Obey Creek information meetings start Wednesday

05/05/2014 3:47 PM

05/05/2014 3:48 PM

Developer Roger Perry said his company’s recent, full-page newspaper advertisement was intended to point out how important currently proposed projects are to the town’s success.

When asked if the ad also could be seen as self-serving, Perry said, “Absolutely.”

“What’s most important to our success is the town of Chapel Hill succeed and prosper,” he said. “I’ve become very alarmed that Chapel Hill desperately needs to be finding some added source of revenues to make it ... sustainable over the long term.”

Perry’s East West Partners Management Co. is working with town staff and a team of consultants to iron out the details of a potential development agreement for the Obey Creek project. If approved, the residential, office and retail project would be built on roughly 40 acres across U.S. 15-501 from Southern Village.

Another 80 acres surrounding Wilson Creek could be preserved, potentially for public or recreational use.

The first of two planned public information meetings will be held at noon today at the Chapel Hill Public Library. The meetings will address several topics, including design, transportation, housing and the environment.

The town has not decided yet whether it will negotiate a development agreement with East West Partners. Either side could back out at any time, leaving the developer with the option of seeking a traditional special-use permit and rezoning. If approved, construction could take 20 years or more.

Perry, a Chapel Hill resident since 1967, said he thinks the town is headed toward a tough economic situation. The ad says projects such as Obey Creek, Ephesus-Fordham and Glen Lennox provide “new opportunities for growth and competitiveness.”

“Because of the affluence of many of our residents and the urban services growth boundary, the few large tracts of land remaining (both green field and redevelopment) have the opportunity to both provide the type of development we want and need while making a major contribution to our tax and affordability problems,” it said.

The towns and county agreed decades ago to create the urban services growth boundary and rural buffer as a way to control urban sprawl. Water and sewer services are not provided outside the urban services boundary, making intensive development impossible. The buffer preserved the county’s rural lands, but as a result, Chapel Hill and Carrboro now have little undeveloped land, and what they do have is getting more expensive.

Perry said his other big project, Meadowmont, didn’t get a warm reception when it was proposed either. Few people would argue now that it wasn’t a good idea, he said, and he thinks future generations might have a different opinion about East 54, too.

Dozens of people called and wrote to him after the April 27 ad appeared, Perry said. He didn’t hear from anyone who disagreed.

“They said thank you for that advertisement. It’s right on point,” he said.

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