MINUTES OF PUBLIC HEARINGS ON PROPOSED MEADOWMONT DEVELOPMENT PLAN,†† WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 5, 1994, 10:00 A.M. (AT PROPOSED SITE)

††† AND 7:30 P.M. (CHAPEL HILL TOWN HALL COUNCIL CHAMBERS)

 

In the absence of Mayor Broun and Mayor pro tem Brown, Senior Council Member Joe Capowski, serving as presiding officer, called the meeting to order at 10:05 a.m. in the Slug's at the Pines parking lot.Council Members in attendance were Pat Evans and Rosemary Waldorf.Also in attendance were Town Manager Cal Horton, Planning Director Roger Waldon, Development Coordinator Jennie Bob Culpepper, Town Attorney Ralph Karpinos and Town Clerk Peter Richardson.

 

Persons wishing to testify in the matter were sworn by the Town Clerk.

 

Roger Perry, President of East-West Partners, introduced project staff members Brad Davis, Scott Murray and Karen Ruscher.Mr. Perry presented a brief overview of the proposed tour.†† The following is a summary of general questions posed by Council Members and citizens at various points along the applicant's tour of the site.

 

Council Member Capowski inquired whether about one-third of the proposed development was in the Durham County portion of Town limits.Mr. Perry said this was correct.Council Member Evans inquired whether the developer planned to enlarge an existing agricultural use tunnel under NC 54 to connect the two portions of the site.Mr. Perry stated that the tunnel might be enlarged and converted for pedestrian or bicycle usage.

 

Project land-use planner Brad Davis presented an overview of the proposed reclamation of a meadow-like area on the site and proposed development on areas adjoining this meadow.Design Review Board member Bob Stipe inquired whether proposed commercials buildings on the north side of NC 54 would be visible to passing vehicles.Mr. Davis said yes, adding that the buildings would have a maximum height below the area's existing tree line.Julie Andresen inquired whether the developer was proposing a mixture of office and retail uses.Mr. Davis said yes.Ed Harrison inquired whether existing trees on the site would be preserved.Mr. Davis stated that the majority of trees up to three hundred and fifty feet into the site would be preserved.He added that a proposed restaurant building would be nearest to NC 54, overlooking the proposed meadowlike area.Ms. Andresen inquired about the location of proposed streets on the site.Mr. Davis provided a brief overview of the developer's plan for major streets.

 

Mr. Perry said he proposed that an existing barn on the site be converted into a recreation center for Meadowmont, as suggested by the Design Review Board.Project land-use planner Scott Murray stated that the developer was proposing approximately 130 acres of open space within the site, excluding wetland conservation areas.

Ms. Andresen inquired about the location of wetlands on the site.Mr. Murray outlined the areas on exhibit maps provided to tour participants.

 

Mr. Perry noted that the site south of NC 54 would be used primarily for office uses, including the possible construction of a hotel facility.Ms. Andresen inquired about the proposed heights of these buildings.Mr. Davis said the maximum height would be five storeys.Council Member Evans inquired whether surface parking lots, rather than a parking deck, were proposed for office and hotel uses.Noting that a total of 520 parking spaces were proposed for the proposed office/hotel complex, Mr. Davis said this was correct.He added that the applicant might elect for subterranean parking below some buildings.Mr. Davis noted that the proposed building setback for the south side of NC 54 would be two hundred feet.

 

Alice Ingram inquired why the applicant was placing an emphasis on automobile parking, rather than encouraging use of alternative modes of transportation.Mr. Davis stated that the applicant's proposal reflected the reality of current transportation usage.He stated that the applicant hoped that the Meadowmont area would be a focal point of a future transit loop.Council Member Capowski inquired whether Meadowmont residents would be able to access the University campus without having to travel along NC 54.Mr. Perry said yes, noting that the proposal was to provide bikeways between Meadowmont and the University campus.Council Member Evans inquired about the terminus of the main internal roadway on the south side of the site.Mr. Murray said the road would end at a median cut on Friday Lane.Mr. Perry stated that his firm had an informally discussed these plans with University officials.

 

Council Member Evans inquired whether a proposed grocery store within the village center would be visible from NC 54.Mr. Davis stated that the proposed grocery store would be a maximum of 40,000 square feet and would be buffered with plant materials.Chapel Hill News Editor Ted Vaden inquired how far the proposed meadowlike area would extend into the site.Mr. Davis said the proposed area would extend approximately nine hundred feet into the site.He noted that the majority of Meadowmont residents would be able to walk to the village center in five minutes or less.Diane Bloom asked whether the developer was proposing a village center similar to those in Columbia, Maryland.Mr. Davis said the developer proposed a smaller scale version of Columbia's village centers.

