "Northside has changed, and they're on the edge of it."

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