Chapel Hill News

Hillsborough, county want residents’ thoughts about growth

Residents interested in the future of land surrounding the town of Hillsborough will get an opportunity Tuesday to ask questions and learn more.

Orange County’s Planning and Inspections Department and the town will hold an open house-style public information meeting to explain the joint land-use planning process and how the town’s Future Land Use Plan, adopted in March, could be implemented.

The revised plan is more specific than previous documents about when a rezoning would be required and the types of uses that would be allowed on a parcel.

The plan affects areas outside the town’s borders but within its planning jurisdiction. It also affects some areas under the county’s planning jurisdiction but generally located on the town’s fringes and that receive town water and/or sewer services. Jurisdiction over the affected areas was mapped in 2007, when Hillsborough and Orange County agreed to a boundary change. Hillsborough also adopted a state-mandated future land-use map that year.

In 2012, town and county officials started considering updates to the map to meet changing development regulations, trends and the town’s vision for growth.

The plan was drawn up with input from county staff, the public and the Orange County Board of Commissioners. The commissioners will hold a public hearing Sept. 9 to discuss whether to endorse the plan as-is or negotiate any changes. Hillsborough and the county also collaborated in 2006 to draft the town’s strategic growth plan and signed an agreement in 2009 that identifies areas for future water, sewer and joint planning.

Tom Altieri, the county’s comprehensive panning supervisor, said the future land-use plan is a vision painted with a broad brush. The details will be added over time with input from residents, developers and other stakeholders, he said. The plan is not expected to affect low-density residential areas, he said.

Once the county commissioners approve the plan, it will be incorporated into the county’s comprehensive plan, and Hillsborough or county officials will initiate any necessary zoning changes. The county last approved a comprehensive land-use plan in 1981, he said. Any resulting development could be a year or two away, he said.

While the plan designates land for specific uses, it does not guarantee a rezoning application will be approved or that a landowner will agree to a rezoning, Altieri said. What it does is create opportunity, he said.

The town’s southern border, near the intersection of Old N.C. 86 and Interstate 40, would be particularly affected by the land-use plan, which sets aside a large area for suburban office, employment or neighborhood mixed uses. The area already includes the Waterstone development, Durham Tech’s Orange County campus and the new UNC Hospitals campus.

“Over time, private developers could show more interest, and people may sell eventually to projects that are more dense,” Altieri said.