 

Mr. Perry noted that a seven to ten year project buildout was anticipated.Council Member Waldorf asked about the applicant's initial building plans.Mr. Perry said the proposed initial phase would include the construction of the proposed Meadowmont and related residential and commercial buildings.Council Member Evans inquired about the status of the DuBose home, recently turned over to the University of North Carolina's conservatorship.Mr. Perry stated that the home and adjoining twenty-six acres of property were on the National Historic Register.He added that under existing agreements, the property's use would remain unchanged for at least fifty years.

 

Ms. Andresen inquired about the proposed location and permitting of soccer fields on the site.Mr. Perry stated that the applicant was proposing that six soccer fields be provided on a lower portion of the site.He added that Corp of Engineers flood plain regulations

prohibited the building of structures in lower lying flood-prone areas.Ms. Bloom inquired who could use the soccer fields.Mr. Perry said the fields would be available to all community residents, including Rainbow Soccer participants.Mr. Vaden inquired about pesticide-related concerns relative to maintenance of the soccer fields.Mr. Perry said no such problems were anticipated.

 

Council Member Capowski asked how traffic problems with Rainbow Soccer would be addressed by the developer.Mr. Perry stated that several parking areas were proposed in the vicinity of the soccer fields, mitigating some problems at the existing fields.Council Member Capowski asked whether Meadowmont Lane would have one lane in each direction.Mr. Murray said the majority of Meadowmont Lane would have four total travel lanes.Mr. Perry added that a twenty-four foot corridor would be preserved along Meadowmont Lane for future mass transit purposes.Council Member Capowski inquired whether recreational opportunities other than soccer fields were proposed in the wetlands area.Mr. Murray said a number of uses were proposed including the provision of walking trails.Council Member Capowski inquired whether drainage systems would be installed under the soccer fields.Mr. Perry said he did not think the Corp of Engineers would permit subsurface drainage under the fields.

 

Council Member Capowski stated that the developer would make a presentation to the Council and interested persons in the Council Chamber beginning at 7:30 p.m. this evening.He added that persons wishing to do so could be sworn to give testimony at this hearing.The site tour concluded at 12:30 p.m.


7:30 P.M. Public Hearing

 

Mayor Broun called the hearing to order.Council Members in attendance were Joe Capowski, Mark Chilton, Jim Protzman, Barbara Powell and Rosemary Waldorf.Mayor Broun expressed the Council's great sympathy to Council Member Brown on the death of her mother and to Council Member Evans on the death of her father.Mayor Broun also noted that Council Member Pav„o was out of town and unable to attend this evening's hearing.Also in attendance were Town Manager Cal Horton, Assistant Town Managers Sonna Loewenthal and Florentine Miller, Planning Director Roger Waldon and Town Attorney Ralph Karpinos.

 

Persons wishing to testify in the matter were sworn by the Town Clerk.Mr. Horton requested that materials pertaining to this evening's meeting be entered into the record of the hearing.Mayor Broun concurred with the request.

 

Mr. Horton noted that three Council Members and a number of interested citizens had toured the proposed Meadowmont site with the developer and his representatives earlier in the day.He stated that persons wishing to speak at this evening's hearing would need to be sworn by the Clerk.

 

Mr. Karpinos briefly reviewed a memorandum he had prepared for the Mayor and Council concerning procedures for the Meadowmont development proposal.He noted that minutes of both this morning's site tour by three Council Members and a future tour by other Council Members would be prepared by the Clerk.

 

Mayor Broun noted that this evening's meeting was a very preliminary session for providing initial questions and feedback.

 

Mr. Waldon stated that the applicant was proposing to develop a 425 acre parcel of land along NC 54 East.He noted that if the Council chose to approve the developer's proposed master plan and rezoning requests, the developer would also need to receive special use permits for specific site developments.

 

Roger Perry of East-West Partners, the property's owner, said he appreciated the opportunity to participate in today's proceedings.He noted that project land planner Brad Davis would make this evening's presentation.Mr. Perry said project representatives Scott Murray, Karen Ruscher, George Kirshbaum and Jack Smyre were also in attendance this evening.

 

Project representative Brad Davis said the proposed site was a beautiful one and deserved a creative and excellent land-use plan.Mr. Davis presented a brief site orientation and related site elevation and summary drainage information.He stated that the developer would place an emphasis of preserving trees on the site including American Red Cedars and Loblolly Pine trees.Mr. Davis also displayed a map depicting the proximity of the Army Corp of Engineers watershed protection area in relation to the proposed Meadowmont development.He stated that the two areas were separated by a minimum of 7,000 feet.Mr. Davis also said that there were a number of older existing structures on the site which would be preserved by the developer.He noted that there were a number of vantage points along ridges on the property which offered pleasant views of the University campus and Town skyline.

