September 13, 2006

Orange County: If you restrict it, they will build it.

I see that at last night's council meeting there was a debate about a new development idea in Meadowmont.

Health Decisions does pharmaceutical trials and is located on Quadrangle Drive in Durham County. On about four acres along West Barbee Chapel Road in Meadowmont, the proposal calls for two floors of office space totaling 52,000 square feet, and a third floor with 11 residential units.

The question the council centered on was whether it would want the developer to build two officially "affordable" condos out of the 11 units, working with Orange Community Housing and Land Trust, or to accept a chunk of money from Rosenberg and his partners instead to go toward building affordable housing elsewhere. It's the same question that comes up with many projects in Chapel Hill.

The problem in a nutshell?

Mayor Kevin Foy suggested the council probably could go ahead and decide Monday night if Rosenberg were willing to commit to paying $150,000 toward affordable housing.
Rosenberg said he thought he had a basic understanding that a payment-in-lieu of $112,500 would be acceptable, based on an estimate from the land trust's Robert Dowling that that was the cost for 1.5 affordable units. Foy and some of the council said they still had some interest in actually seeing two units included within Castalia, or at least for Rosenberg to make a payment of $150,000 for two units.

"You're asking a difficult question, because I'd have to go back and look at the economics of this," Rosenberg said. "This may just be the straw that breaks the camel's back."

Fine. Let it break. Orange County, Chapel Hill, and Meadowmont are good locations. If you restrict it, they will build it. If not this guy, then the next. Developers have been crying foul over building restrictions in Orange County since before I was born, but it is still built out isn't it? I have lived in a number of coastal areas, where growth is accelerated, so let me give you a heads up on what is coming.

1. Sprawl until every allowable inch of ground is covered in a development.

2. Teardowns of the smallest houses and businesses to make larger houses and businesses (already happening with houses in town, go to top of the hill and see the old gas station that used to sit on that site).

3. Teardown of larger businesses to create even bigger businesses (in Daytona Beach, five story hotels were torn down to create ten story hotels, in Miami Beach, 10 story hotels were torn down to create 40 story condo highrises).

Many years ago we lost the opportunity to do something special at Eastgate and out along MLK. Now, we have this.

Instead of something like this.


chris said...

Hi, nice post and a good point; zero ambiguity tolerated.
i stumbled on this page quite accidently and found myself staring at the attractive and somehow very familiar woman standing next to you in the picture by the evergaldes.


Robert P said...


That's great. Glad to have you aboard.Luckily for you, I just changed that picture this morning. Before that it was "lego" me.

Ruby said...

But Robert, how would I get to, from, and between those buildings?

You are right of course about going UP instead of OUT, but it's a lot more complicated to make it work in a real community. Chapel Hill has an urban boundary to prevent sprawl and you will be seeing a lot more re-developing of existing properties and an increase in density in the next decade.

But some people (probably including you) don't really want to live in high-rises.

Robert P said...

Those dark lines are roads. On those roads would be things like pedestrians, bikes, and cars. As for living in a high rise, you might be right, I might not prefer it. However, there are about 10,000 students living in apartment complexes right now that might love having a stylish high-rise with underground parking, a Whole Foods, coffee bars, regular bars, clothing stores, etc all in the same place. PLUS, a place to walk their dog, lounge around for a picnic, etc.

Plus, I WOULD have loved living someplace like this before the two kids and would probably like it again in about 18 years when they leave the house. Not every housing development has to be perfect for every person.