A week ago today, our Town Council and Mayor voted 8-1 to approve the conditional zoning application for Chapel Hill Crossing,
a pending housing development located on Old Chapel Hill Road and Pope Road. Adam Searing, on whose slate I'm running, was the sole "no" vote.
Had I been asked to vote on Chapel Hill Crossing last week, I think I would have voted "yes." And because I know that may not be what some of my supporters would have wanted, it's important to me to be transparent about it now. I want everyone to know exactly what they're getting if they choose to cast a vote for me.
If I get elected to Town Council, I promise first and foremost to review every decision I am asked to make as objectively as possible, without bias based on what is expected of me by others, or alliance to any particular group or ideology. My desire to make choices from a place of reason rather than habit is why I'm registered Unaffiliated instead of as a Democrat. I want what is best for our town, not what is most comfortable for me personally.
I've spoken many times in this election about being pro-growth, as long as that growth is well-designed and a net benefit to our community. Most of the recent development I've seen in Chapel Hill doesn't meet those criteria. But by my estimation, Chapel Hill Crossing, given the changes the developer made after feedback from our Council and Planning Commission, is relatively positive growth. It checks these boxes for me:
It includes affordable housing
Building it won't displace residents from existing affordable housing
It includes a variety of housing options (i.e. "missing middle")
It will offer both for-sale and for-rent housing
It's height and architectural style is respectful of the context of our town
It's well-designed in terms of facilitating movement through the space and access to communal space.
There are also ways I think Chapel Hill Crossing could still be improved. Which are:
It includes more impervious surface than our development standards are supposed to allow, and therefore creates substantial concern for neighbors about stormwater run-off.
If the nearby Legion Park property is also used for affordable housing, Chapel Hill Crossing doesn't include enough green space or recreation space.
Still, I think the benefits would have outweighed the drawbacks enough for me to have voted "yes" last Wednesday. That may be a problem, and here's why: I would have voted "yes" because after all the back and forth between our Town bodies and the developer, I would have felt we'd gotten enough concessions to make a compromise.
But no balance of concessions matters if you're a neighbor whose property floods because of improper stormwater management at Chapel Hill Crossing. So I think our process is flawed. There are compromises we shouldn't be willing or expected to make.
Developers should know from the start that either they meet our standards for environmental management or we will say "no" to their plans. I respect Adam Searing for saying "no" even though he knew it might not be politically expedient. I wouldn't have voted "yes" out of political expediency, but I still would have been, and am, troubled about the stormwater. I think we can probably do better by our current residents.