CARRBORO A project whose developer says could become Carrboro’s next economic anchor ran into strong neighborhood concerns about traffic, flooding and compatibility this week.
Argus Development Group wants to build a shopping center, apartments and townhomes on the Lloyd Farm property along N.C. 54 across from Carrboro Plaza. The $90 million to $100 million project would generate $600,000 a year in town property tax revenue, as well as additional sales tax.
The project has been revised several times since 2011 in response to comments from town staff and residents in the Plantation Acres neighborhood. It now leaves 30 percent of the 40-acre site undeveloped, or about 12 acres.
But in a two and a half hour meeting Tuesday night in Carrboro’s Town Hall, most in the crowd of about 75 residents said they still don’t want it.
The four-story apartment building will worsen traffic and, at 293 units, would outnumber the surrounding neighborhood’s single-family homes, they said.
The project will increase runoff in an area that already floods, and residents and shoppers will use the already stressed James Street post office parking lot as a cut-through to downtown, the university and hospital, they said.
“It may be appropriate in RTP. It may be appropriate in Cary,” Carol Street homeowner Chip Romeo told Jack Smyre, the developer’s planner. “But that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate here. You are not listening to us and you never have, in my opinion.”
‘To be proud of’
Smyre said the project, with its open space, paved greenway running across the entire site and 100-foot-plus wide tree buffers would be unique to the Triangle. For Carrboro, it would be “something to be proud of,” he said.
The shopping center’s Harris Teeter supermarket, two 10,000 square foot outbuildings and several smaller retail spaces would be a “trading post” serving western Orange County and beyond, he said.
“We’re here not only for the Carrboro market,” Smyre said. “Orange County is under-served for retail demand and retail services. ... There is this vast area that has no grocery or (place for) provisions.”
The project would also bring a lot of money to the town, county and school system.
The anticipated $600,000 a year in town property tax revenue alone equals about three cents on Carrboro’s tax rate, Smyre said.
At a time when many local governments are struggling, the Lloyd Farm project, after the 300 East Main redevelopment downtown, “is another anchor that could stabilize the tax rate,” and prevent or slow future increases, he said.
The developer is also proposing a $1.1 million payment to the town’s affordable housing fund, instead of making 15 percent of the apartment units affordable, and anticipating a $400,000 school impact fee.
The developers originally proposed a road into the project from James Street, just above the post office. After earlier objections, they replaced it with the start of the paved bicycle and pedestrian greenway.
But that leaves the only access to the project on N.C. 54 and Old Fayetteville Road. As a result, many residents and shoppers will inevitably cut through the adjoining James Street post office parking lot, which is “already a mess,” Allen Spalt said.
Smyre conceded the point.
“If we don’t give them an easier path, I think it could happen,” he said. “If we don’t give them a better path, they will find a not-so-good path.”
The developers said they would prefer to put the road back in the plan, but residents said they didn’t want that either.
Among other concerns Tuesday night:
• Flooding: The area already floods in heavy rain. The developers say their stormwater system will hold, filter and slow the release of runoff. Their permit would require them to mantain the same rate of flow off the property as exists now. Neighbors pointed out that even if the rate of runoff stays the same, the increase in pavement and roofs will increase the amount of runoff, prolonging the flow. Ted Barnes, a partner with Argus, said in addition to undergound pipes, rooftop cisterns will hold rainwater and release it gradually over several days to minimize the project’s impact. “Hopefully this will help some,” he said.
• Speeding: The project does not have a major entrance with a traffic light like Carrboro Plaza across the street. Neighbors worry without better access, traffic lights or speed bumps, the project will increase speeding on the streets surrounding the site. “On any given day, there are cars that go 60 miles an hour, and they fly through stop signs,” Carol Street homeowner Rhonda Cheek said. “The traffic is going to be horrendous.
• Open space: While the developers tout their open space, resident Patrick McDonough said moving one of their buildings could open up a larger lawn or village green. The developers said that is the idea behind a proposed plaza across from the Harris Teeter. But McDonough encouraged them to make it bigger and safer. As the parent of a 4-year-old, he said, “There are (only) a handful of places where you don’t have to freak out, and one of them is the Weaver Street lawn.”
The developers hope to have the project ready for a public hearing early next year. The project will go through a final review by the town’s advisory boards before the Board of Aldermen hold the hearing.