Chapel Hill News

Chapel Hill’s council raises more questions about Edge plans, benefits

Council members questioned the community benefits Monday of plans to build part of the Edge project in a water conservation area on Eubanks Road, piping a stream bed under stores.

The Town Council approved three dozen buildings on 54 acres in February (See details, The Edge could have 600,000 to 935,290 square feet of floor space, including 43 percent to 75 percent residential, 6 percent to 29 percent office, and 15 percent to 44 percent retail.

Several issues were unresolved, however, including whether to let developer Northwood Ravin build in a conservation area on the site. Edge developers said building in that area, set aside to preserve water quality, could add more stores and visibility, attracting retailers.

Town staff will return to a Sept. 16 public hearing with more information.

Retailers are excited about the Edge, said Adam Golden, Northwood Ravin’s vice president of development. He declined to name potential tenants but said they are in “serious negotiations.”

“It’s a smaller retail box but could open a view corridor to the site, which is really what’s going to ignite that whole thing,” he said.

Northwood Ravin also talked with town staff, the Army Corps of Engineers and the state Division of Water Resources about what’s possible in the conservation district, Golden said. They have reduced construction affecting the stream bed, he said. The stream bed is dry, except when it rains.

The developers would need state and federal permits to build on the land. The town would have to ask about removing a Jordan Lake stream buffer at the site, and its Board of Adjustment could consider the town’s first major exception to building in the conservation district.

Significant development in that district “is a very big deal,” Julie McClintock, chairwoman of the town’s Stormwater Management Utility Advisory Board, told the council in an email. The stormwater board should get time to study the plans, she said.

The town also has been asked to help pay for $3.5 million in transportation upgrades, including additional lanes on Eubanks Road, a new MLK Boulevard-Eubanks Road intersection, and new traffic lights, bike lanes and sidewalks.

One option is to delay collecting roughly $1 million in taxes from the Edge. Council members first want to know more about how the town benefits and the conservation district’s retail potential, estimated at between 40,000 and 100,000 square feet. Council members said that’s not enough.

Another topic for negotiation is Northwood Ravin’s offer of 50 affordable apartments. The developer could spend at least five years seeking tax credit financing for the project. If that fails, the developer could seek more time, suggest another plan or sell the affordable housing site to the town.

An approved agreement would make the land available for $1.