Chapel Hill tells Obey Creek developer to talk with neighbors

tgrubb@newsobserver.comSeptember 20, 2012 

RALEIGH

— Developer Roger Perry says Obey Creek will create a ton of traffic on U.S. 15-501, but he is willing to start with a blank slate and listen to suggestions.

The questions for the Chapel Hill Town Council and the community are: Do you want to manage it, how do you want to manage it and is it worth the effort, Perry said.

The council did not make any decisions Wednesday night but commented on Perry’s concept plan -- an early informal step in the town’s review process -- and suggested ways to increase community support.

Council members also asked town staff to draft a possible development process for its next business meeting.

Council member Matt Czjakowski said he remains unconvinced that Obey Creek as currently outlined meets the community’s 2020 vision for the southern part of Chapel Hill, especially its inclusion of a big-box retailer and projected traffic.

Council members Penny Rich and Ed Harrison suggested a review process similar to the redevelopment process in the Glen Lennox community. Those discussions eventually came up with a mixed-use project they thought would work, Rich said.

Obey Creek has a long way to go, Harrison said.

“In Glen Lennox, by well into that planning process ... you had almost no opponents left,” Harrison said. “They had gotten such pleasure from working with Clay Grubb and his team, they wanted him to proceed and they had gotten a lot of what they asked for. That’s not case (with Obey Creek), and you know that.”

The $500 million Obey Creek proposal includes 1.6 million square feet of floor space, including retail, commercial and office space; a 130-room hotel; and 600 apartments and townhomes. At least 300 homes would be set aside for people 55 and older, Perry said.

It is planned for 40 acres across from Southern Village. Buildings along the highway would be up to 40 feet tall, while those farther back could be 150 to 240 feet tall. They will appear no more than 60 feet tall from the highway because of the steeply sloping land, Perry said.

Another 82 acres on the eastern side of Wilson Creek would remain open space.

Twenty-three residents spoke against the plan, including nine from the community group Citizens for Responsible Growth. Many were worried about traffic, but they also expressed concerns about the project’s compatibility with the property, what type of retail the town needs, how many new students it can handle, and the project’s environmental impact.

Grubb: 919-932-8746

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