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Chapel Hill asked developers for a picture. They brought one and got another delay.

This apartment project proposed for Homestead Road could be three or four stories, depending on the outcome of a council discussion later this spring. The 198-unit building will rent to adults age 55 and older.
This apartment project proposed for Homestead Road could be three or four stories, depending on the outcome of a council discussion later this spring. The 198-unit building will rent to adults age 55 and older. Contributed

The Town Council was thrown another curveball Wednesday by an apartment project for adults age 55 and up on Homestead Road.

The developers, represented by the Gurlitz Architectural Group, last appeared before the council Jan. 30 and were asked to bring back a drawing of how the four-story apartment building could look surrounded by trees and smaller homes.

They did that, but also negotiated a revised plan with nearby residents worried about potential effects on stormwater, traffic and their own 55-plus neighborhood.

The revised plan, submitted Monday, shows a three-story building with a larger footprint and emergency-only access to the adjacent Courtyards at Homestead neighborhood.

It still includes 20 apartments affordable to households at up to 60 percent of the area median income, or roughly $34,000 a year for an individual, $39,000 for a couple.

However, the footprint change was big enough to trigger town rules requiring a new application, staff said, meaning a new yearlong review process and another $75,000 to $80,000 in fees.

The extra time and money was a deal-breaker for the developers, so Mayor Pam Hemminger asked them to talk with neighbors outside the council chamber about a way forward.

“While we appreciate that there was lots of conversation between the community and the developer,” Hemminger said, “it’s the council’s job to follow its processes and to understand what we would be choosing, because it’s not just between one developer and one neighborhood — it’s overall — and it sets a precedent if we make changes.”

When they returned, Courtyards resident Diane Martin said the neighbors were disappointed the council wouldn’t honor the revised plan. She urged the town to consider the proposed change within two months.

“We have talked, and we are very committed to the four tenets of the agreement as we have put them forward. We know that our developer friends are also very committed to those four stipulations,” she said. “If any of them are removed from the table, we will still support whatever stipulations are left — whatever part of the agreement remains — but we will not be happy with the result.”

Hemminger suggested amending the application to ask for a three- or four-story building — a potentially minor change that would take less time to consider. The project could return to the council in May.

If approved, it would be Chapel Hill’s first apartments serving older adults and be within walking distance of the Seymour Senior Center, Homestead Park and UNC’s Carolina North Greenway.

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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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