 

Mr. Davis stated that there was a 1 to 1 1/2 acre pond on the northern portion of the site which was adjoined by a 60 to 70 acre conservation area which was regulated by the Army Corp of Engineers.He also presented a brief overview of the project site plan, noting that a transition area was proposed along the western portion of the property.

 

Mr. Davis also emphasized the importance of following eight good master planning principles for the proposed Meadowmont development, as follows:(1) connections to multi-modal transit options such as light rail mass transit and greenways, (2) conservation of natural and cultural features such as crossroads, old home sites, cemeteries and meadows, (3) establishment of a village center as a focal point for gatherings and community events, (4) provision of a mixture of land uses providing a variety of accessible housing, community facility, recreational, shopping and work place opportunities, (5) traditional street and traffic patterns to encourage a safe and human scale environment with facilities for bicycles and pedestrians, (6) vital neighborhoods which encourage demographic diversity and promote civic elements, (7) a hierarchy of open spaces including small neighborhood parks and larger parks connected by walkways or greenways and (8) architecture consistent with Town standards and preferences, developing continuity with a common theme.

 

Mayor Broun said he had a number of map-related questions.He inquired about the developer's use of the term "opportunity sites".Mr. Davis stated that the term "opportunity sites" referred to opportunities for scenic views and development.Mayor Broun also inquired about the nature of the proposed transition area and why this was only proposed along the western property line.Mr. Davis stated that as one moved away from the village center, the gradient of use or density would decrease.He said the purpose of the transition area was to buffer adjoining properties.Mr. Davis added that the developer would investigate the possibility of having transition areas along other boundaries of the proposed development.

 

Council Member Waldorf asked whether having green areas such as athletic fields along NC 54 would be in accord with the Town's entranceway plan.Mr. Waldon said the Town's entranceway plan called for the preservation of scenic vistas by the use of pasture lands and other open spaces.Council Member Waldorf inquired about the proposed ratio of office and commercial square footage to residential square footage.Mr. Perry said no calculations had been performed for estimated residential square footages.He noted that the maximum impervious limitations were 24% for residential areas and 50% for office and commercial areas.

 

Transportation Board Chair Richard Franck thanked the Council for the opportunity to walk the site earlier in day with other interested citizens.Mr. Franck said it was possible that the proposed Meadowmont development would be part of a future fixed guideway transit corridor.He stated that the Town's long-term best economic interests would be well-served by encouraging denser development along the NC 54.Mr. Franck also said he concurred with the developer's proposal concerning the provision of crossroads in the village center.He requested that the Council consider establishing a maximum number of parking spaces for proposed developments, rather than the current minimum guidelines.

 

Tom Gunn stated that although the developer's proposed planning principles sounded good in concept, the text accompanying the principles contained the auxiliary verb "should" in most cases.Mr. Gunn emphasized the importance of preserving the Town's entranceways and the continued provision of low and middle-income affordable housing opportunities.Mr. Gunn said he wondered whether Meadowmont was the best project for this particular land parcel.He requested that the Council separate the applicant's rezoning and master plan requests.

 

Herschel Slater said the applicant was offering an exciting development plan which would have a major impact on the Town's future appearance.Mr. Slater also said he hoped that the applicant would make some allowances for public active recreation programs such as playing fields in its planning principles.

 

Bob Reda, President of the Alliance of Neighborhoods, said thatthe proposed master plan and rezoning both required Council approval.Stating that there had been no discussion about what the community wanted on the subject tracts, Mr. Reda requested thatthe Council delay rezoning of the property.He expressed concern that much of the applicant's proposal violated the spirit of the Town's entranceway plan in the Comprehensive Plan.

 

Stuart Tolley said he loved living on the property and would not give up his current home at any price.

 

Jan Halle, a local physician, expressed concern that there had been a lot of double-talk by some speakers this evening.She stated that community residents had not been actively involved in the project's planning process.Dr. Halle said it would be desirable to maintain scenic vistas in the area.She also expressed concern about the number of trips that the proposed development would have on existing and proposed area roadways.

 

Cynthia Wise, a resident of the Oaks subdivision, said Mr. Perry had been quoted in a local paper as saying he could make as much money developing from developing Meadowmont as developing another Oaks subdivision having large homes on big lots.Ms. Wise said Mr. Perry's life could be a lot easier if he scrapped his proposed plan and chose to construct a subdivision similar to the Oaks.She urged Mr. Perry to proceed in this manner.

