Orange County

Neighbors said too many students were moving in. But will fix make housing cost more?

Future development in a downtown Carrboro neighborhood will be restricted.

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen unanimously adopted an ordinance Tuesday creating an overlay district for the Lloyd-Broad streets neighborhood. An overlay district is comparable to the neighborhood conservation districts found in Chapel Hill.

The ordinance applies only to Lloyd-Broad. It sets building standards for new construction, restricts the size of additions to existing homes and limits the number of unrelated people living in residence to four people.

It also creates a three-year grace period for landlords to bring their rentals into compliance with the new occupancy rules. The ordinance will be reviewed every 18 months.

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

Several board members called the ordinance an emergency measure that may have unintended consequences.

"I came to tonight's proposal with a willingness to go this route hesitantly," Alderman Damon Seils said. "I hope that we will all continue this conversation and be very careful about the way that these kinds of regulations are handled in the future. I think that these tools are, in the long term, probably not the best approach to dealing with some of the issues that the neighborhood is facing."

Alderwoman Jacquie Gist said adopting the ordinance could hasten changes that make the neighborhood less affordable.

"It's leaning towards gentrification," Gist said. "And I'm afraid that it's going to make it an even more desirable, therefore, expensive place to live. People who live there now can continue to live there. But people who are working-class people just coming here won't be able to.

"I want to protect the neighborhood. It's a catch-22 because protecting the neighborhood makes it even more desirable. And it makes it even less affordable."

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About a year ago, residents raised concerns tabout more students renting in the neighborhood. The challenge Carrboro faces is similar to what the Northside neighborhood in Chapel Hill has faced in recent years as students moved in. Chapel Hill recently limited the number of unrelated people who may live together to four.

UNC houses a higher percentage of undergraduates than most of its peer institutions, according to the university, with 55 percent living in campus housing or in fraternities and sororities. Freshmen must live on campus and most sophomores choose to, though the number has dropped in recent years. Campus dorms were 98 percent full this past school year.

The vast majority of the nearly 90 properties in Lloyd-Broad 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.

"The primary issues have been related to noise and parking," said neighborhood resident Maggie West.

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Most of the older homes are small, wood-frame structures. Over the years some have been torn down and replaced with larger houses.

A few houses have more than four bedrooms, including some owned by Omar and Adam Zinn. They built rental houses on Cobb Street that have five bedrooms about 15 years ago and are concerned about the new restriction on unrelated occupants.

"We built what was allowed," Omar Zinn said. "I also realize that a lot of this discussion was brought on by an individual who's now building a house that's approximately 3,500 square feet. We would request that our homes be grandfathered in based on the ordinances that we followed in 2004."

The board did not take up Zinn's request.

Tuesday's meeting was the last one until September. The board could begin considering comprehensive, town-wide development regulations when it returns from its summer break.

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