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Revised Chapel Hill project could save some of town’s last mobile homes

This closed gas station at 1200 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Chapel Hill -- and the 72 mobile homes behind it -- could be redeveloped if a recently submitted concept plan moves forward. The project aims to keep as many of the families in their homes as possible, a development official said.
This closed gas station at 1200 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Chapel Hill -- and the 72 mobile homes behind it -- could be redeveloped if a recently submitted concept plan moves forward. The project aims to keep as many of the families in their homes as possible, a development official said. tgrubb@heraldsun.com

A developer has proposed a way to build a new gas station and self-storage building at 1200 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. — and keep 73 families in their mobile homes for at least a decade.

Gray Moody, the former owner of the Tar Heel Mobile Home Park, wanted to sell the property to someone who would save as many homes as possible, said Dan Jewell, representing Stackhouse Properties LLC, which bought the 13.9-acre site last year.

Jewell presented Stackhouse’s concept plan Wednesday to the Town Council. The council offers feedback on concept plans, which are not official applications.

The plan, submitted in November, would replace a vacant Marathon gas station on MLK Boulevard with a new, modern convenience store and gas station, Jewell said. It also would add a three-story self-storage building between the store and the mobile home park.

A new driveway would empty drivers onto MLK Boulevard at the Northwood Drive traffic light. The council would have to rezone the land for a self-storage building.

But the plan also would have displaced 15 or 16 families. Jewell said the property owners have been working with Orange County and nonprofit housing provider Empowerment Inc. to revise that part of the plan.

They now think there is room in the park to relocate all the families and to replace a play field designated for homes with a playground.

Residents worried

The property owners are willing to pay to move the families, provide temporary housing and delay redevelopment until 2030, Jewell said.

Most of the families own their mobile homes and lease the land, and their rents have increased in recent months. Some now pay $450 a month — up from $360 — for smaller lots, resident Maria Cardona said. Those on bigger lots pay $500. All are worried living there will become unaffordable in the next few years, she said.

“They don’t think it’s right. They don’t think they’re being cared for,” Cardona said. “I understand that he’s doing everything that is possible in his power to help everybody, but the fact remains, these people work very hard to live in that place, and most of the households that are there ... I don’t think if the rent goes up higher than $500, they’re going to be able to live in that place.”

The property owners are talking about how to keep it affordable, Jewell said.

In response to a council query, Jewell said the site also could hold 10 more families if others at risk of losing their mobile homes want to move there. A Texas developer has applied to build over 320 apartments and townhouses at the 33-home Lakeview Mobile Home Park, across Weaver Dairy Road from the Timberlyne shopping center.

While they think most of the Tar Heel mobile homes can be moved, Jewell said, the developers also are talking with local partners about grant funding or low-interest financing that may be available to help residents buy new homes if their home can’t be moved.

Council members praised the developer’s willingness to work with the residents. Although it’s not the mix of uses the town would like to see around the future MLK Boulevard bus-rapid transit line, it makes the project more interesting, council member Jessica Anderson said.

“I’m not over the moon about self-storage here or even maybe the gas station, but I am really excited that you were able to fit folks back on the lot,” she said.

Council members asked the developers to add details to their project application, particularly about the existing infrastructure, future connections to the bus-rapid transit line and nearby businesses, and how the self-storage building would look to its neighbors.

“Whether it’s tree buffer, creating good separation between the trailers and the building, I think the other thing that’s important is good architectural design,” council member Michael Parker said. “I don’t think people in trailers want to be looking at a blank brick wall there.”



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Tammy Grubb has written about Orange County’s politics, people and government since 2010. She is a UNC-Chapel Hill alumna and has lived and worked in the Triangle for over 25 years.
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