First in a series of downtown residential/commercial projects
By Kirk Ross
Final agreement on the last set of conditions on the proposed Alberta project was delayed Tuesday night after a lengthy discussion by the Carrboro Board of Aldermen.
After closing a public hearing at Town Hall on the four-story 46,340-square-foot project, board members focused on how it and other mixed-use developments would affect downtown.
Two major areas of negotiation have been how many affordable housing units to require at The Alberta and where to draw the line between public and private property.
Located at the corner of Roberson Street and Sweat Bay Place on the site of the old Farmersâ€™ Market, The Alberta would include 6,772 square feet of retail space on the ground floor along Roberson Street along with 23 residential units and 69 parking spaces. The condominiums include three one-bedroom units, 17 two-bedroom units and three three-bedroom units.
The townâ€™s affordable housing rules require that 3.45 of the condominiums â€” 15 percent â€” would have to be affordable (see â€œWhat does â€˜affordabelâ€™ meanâ€).
Carr Mill Investment Limited Partnership, which is developing The Alberta, has asked that it include no units dedicated to affordable housing and instead be allowed to submit a payment in lieu to the town.
But aldermen were in agreement that there would have to be affordable units in the project and settled on a plan requiring three units and a payment in lieu for the remaining .45 unit.
The other main sticking point involved a commonly used route through the parking lot from Carr Street. Aldermen asked that there be a right-of-way through the property to allow for pedestrian and bike access. They did not require that the route be closed to vehicles, but did require that no gates be constructed and that a speed table or some kind of traffic-calming method be installed to prevent speeding through the lot.
Paul Greenberg, speaking for the Carr Mill partnership, said he had no intention of limiting pedestrian traffic through the area and asked that the board not require a right-of-way. He also asked that the sidewalk along Sweet Bay Place, where the main entrances to the residential part of The Alberta would be located, be private.
Board members said having a public right-of-way was important to the overall downtown design and were worried other developers might come to them with similar plans.
Alderman Jacquie Gist said she was concerned that once the condominiums are sold and a homeowners association is in place, the attitude about allowing bicyclists and pedestrians to use the route through the lot might not be as charitable. She said she would not support the project if the right-of-way request is dropped.
â€œWe need to keep the gates open and the community flowing,â€ Gist said. Otherwise the project, she said, â€œgoes from being what could be a very cool development into a very un-Carrboro development.â€
Alex Zaffron said that public sidewalks on public streets are an essential part of the downtown plan. He asked that the board not set a precedent by veering from that.
Joal Hall Broun said that while there are concerns about crime in the area, it shouldnâ€™t deter the plan for a right-of-way. If things are going on there late at night that shouldnâ€™t be, she said, â€œwe need to deal with it, whether a building goes there or not.â€
Saying he was looking out for the 23 families that would make The Alberta their home, Greenberg asked the town to reconsider. But Mayor Mark Chilton said with the board in strong agreement on both the affordable housing and the right-of-way issues, the project would probably not win approval if Carr Mill did not agree to the conditions.
By law, both the town and the developer have to agree on conditions for the project. Greenberg asked that final wording on the right-of-way and the affordable units be sent to him in writing for review.
If the conditions are approved by both parties, the project is likely to win approval at the boardâ€™s meeting at Town Hall next week.
What does â€œaffordableâ€ mean?
When housing units are designatedÂ affordable, it means that theyâ€™re affordable for buyers who make 80 percent or less of the median income for the area. For this year, that translates to:
- $39,950 for a one-person household;
- $45,650 for a two-person household;
- $57,050 for a four-person household.