Chapel Hill News

Council moves to development agreement for fire station

The Town Council approved moving ahead on a development agreement with East West Partners for a new Hamilton Road fire station and four-story office building near Glen Lennox and East 54.

The details are still being worked out, but the developer could build the 10,106-square-foot fire station and 53,342-square-foot office building on roughly an acre of town land. The offices could be built atop a two-story parking deck.

A temporary station could be located on Finley Golf Course Road.

East West Partners, which also built East 54, would buy the land – appraised at $665,000 – for a $1.75 million investment in the $3 million fire station. The council also agreed to put up to $750,000 toward construction. The town could get 12 parking spaces and lease back the land at $1 a year for up to 500 years.

The county could chip in another $500,000 and move an ambulance crew from UNC’s campus into the station if the county commissioners agree with the plan, Deputy County Manager Travis Myren said.

The state legislature gave towns the authority last year to negotiate a development agreement for any size project. It previously was restricted to projects covering 25 acres or more; the town has three existing agreements for the planned Carolina North research campus, the Obey Creek mixed-use project across from Southern Village and the Glen Lennox redevelopment.

A development agreement gives the council more leeway to talk with developers and the public. The final agreement could go to a public hearing by May, town staff said, with a council decision in June.

The town’s advisory boards should be involved early in the process, council member Michael Parker said.

“I think the concept and notion of getting this done efficiently – I can’t say this strongly enough – without compromising the quality of the review and without compromising community involvement and community participation, if we can do that and still meet the deadline, that would be a great thing and a great precedent for the town,” he said.

The Community Design Commission has the final say on how the project looks and fits into its surroundings. The project also would need a rezoning.

The Hamilton Road station, built in the 1950s, is the first of three Chapel Hill stations to be replaced, interim Fire Chief Matt Sullivan said. The others are on Elliott Road and Weaver Dairy Road.

“Our facilities are far outdated to meet the current needs, so by doing this, I think we bring ourselves up to a place where we can operate efficiently and effectively, looking into the future toward a 21st-century fire service,” Sullivan said.

In other business

The Town Council also approved new rules and reduced fees Monday night for residential projects in the Neighborhood Conservation District covering the Northside and Pine Knolls neighborhoods.

The town had planned some changes, such as allowing larger, more affordable duplexes and energy-efficient construction.

Other changes were prompted by new state laws limiting local governments’ ability to control housing design and how rooms are used. Property owners, as a result, will pay 60 percent less for project reviews – $240 instead of $585 – bringing the fee in line with the cost to other neighborhoods.

The district was created over a decade ago to slow a tide of student rentals that dwarfed existing homes, raising rents and property values, and forcing out longtime families. Chapel Hill and UNC have worked with neighbors to resolve noise, trash and other complaints, while putting plans in motion to restore and build more family homes.

The next step, officials said, is better enforcement of the town’s parking and occupancy rules. Parking in the district is limited to four cars per lot and only four unrelated people can live in a house. The town is hiring new officers now, one who will work only in Northside and Pine Knolls, they said.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb