Town Council unanimously approves rezoning, special use permits for 123 W. Franklin (University Square)

The Chapel Hill Town Council held a second public hearing tonight on the rezoning and redevelopment of the University Square/123 West Franklin Street complex. UNC Chancellor Thorp made opening remarks about the redevelopment, calling it key for our downtown and detailing the need for more housing, parking, and green space downtown. Chancellor Thorp remained for the entirety of the two-hour discussion, which ended up being a very fortunate thing.

Public comment was then taken. The majority of the public comment was in support of the redevelopment, lauding the opportunity to create even more vibrancy downtown. A handful of Cameron-McCauley Neighborhood residents spoke in opposition, citing the increase in traffic that redevelopment would bring. The chair of Justice United's Affordable Housing Team spoke asking that the council reflect on whether the $90,000 payment for affordable housing was adequate given the size of the redevelopment. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce President spoke in support of the redevelopment, while also calling for more creative plans to provide affordable housing than just through payments from developers.

After public comment, council members offered their assessments. Several council members expressed their concern about the small sum being provided as payment for affordable housing. Council member Bell pointed out that many of the jobs that would be created through this redevelopment would not pay a wage that would allow those workers to live in Chapel Hill. Council member Ward pushed the university to step up their efforts around providing affordable housing because UNC and UNC Hopsitals create many of the jobs that do not pay enough to allow workers to live where they work.

The developer noted that the redevelopment came with other benefits to the town including 3/4 of an acre of green space and as many as 200 public parking spaces that should offset the need for a greater affordable housing payment. Mayor Kleinschmidt asked whether the access to the parking would be tied to the rest of the permit so that when the complex is eventually sold, the Town would still have access to those parking spaces. After some back and forth on this, the University and development representatives huddled and Chancellor Thorp came back with an offer to provide $50,000/year payments for five years for affordable housing, but not to add the parking spaces to the permit (an increase from $90,000 to $250,000 for affordable housing). Chancellor Thorp stated that he had stayed until 10:15 because he felt that the $90,000 was a little light.

After this turn of events, votes happened rapidly and the rezoning and two special use permits were all approved unanimously.



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