 

Bob Stipe urged the Council to keep intact vistas and borderland woods along NC 54 in accordance with the Town's official design policy.He also said the Town had adopted a resolution in 1988 stating that the Council would only adopt development plans which were in accordance with the terms of the Town's Comprehensive Plan.

 

Pat Carstensen, President of the Cross-County Neighborhood Association, said a big change was not necessarily a bad one.

She noted the importance of the Council protecting the community's interests in terms of transportation, appearance and protection of neighborhoods.Ms. Carstensen said she was concerned about whether or not Meadowmont's proposed transportation plans were workable.She requested that the Council exceed the expectations of its customers, Town residents, in reviewing the Meadowmont plan.

 

Albert Vickery said he did a lot of work permitting industrial facilities in a professional capacity.He urged the Council to be careful that staff was not being coopted by developers about what was actually being proposed.Mr. Vickery also urged the Council to be sure that they negotiated the best possible plan for use of the subject property.

 

John Kent, Acting Conservation Chair of the New Hope Audubon Society, said he was especially concerned about the proposal to locate six soccer fields and related parking in a hardwood bottom land area on the site.He requested that the Council hold the applicant to preserving significant natural features of the site.

 

Noting that this today's hearings marked the beginning of the Council's review of the Meadowmont proposal, Mayor Broun requested that staff give an overview of the proposed process.Mr. Horton stated that due to the large scale of the development proposal, a more elaborate review process, including on-site visits, was proposed.He added that there were would be a second visit to the proposed Meadowmont site for Council Members and other interested persons who were unable to visit the site earlier in the day.

He noted that the next Meadowmont work session was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on November 2nd, with the developer providing an overview of the specific project proposal.Mayor Broun asked whether there would be an opportunity for involvement by advisory boards and commissions.Mr. Horton noted that board and commission members would be able to participate throughout the review process.

 

Council Member Capowski thanked Mr. Perry and his staff for their tour of the Meadowmont site earlier in the day.He stated that the Meadowmont parcel was a large and marvelous piece of land which could provide wonderful future opportunities.

 

Council Member Capowski requested that staff prepare a follow-up report on whether the Council could separate the applicant's master plan and rezoning requests.Noting potential impacts on schools, recreation and other community facilities, he also inquired about the projected population of Meadowmont at full buildout and related effects on infrastructure.Stating that the subject property was currently zoned R-1, Council Member Capowski inquired about the projected density if the property were developed at the same density as the Oaks subdivision.He also inquired whether the Council could require developers to provide offsite improvements such as a bicycle lane extending to the U.S. 15-501 bypass.

 

Council Member Capowski asked the staff to provide a follow-up report on language in the Town's Comprehensive Plan relative to the applicant's proposal.He also requested that the applicant provide information on proposed strategies for handling traffic and parking relative to the six proposed soccer fields.Council Member Capowski also inquired about the estimated percentage of Meadowmont retail customers who would work or reside in the subdivision contrasted with the number of "drop-in" customers.He encouraged the applicant to think about how persons residing or working in Meadowmont might be able to access the University campus without having to use Raleigh Road/NC 54.Council Member Capowski also said he was interested in the possible enlargement of an existing tunnel under NC 54 to accommodate future pedestrian and bicycle usage.

 

Council Member Protzman said he hoped that staff would be able to provide a very detailed map or area plan outlining other commercial uses within the vicinity of the proposed Meadowmont development.He also requested that staff provide information on surrounding zoning and the projected buildout of surrounding areas.

 

Mayor Broun requested that staff provide information about similarly-sized and type developments in communities similar to the Town.Mr. Perry stated that the Kentlands community outside of Gaithersburg, Maryland had utilized development principlessimilar to those being proposed.He added that the success of this project had been mixed, with some goals being achieved while others were not.Mr. Perry also said the resort community of Seaside, Florida had been designed using principles suggested by Andres Duany.

 

Noting that he had been impressed by comments from Council Members and citizens this evening, Mr. Perry requested additional guidance on the types of development preferable on the site.Stating that the necessary infrastructure was in place, Mr. Perry said that no water, sewer or road extensions were necessary.He also requested the Town's guidance concerning the Town's entranceway guidelines in the Comprehensive Plan.Mayor Broun noted that the applicant had given the Council some good preliminary information this evening.He expressed hope that dialogues between citizens, the applicant, advisory boards and commissions and the Council would continue.

 

COUNCIL MEMBER CHILTON MOVED, SECONDED BY COUNCIL MEMBER PROTZMAN TO RECESS THE HEARING/WORK SESSION TO NOVEMBER 2ND.THE MOTION WAS ADOPTED UNANIMOUSLY (6-0).

 

The hearing concluded at 9:30 p.m.