Aydan Court project site sold

mschultz@newsobserver.comDecember 16, 2011 

— A developer has sold five acres off N.C. 54 to the UNC-Chapel Hill Foundation after failing to build a condominium project there.

Developer Carol Ann Zinn bought the Aydan Court project site for $1.14 million in 2007 and sold it for $410,000 to the foundation in late October, according to Durham County land records.

The university foundation, which owns about 50 acres bordering the Meadowmont community next to the site, has no immediate plans for it, said Gordon Merklein, executive director of real estate development for the foundation.

"We're going to merge that in with that parcel," he said. "At some point in time, if we were to develop something, we envision that as a mixed-use site. What does that mean exactly? We don't know."

The foundation's top priorities are Carolina North, the university's future satellite campus, and the redevelopment of the University Square shopping center on Franklin Street, he said.

Zinn had envisioned three, three-story buildings with 90 condominiums when she most recently sought approval for the project last summer. She said she was filling a niche for homes under $400,000 and the condos' stormwater-runoff design would do less harm to the environment than conventional housing.

Public hearings consistently brought out critics who said the environmentally sensitive site, in the Jordan Lake watershed next to state game lands, was the wrong location. The site, part of Little Creek Bottomlands and Slopes, is a natural heritage area, a state designation for land with significant plant and animal habitat.

"I'd like the bulk of the land to be left essentially as is," Chapel Hill Town Council member Ed Harrison said Tuesday. He voted against Aydan Court twice and now would like to see the N.C. Botanical Garden manage the site.

After the Town Council rejected the rezoning 5-4 in June, Zinn said she would build the single-family houses the existing zoning allowed.

But that plan fizzled, Zinn said Tuesday, when she and her development team began planning the new homes and realized highway noise would not make them feasible.

The town's development review process, which cost Zinn hundreds of thousands of dollars, is broken and dominated by anti-growth critics, she said.

"Their tactics are fear-driven, and unfortunately not enough people in Chapel Hill seem to pay attention or care," she said.

"By opposing new, denser housing, they are helping to create higher-priced housing and driving midrange homebuyers to other communities."

"The Aydan Court site was a perfect location for what was planned - an environmentally sound midrange condo development - especially appropriate for young professionals and empty nesters," Zinn said. "It was a compact model of sustainability."

The site, in both the town of Chapel Hill and Durham County, has an assessed property value of $689,392, which means the university paid less than the county appraisal.

"It's the value that both parties agreed on," Merklein said. "I think it's the market value."

Schultz: 919-932-2003

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