The town’s Community Design Commission recommended 18 changes Monday to the requirements that development projects must meet in the Ephesus-Fordham district.
The commission, which reviews the appearance of proposed projects, has been noting concerns with the district’s form-based code since its 2014 implementation.
The code authorizes the commission to recommend changes that enhance or strengthen district standards, and also gives the commission – and the town manager – the power to approve or reject district projects. The Town Council does not hold hearings or vote on Ephesus-Fordham proposals.
The recommendations presented Monday to the council reflect projects that “complied with the letter, but not the spirit of the code intent,” CDC Chairman John Gualtieri said.
The changes, among others, could require new development to have a minimum of two stories, address a community desire for more pedestrian connections and green spaces, and give the commission more control over project design, including the ability to review all sides of a building.
The existing code only lets the commission review the sides of a building that face a public street. That limitation has raised concerns in three out of four projects proposed so far for the district.
The commission also suggested requiring developers to treat Booker Creek as a major amenity. Residents and town officials have talked before about daylighting the creek, which flows under East Franklin Street and the Shops at Eastgate before passing behind the Elliott Road shops.
The Ephesus-Fordham district code has been under fire since it was proposed; critics say it fails to secure community benefits, including affordable housing, green space and energy-efficient features.
Staff is working on a process for reopening the Ephesus-Fordham discussion, Mayor Pam Hemminger said. The council could return to the issue in March, she said.
The petition will be posted on the town’s website (bit.ly/1ISNpIE), so residents can track its progress.
The council also received two petitions Monday related to how people get around the town:
▪ The Parks, Greenways and Recreation Commission asked for a bridge to get pedestrians and cyclists over Morgan Creek, between Arboretum Drive and Ashe Place.
The bridge would give neighbors south of the creek a shorter, safer connection to UNC’s campus and downtown, commission Chairwoman Erin Crouse said. Residents now can follow Mann’s Chapel Road and U.S. 15-501 North or take the shortcut across a sewer pipe at Morgan Creek.
The bridge also would link residents north of the creek with Merritt’s Pasture at the N.C. 54-U.S. 15-501 intersection and the future Obey Creek development, across from Southern Village.
▪ The Transportation and Connectivity Advisory Board recommended the town undertake a comprehensive transportation study this year.
Businesses, residents and the board are concerned about growing congestion and the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and drivers navigating the Franklin Street corridor, especially as higher-density development occurs, said Vice Chairman Jeffrey Charles.
Both requests will be added to the town’s petitions list and the council calendar.