Task force to weigh zoning

Chapel Hill plans a panel to make recommendations on development in the north part of town

Staff WriterMarch 27, 2007 

— The Town Council has decided to involve some citizens in planning for northern Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

On Monday, council members created a task force to craft a vision for northern Chapel Hill. They also directed the Planning Board to appoint one of its members to serve on Carrboro's Northern Study Area Implementation Plan Review Committee.

The council will appoint members of the Northern Area Task Force next month. They will be charged with recommending zoning changes and street improvements to encourage walking, biking and bus-riding along N.C. 86/Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Weaver Dairy Road.

"We desperately need pedestrian sidewalks and bike lanes and crosswalks on those two major roads," said Kristina Peterson, who petitioned the council on behalf of residents in the neighborhoods surrounding the Timberlyne Shopping Center on Weaver Dairy Road.

Among other traffic calming devices, the petition called for new crosswalks with pedestrian signals across MLK Boulevard and Weaver Dairy Road.

Khiem Bui, a father who lives in the Windsor Park subdivision east of MLK Boulevard, said children from the same classrooms at Smith Middle School have trouble seeing each other after school because there are few crosswalks.

He said children from his neighborhood have to walk north to Westminster Drive, cross the street, then walk back south to New Parkside Drive to reach the Northside subdivision. "Or, they have to have their parents drive them, which can be a drag," he said.

The council referred the Timberlyne petition to the newly created task force.

The council also called public hearings to rezone about 43 acres hugging Interstate 40 for less dense development, and to enact a moratorium on development in northern Chapel Hill.

The town staff will report back to the council on how much time they would have to spend preparing to rezone all developable land along MLK Boulevard and Eubanks Road, or to enact a moratorium in that area until the task force completes its mission. The council may decide against a blanket rezoning or a moratorium, but they left those options open.

Town Hall staff suggested that creating the task force and rezoning the 43-acre University Station site would provide adequate time to draw up a plan for the area.

Town Attorney Ralph Karpinos has advised the council that several projects, including more than 240 dwelling units planned off Weaver Dairy and Eubanks roads, are too far along to be subject to a moratorium.

Of the other projects in the pipeline, only University Station -- 373 apartments between the Harris Teeter at Chapel Hill North and Carol Woods -- is far enough along to potentially dodge the moratorium.

But a public hearing and a quick rezoning of the 43 acres could buy the task force some time to determine what the town would like to see on that land.

Staff writer Jesse James DeConto can be reached at 932-8760 or jdeconto@newsobserver.com.

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