CHAPEL HILL — Five months after enacting a building moratorium on about 12 square miles of land in northern Chapel Hill, the Town Council is considering doing what it almost did back then: changing the zoning on much of that land to low-density so that anyone with a denser proposal will have to ask for a rezoning.
The council voted Monday to schedule a public hearing Nov. 12. At the hearing, the council will receive public comments on whether to rezone dozens of acres along Eubanks and Weaver Dairy roads to allow no more than four homes per acre.
In its toolbox for dealing with development pressure in the northern area, the council kept a few rezoning options between two and four homes per acre, including a "mixed-use village" zone which more accurately reflects what council members say they want in the northern area of town: multistory buildings with dwellings, shops and offices. Residents will help them decide which tools to use.
The council could not simply assign the mixed-use village zone to the parcels because that zoning designation does not currently include any "uses of right," meaning a property owner would need the town's permission for any proposal there. By state law, a city or town cannot impose zoning on a property unless it gives the owner the right to develop it at least in some way. In other words, the zoning must provide some uses of right, which require no special permission.
Until now, the mixed-use village zoning has been applied only in the rezoning of East 54, a 500,000-square-foot urban village planned near U.S. 15-501 and N.C. 54.
Though it doesn't exist anywhere else in town, the mixed-use village is what council members say they want in future development, and they need to enhance the mixed-use village zoning with some specific "uses of right" so that they can apply it more widely.
Until then, the council might impose low-density zoning -- no more than four homes per acre -- on key properties to force developers to ask for rezonings or special permits when they want to build more than that.
"What we really want is to put some of these properties in a holding pattern so we don't get something we don't want," Mayor Kevin Foy said.
The council decided not to apply zoning that better reflects what its members say they want until citizens have a chance to give input at the November hearing.
The council gave itself a wide variety of zoning options to ensure some kind of change, even if temporary, so that developers don't propose "suburban-style" projects once the moratorium expires at the end of January.
"We have to do something about that or they're going to come in and build what we don't want," council member Mark Kleinschmidt said.
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