As a participant in the Chapel Hill Town Council’s subcommittee that addressed the inclusion of affordable housing at Obey Creek, I was impressed with both the process and the outcome.
The members of the subcommittee, which included affordable-housing providers, the developer, and council members Sally Greene, George Cianciolo and Jim Ward, all provided valuable input and engaged in a give and take that led to a proposal that all members of the subcommittee could get behind.
The developers were open to the suggestions of the subcommittee members, and their willingness to accept housing vouchers for half of the affordable rental units will set a valuable precedent for future rental projects. I was very impressed with the process and hope it will serve as a model for future affordable housing discussions with developers.
Not another mall
I am pro-development, and I think Obey creek should be developed; however, when I saw the plans I literally gasped. The area is supposed to be an extension of Southern Village, not a more urbanized Southpoint mall.
I actually emailed the N.C. Department of Transportation about the traffic on N.C. 54 / U.S. 15-501, especially around the intersection of Manning Drive and its intersection at Carmichael. Both of these lights back up daily. My commute to RTP is awful. The reason I chose to live here and deal with the commute is because my wife works here and the schools have such a good reputation. The DOT told me there are no plans for either of these intersections, not even in the planning phase. They said they are just starting to consider the intersection of N.C. 54 / I-40.
I would like to hear concrete, guaranteed plans for traffic control. I would like to see something as huge as turning Manning Drive into an overpass to improve traffic flow. Southern Chapel Hill is going to become unusable and un-commutable. There is no interstate highway that is usable for us, so neighborhoods in Chatham (Briar Chapel, Governors Village, Farrington) all use U.S. 15-501 / N.C. 54 and cause massive traffic backups. There is literally an accident every time it rains. I saw plans about traffic control, but it seems like the DOT has no plan, has not agreed to anything, and there is no money backing any of the suggestions being made.
I would like to know if we are putting a mega-mall in an already over-used road area. I was hoping for Southern Village 2.0 and more neighbors, and what we are getting is Southpoint mall across the street. That does not seem fair when the area is not zoned for it.
More traffic concerns
I have lived in Southern Village for 15-plus years. I also run a small business of 14 employees based on Market Street in Southern Village.
In terms of Obey Creek, I am very concerned about the scale of the development and the apparent lack of planning for traffic. It seems as though there is little regard for those of us who will be living here after the developer is gone, and who will have to fight the traffic congestion when we want to visit the rest of Chapel Hill. This includes the future residents of Obey Creek, as well those coming from points south.
There has been consistent comment and feedback that the scale of development should be in keeping with the rest of Chapel Hill, including Southern Village. Neither the Town Council nor the developer seem to be responsive to this feedback, despite committees and planning sessions galore.
Before giving Obey Creek Ventures, LLC, a carte blance for to create something 1.3 million square feet in size, I urge the Town Council to get a realistic traffic survey. Then THINK about whether anyone would like to to live there – or in Southern Village or Dogwood Acres or off Mt. Carmel Church, or any of the nearby neighborhoods that are going to be dwarfed and overwhelmed by the current vision of Obey Creek. Decide if massive traffic jams and pollution are the legacy you want to leave southern Chapel Hill.
The town did a great job working with the Southern Village developer to come up with something big but not too big, something that is cozy and walkable, that is a great place to live and to raise kids. The town can, and should, force the Obey Creek planners to be more clear and more responsive to the concerns of the neighbors and voters of Chapel Hill, in terms of scale, traffic and the interrelation of these.
Mary P. Metcalf
In recent months, numerous letters have appeared on this page praising the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce and celebrating the positive role it allegedly plays in our community. These letters come in the wake of editorials published last summer criticizing the chamber for 1) excluding the public and the local media from its board meetings, and 2) reflexively lobbying on behalf of every new real estate development proposal that comes along regardless of how poorly the proposed development serves the community. We are disappointed that, rather than addressing the substance of the criticisms leveled against it, the chamber has instead mounted an empty and unconvincing public relations campaign.
Indeed, the chamber continues its objectionable behavior unabated. Chamber board meetings remain closed to the public, and just last week, the chamber again flexed its lobbying muscle on behalf of developer Roger Perry’s proposal to transform the woodland across from Southern Village into a residential and commercial complex as large as the entire UNC medical center. Specifically, when town residents requested that the Obey Creek proposal be scaled down to better integrate with Southern Village and reduce traffic congestion, chamber board members flooded council members’ mailboxes with similarly worded letters of support, and chamber staff spoke at the March 16 public hearing urging approval of the developer’s proposal.
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce does many good things for the local business community, but when it comes to real estate development, the chamber apparently will not change its behavior until its staff and board members determine that they have more to gain from working with the town residents rather than against us. What will persuade the chamber to value our community’s well being above the profits of real estate developers and out-of-town investors?
Memorial Day’s meaning
I also believe that Memorial Day is a very important day to honor our fallen in war. However instead of taking our school system to task for using it yet again as a weather makeup day, Fred Black (CHN, March 18) might have suggested that the schools take a few minutes during that day to discuss its significance, teachers and students together.
I expect that most families simply treat that day as any other holiday, a time to relax or tend to piled up necessities. Not that many put out a flag on that day, let alone attend ceremonies.
Judith S. Barton
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