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More discussion on plan needed

James Carnahan

Thanks for opening up the public discourse about possible changes to zoning in Carrboro’s Northern Study Area (“Calvander at the Crossroads,” Jan 10). I would like to expand a bit with my personal interpretation of the proposals the NSA Plan Update Committee was in strong agreement with.

The committee would like Carrboro to have multiple tools to address several issues raised at the community forums on land use in the NSA. In addition to their desire for commercial activities in the area that would enable them to reach shopping, services, jobs and recreation on foot, bicycle and public transportation, residents were also interested in addressing climate change and the rapid decline in global petroleum supplies. They were concerned about the lack of affordable housing in Carrboro and wanted greenways and sidewalks throughout the NSA that would interconnect neighborhoods and link everyone to commercial sites.

In addition to the consensus in support of rezoning three specific large tracts within the NSA for “Village Mixed Use,” the committee asked staff to develop a strategy that would enable smaller mixed commercial and residential projects to occur along the principle roads in the NSA (Homestead, Hillsborough, Eubanks, Rogers Roads and Old 87). This would help support transit throughout the area and make possible “corner store” retail and service opportunities within easy walking distance of most residents. Allocating transit-supportive density along transportation corridors also helps to accommodate a more diverse population and maintain affordability, a difficult goal to achieve when most of the land left within our growth boundary is being developed into large-lot single-family subdivisions where home prices typically start around $300,000.

The committee asks that “form-based” zoning be created for the entire area. The existing Village Mixed Use regulations already have a solid focus on development form. The proposed modifications would include planning and design standards intended to ensure that a wide spectrum of commercial activities and housing types and price points will be available; that new development will strongly favor walking and biking; that human scale is maintained and a sense of place created; and that light, noise and visual impacts will be compatible with neighbors.

In addition to achieving livability in “infill” and new developments, the committee supports standards for energy and resource conservation: high-performance “green building,” “low-impact” development that provides the best possible management of storm water, and practices for water conservation, re-use of “grey water” and harvesting rainfall. We would also like to revisit and improve the town’s protections for streams, wetlands and other environmentally sensitive areas.

What lies ahead (as I understand it) is an initial review of the proposals by the board of aldermen (customarily in a work session, not yet scheduled). The committee will deliberate the board’s feedback and forward a final draft proposal to staff for translation into ordinance text and maps that would go to advisory boards for review and come for formal consideration in a public hearing. This scenario will take several months. While work sessions do not usually take public comment in the meeting, the materials being discussed will be available (at the town’s website) for the public to examine and comment on through various media.

James Carnahan is a member of the NSA Plan Implementation Review Committee

  1. John Kramer

    Dear Mr. Carnahan: Carrboro needs more retail development to keep from bankrupting its residents with ridiculously high property taxes.

    I don’t know what “citizens” you talked to up north of Homestead, but I for one am not interested in all your “high performance green” and such stuff. We need a grocery store and a big box. Whoever you talked to does not speak for everyone in the NTA, that is for sure.
    Save the eco stuff for somewhere else, we need commercial development. Lord knows there isn’t any hope for downtown Carrboro.