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Is this well-managed growth?

Mari Weiss
I am a new Carolinian. Since moving to Chapel Hill/Carrboro, I have learned a great many things. The first thing I learned was that my house was located in Chapel Hill but in a town, heretofore unknown to me, called Carrboro.

I have also learned that, unlike living in Los Angeles, my voice matters. I have attended Carrboro town meetings where I have been permitted to address the different boards, and I have even had a column printed in a local newspaper. This is all very exciting and gratifying to me, to live somewhere that I actually feel I can make a difference.

Upon moving to Carrboro, I went on the town’s website and was very excited about what I read. Their mission statement says that they value pedestrian safety and walkability. They also say that they are known for their well-managed growth.

There are two projects coming up before town government that, if approved, will be in direct contradiction with their mission statement.

Those projects are known as Colleton Crossing and Carolina Commons. As proposed, both developments would connect to a dead-end road in the Highlands called Claymore Road and add a thousand more car trips per day through the neighborhood.

The Highlands is a housing tract of 100 homes. All the roads in the Highlands are 20 feet wide, with no sidewalks, curbs, gutters or lights.

The original builder, Ron Weber, who still resides in this 20-year-old tract, says that the roads are at capacity now. Our roads are called sub-collector roads and were only meant to carry traffic from 38 to 100 homes.

The Highlands has two through streets: Claymore Road and Sterling Bridge. Claymore Road connects to Rogers Road and is a dead-end to the west and Sterling Bridge connects to Claymore Road and Homestead.

All pedestrians must walk in the street. We have six school bus pickups and drop-offs a day. Chapel Hill High School students who live in the Highlands or Fox Meadow walk along a new sidewalk on Homestead to Sterling Bridge, which is a designated school walk zone with no sidewalks.

All of the residents of the Highlands walk, bike, exercise or play in the streets. We even have homeowners’ meetings and block parties in the street. One resident occasionally shows movies on the side of his house.

UNC owns the land where the proposed road and the tract known as Carolina Commons are to be constructed. UNC is a national leader in pedestrian safety through the UNC Highway Safety Research Center and the Injury Prevention Center. Their own studies show that more pedestrian injuries occur with increased traffic volume and no sidewalks. Statistics show that there are many preventable child pedestrian fatalities on the same type of roads as ours. I am curious how UNC will serve as a role model for ensuring pedestrian safety when their new tract provides for 10-foot-wide walking trails and a playground while removing the only place for our neighborhood children to play – the streets.

The road that they are proposing to connect to the Highlands will be constructed through the woods of Bolin Creek, beginning at the tract called Carolina Commons and extending northward to a landlocked area to be called Colleton Crossing. Friends of Bolin Creek are against this road and it is in direct opposition to the Carrboro land-use ordinance, which states that no construction or grading is to occur in a flood zone. The terrain is thick with trees, is uneven and has a very steep grade. I cannot imagine the cost of grading and paving such a road or the ecological toll it may take.

And yet, I have not heard of one penny being put aside by UNC, the developers or the Town to improve the roads of The Highlands to put in sidewalks, curbs, gutters or lights.

Although Carrboro is pushing for “connectivity” of its neighborhoods, why vehicular connectivity? Why not connection by bike paths and walking trails? We fear for the safety of our children.

My only hope is that Carrboro recognizes the dangers of this kind of haphazard planning and comports with its mission statement of valuing pedestrian safety, walkability and well-managed growth.

Mari Weiss is a resident of the Highlands neighborhood.

7 Responses

Comments (7)

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  1. David Ross

    Ron Weber has not a clue, so please do not listen to him.

  2. Sophie King-Lowe

    Welcome to North Carolina!

    In order to understand the apparent conflict between words and deeds, I would suggest you peruse the different stories you can find at http://squeezethepulp.com

    Then everything will be much clearer to you.

    Good luck and happy reading!

  3. Terri Buckner

    The development of the large, single family homes in the northeast section of the UNC tract is not being developed by UNC’s choice. Carolina Commons was originally conceived of as an affordable housing development for UNC faculty and staff. But in order to get the permits required to build those affordable homes, the town of Carrboro is requiring that UNC construct a road from that section to Colleton Crossing for “connectivity” purposes. That connector road increases the costs of the development significantly, making the affordable homes unaffordable. So in order to meet their desire to provide faculty and staff with affordable housing options in Carrboro, UNC must build larger, non-affordable homes in the northeast section of the tract in order to cover the road construction costs.

    What’s more important to the town of Carrboro? Affordable housing, connectivity, public safety for the residents living on Claymore, or environmental protection? I don’t believe it is possible to have all 4 in this particular instance. An alternative approach would be to require the developer of Colleton Crossing to find a second exit for his project and exempt UNC from the connectivity requirement.

  4. BrianR

    FYI – Seems unlikely that Sophie King-Lowe is a real person. A quick google search comes up with the top hits for this “person” to be two comments this week on CarrboroCitizen.com. Nor does NC state voter records show anything. Meaning Sophie just discovered blog commenting or was created recently. Mr. John Kramer? Elvisboy?

  5. Richard Goldberg

    The developers are legally required to show the connector roads on their plans. The preferred solution by many residents of the Highlands is to not build a connector road. However, this just diverts all of the traffic from the new developments to Fox Meadow’s narrow, winding streets with no sidewalks.

    The best solution for both neighborhoods is: (a) reduce the density of the new developments so minimize the impact of new traffic, and/or (b) require sidewalks to be built on the existing neighborhood streets that are affected by increased traffic.

  6. Charlie Buckner

    An exhaustive search for a second access to the Colleton Crossing tract has been fruitless. Claymore and Tallyho are the only ways in. There is precedent for requiring sidewalks, see Pacifica and Hanna Street, but sidewalks along the 1/3 mile long Claymore would be very expensive, and along the 1.5 route through Fox Meadow would be cost prohibitive. The only realistic solution is to reduce the number of units in Colleton from 39 to less than a dozen, which would bring it in line with the lot sizes of the surrounding neighborhoods.

    Better yet, limit the development to three units so the easement can be legally used for almost direct access to Rogers, with no increase of traffic through Fox Meadow or Highlands.

  7. Elvisboy88

    Who is BrianR, and why is he or she afraid to use their real name?? Seems strange to me.

    Carrboro has already shown that they do not care about the NTA, so it is no surprise to hear that the Carrboro BOA’s buddies are getting there way in that area. They don’t care. That is all.

    I for one am glad I moved to Hillsborough, which is a lot more sensitive and caring, not to mention cooler!