A Local’s Perspective on the Legion Road Community Forum

I attended the January 13th forum on the future of the American Legion Post 6 property, hosted by Woodfield Properties. As a resident who lives within walking distance of Post 6, I wanted to go beyond the headlines and see and hear for myself the details of Woodfield’s vision for the site. 

Here are eight observations and perspectives from the forum:

  1. First, it’s accurate to call them luxury apartments. Woodfield is clearly aiming at an upscale market, specifically Millennial young professionals.     
  2. Mayor Hemminger was there and I’m really glad she came. (We sometimes feel neglected over here on the other side of the Super Road.) She said, “instead of criticizing what you don’t want, tell them what you do want.” I appreciated her encouraging a collaborative spirit. 
  3. The road the developer proposes through the project from Legion Road to Ephesus Church Road is apperently needed because laws mandate at least two exit points. The developer firmly said the road would not connect to Fountain Ridge, as some Colony Woods residents had feared.
  4. Citizens that frequently attend these forums to express opposition to similar projects were well represented. Some argued about the forum format. Someone pledged $5,000 if the town would buy the land for a park. (Mayor Hemminger reiterated that we don’t have $10-million lying around to buy the land.) Several worried about the impact on the kids at Ephesus Elementary, specifically the proposed new road. 
  5. Several Ephesus Elementary community members were there, too. They had a different concern; preserving and enhancing the trail network through the woods that kids use to walk to school. A teacher at Ephesus pointed out that the school only has three bus routes, in part because so many kids walk to school. (Go Roadrunners!) 
  6. The project offers some interesting opportunities to further enhance that trail network to connect to existing neighborhoods. The developer seems open to this idea, which is related to the town's agreement to not buy the land.
  7. Several people advocated for greater bike, transit, and pedestrian orientation. I got the impression Woodfield might not fully grasp these ideas. Given that the people who spoke on these subjects looked similar in age to the Millennials Woodfield is targeting, it would behoove Woodfield to listen to them.    
  8. For my personal tastes, the project as currently envisioned is a bit too much, “buildings in the middle of surface parking” and not enough, “real blocks that people will actually walk around," that would create a real sense of place. While the initial sketches do include some hidden structured parking and orient the main building towards Legion Road, the developer seemed opposed to my suggestion of less surface parking due to the cost of structured parking.

A final observation: There were well over 100 attendees, some who live nearby and others who live in other parts of town. However, there was hardly anybody there who wasn't Caucasian and most folks were 40 and older. Given the wide variety of people who live within a mile of the site, you can't claim this forum accurately represented the diversity of our side of town.  

I personally hope to see more of those missing neighbors at future forums.


.....Kleinschmidt & Co were negotiating behind the scenes they were also touting a +40 million dollar bond to fund streets and sidewalks, trails and greenwaysrecreation facilities, solid waste facilities and stormwater improvements. All last year when the backroom deals were occuring, the towns right of first refusal or the fact that the land was available never came up during the bond discussion. The towns parks and recreation department were never informed either. 

Now, the fact that such a valuable property would be taken off the tax rolls is a good and valid counter argument, but most voters think that the decision this big should be discussed in a public forum, not in a back room deal between the developer and the town staff. People who pay attention to what is going on are pissed off at the behaviour of the people who were elected to represent them. That deception, is the ultimate motivator.

Radiomatt, if you really want more diverse participation you will need to drive it yourself. Simply lamenting the lack of something rarely changes the condition. I suspect strongly you will find that once the facts, actions, timelines and behaviour of the elected officials are reviewed, most people of any community or age group would be equally offended by the former mayor and town councils actions.

" laws mandate at least two exit points."...  use their own land to provide two exits.  Yes they may have to build

fewer units but so what.   This seems like socializing the loses and privatizing the gains.   The Town gives up land for free, while making the school less safe, less walkable.  Adds to costs to bus more kids to the school district,  But it's all good if the developer can build 600 units.  Is it thinking outside the box for the council to suggest coming up with a land swap somewhere else in exchange for the town land for the road?


council should only upzone properties if there is a clear (not speculative) direct benefit (e.g.  20% of housing will be reserved for chapel hill/carrboro public school teachers, police, fire fighters, or below median income housing;  a huge park will be donated by the developer or school site  (southern village/meadowmont).  But just upzoning market rate commuter apartments AND asking for free town land is dumb.  Undeveloped land will only become more valuable not less; it's not like milk that's going to spoil if it's not used).

I am also perturbed that there appears to be a $1 million dollar incentive to American legion for the town to upzone to 600 units, and apparently a $7 million dollar incentive to upzone to 400 units.  In the old days, someone might worry about american legion influencing council with that much money on the table.

I live in that neck of the woods so I appreciate you sharing.  I think it is good that the developer is reaching out to the community and I will keep an eye out for these community forums in the future.  I have to say though its insane to say the town should spend $9 million on a property with no specific plan to generate revenue.  This is particularly true given the fact that we need more affordable housing and Chapel Hill is doing a poor job of attracting non-student residents under 40 relative to Raleigh and Durham.  This could be an opportunity to improve on both fronts not to mention there are probably a lot better ways to spend that $9 million particularly in terms of affordable housing, stormwater and transit.


That the community should have been afforded the opportunity for discussion before deals were made? Shouldn’t this opportunity have been discussed in the context of the 40Million dollar bond that was just approved? Why wouldn't this property be an opportunity to address some of the stormwater issues? 

Exactly how are ~600 luxury apartments going to solve any of the issues you outline?

What is insane and arrogant is that the town decided all of these things in closed door meetings without discussing it with the community or tapping into the considerable talent pool that lives and pays taxes in Chapel Hill.

The Town has released documents from the closed session discussions, including a time line.  It's worth understanding what happened and how we got to where we are now   http://www.chalt.org/american-legion-property/



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