Code would set a precedent
One aspect of the much-touted form-based code (FBC) has escaped scrutiny – the ability to apply FBC to other areas of town.
The proposed new land use management ordinance (LUMO) contains a section entitled “Form districts.” There are two subheadings in this section: Ephesus Church/Fordham and “reserved for future form districts.”
There are 39 pages of “Rules applicable to all Form Districts.” Thus, once the Chapel Hill Town Council approves form districts, the rules are in place for other areas of town. A rezoning application for a form district can be submitted and if the council approves it, the new regulations take over, without any public or council input.
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Ephesus-Fordham would set the town-wide precedent for how much the town respects its citizens. I refuse to believe that our council can be lured into believing that the one and only way to streamline the development process is to give away hard-won pledges for environmental stewardship, affordable housing, and public participation that have made Chapel Hill so enviable. Volunteer investigators, also known as citizens, have found many successful examples of different forms of FBC that incorporate public participation, Board input, and/or use of FBC as a streamlining incentive for green initiatives and affordable housing.
I acknowledge that our fiscal house is in disarray. How it got there is a topic for another letter. But attempting to remedy our fiscal problems without having the solid information needed to make a sound decision is much more than a “calculated risk” for Chapel Hill residents. We are fortunate to have a council made up of regular people, like you and I, who were passionate enough about everyday issues to run for council. I ask our council-citizens to evaluate all of the studies underway before voting on this proposal.
The Chapel Hill Town Council and the developers continue to build in these flood plains. Their priority is to line their pockets and not to preserve the land. Once the trees and the grass are destroyed there is nothing to prevent the water from developing into a flood plain.
The Ephesus Church-Fordham Boulevard/Booker Creek area is a flood plain and has caused trouble with standing water for years. The council permits more building in these low-lying areas without regard to the consequences. We have just experienced snarled-up traffic from three or four inches of snow. North and South Carolina are intersected by endless rivers and creeks which make the ground wet and swampy. The Piedmont has red clay, which is like glue when wet. The Sandhills have sand, but the many creeks and rivers make the ground difficult to build on. We need trees and woods to soak up the water, and these are being chopped down. It’s stupid and wasteful.
I recently went to see the land behind the Sheriton Hotel which is designated for affordable housing. The land is all up and down hill, and again drainage will be a problem. The woods now take the excess water from the cemetery. It is not a good building site.
I remember when Colony Lake used to be a swampy farm. The lake drained the land of its excess water, but the land is low lying, and some of it is still marshy.
The affordable housing should be built on well-flat land, not on unsuitable hilly ground. Legion Road is already a mess with its clutter of buildings which have no relationship to the land. Leave the stand of trees to help drain the marshy ground near the cemetery. I have also spotted a wonderful pair of red-tailed hawks whose nest is in the woods there.