CARRBORO Before holding a public hearing, the Board of Aldermen wants to bring neighbors and the developers of the Lloyd Farm property together to see what, if anything, they can agree on.
On Tuesday the board put off scheduling a rezoning hearing for the $90 million to $100 million project off N.C. 54 across from Carrboro Plaza. Alderman Damon Seils suggested the controversy surrounding the simple scheduling of a hearing was perhaps a bad omen for the project overall. His colleagues disagreed.
The Lloyd Farm project would be anchored by a Harris Teeter and includes a four-story apartment building. It has been revised several times since 2011 in response to town staff and residents in the Plantation Acres neighborhood and now leaves 30 percent of the 40-acre site undeveloped, or about 12 acres.
But on Tuesday neighbors repeated objections about traffic, flooding, speeding on nearby streets, and the Argus Development Group’s plans not being environmentally “green” enough.
The land isn’t theirs, they said, but it’s in their hearts.
Town Attorney Mike Brough advised the board several times Tuesday to focus only on scheduling a public hearing. The aldermen are limited in what they can say about the project now because they must eventually consider it in a quasi-judicial role.
Although the staff suggested holding a hearing three months from now, it became clear that even agreeing to that date was not going to happen.
Once in a long while, veteran Alderwoman Jacquie Gist said, a project so big comes along it has the potential to change the character of the town. Lake Hogan Farms, she said, was such a project.
Gist struggled to recall the sequencing, but recounted that with that project, the town arranged a series of facilitated meetings. “Public hearings are not a good format for making decisions,” she said.
Holding meetings might help develop some consensus, Gist said, acknowledging the parties would likely leave the process with disappointments.
She recommended that town staff members bring information to the next meeting summarizing how a mediation process before a public hearing might work.
In April 1993 the Lake Hogan Farms public hearing raised similar concerns: traffic, environmental impact and a threat to the particular qualities that make Carrboro a desirable place to live.
The late Rob Hogan and several family members spoke at that hearing in favor of the development, citing their participation in thoughtful community outreach to ensure support for the project.
Alderwoman Randee Haven-O’Donnell asked if neighbors attending the meeting would participate in facilitated sessions.
“I don’t speak for the neighbors as a group,” said James Street resident and former Alderman Allen Spalt. “But we are organized enough that we can give you an answer to that question within a week.”
The aldermen will hold a joint meeting with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board this week, so the next attempt to move the process forward will be at the board’s regularly scheduled Nov. 11 meeting.