The Town Council will hold a public hearing Monday to discuss proposed changes to the form-based code guiding development in the Ephesus-Fordham district.
The eight identified changes include new requirements for building size and height, outdoor spaces and stormwater, and where utilities and services, such as trash and recycling, can be located.
The council received its third report last week on the district’s progress since May 2014, when it was approved as a way to encourage property owners to redevelop single-story strip malls and aging buildings. The council voted to continue receiving semi-annual reports until further notice.
The town is working now on multiple plans and studies that also could affect the district, including a mobility and connectivity plan for pedestrians, bikes, buses and vehicles.
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Those connections will build on work currently underway to reconstruct the intersection at Ephesus Church Road and Fordham Boulevard. New bike lanes and sidewalks also are planned, as well as extended merge lanes and a revamped U-turn across U.S. 15-501 North.
The town is financing the road projects with Town Hall as collateral. The N.C. Department of Transportation is expected to reimburse a portion of the cost; the rest could be repaid with new property tax revenues from redeveloped properties.
Tax revenues from the first four projects – the Village Plaza apartments and three new buildings at Ram’s Plaza and The Shops at Eastgate – are expected to break even or more than break even in three to four years, said John Richardson, planning manager for sustainability.
The town also has hired David Paul Rosen and Associates to examine housing townwide, Richardson said. The report, due this spring, will focus in particular on the Ephesus-Fordham district, he said, while identifying incentives and public investment that might attract affordable housing.
A years-long stormwater study also is in progress. The study, by engineering consultant W.K. Dickson, started last year in the Lower Booker Creek subwatershed, which covers most of the district. A report on existing issues and potential solutions is expected this fall.
The proposed changes, said resident Charles Humble, will improve the pedestrian experience, but more needs to be done to create affordable housing and keep open spaces accessible to the public. The town also should consider how to provide more bus service to the area, he said.
“(Affordable housing) is urgent, because at any moment, an application could be submitted to redevelop the site of the Park Apartments, resulting in a big loss of affordable housing, rentals and other amenities,” Humble told the council. “As always, we are also concerned about the energy-efficient construction in the area and hope that you will look for opportunities to ask for that.”
The only way to address that may be through incentives, such as allowing taller, bigger buildings if they also provide affordable housing and other benefits, he said.
The council will consider changes to the Ephesus-Fordham form-based code on Monday. These are the proposed changes as outlined in a March 1 public information meeting:
▪ Set a minimum of 1,000 feet for building length and width to avoid big blocks without a break for roads, bikes and pedestrians
▪ Require buildings to be at least 35 feet tall to avoid getting more one-story buildings
▪ Change requirements for building faces and street frontages to require wider sidewalks
▪ Require outdoor amenity space to be visible to the public
▪ Prohibit mechanical equipment and services, such as trash pickup, next to streets and sidewalks
▪ Appearance rules and a Community Design Commission review for parking decks
▪ Allow the commission to review how stormwater control features look
▪ Change the requirement for street frontages along Fordham Boulevard