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Council rejects Aydan Court

By Susan Dickson
Staff Writer

CHAPEL HILL – Citing concerns about impacts on a nearby waterfowl impoundment, the Chapel Hill Town Council voted 5-4 on Monday to reject a rezoning request for Aydan Court, a proposed 90-unit residential project on 5.8 acres on the north side of N.C. 54.

“I still have deep concerns because this is an environmentally sensitive area,” council member Penny Rich said. “To me, it’s too risky.”

But in rejecting the large-scale proposal, dissenting council members argued, the town has left open the door to single-family home development on the property that isn’t any better for the area or the town.

“The single-family-home option to me is just a nightmare,” Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said, adding that the proposed project would provide “a great deal of protection that would address the issues that are being brought up by opponents of the project.”

Council members Matt Czajkowski, Laurin Easthom and Gene Pease and Kleinschmidt voted in favor of the rezoning, which would have required six votes for approval. Council members Donna Bell, Sally Greene, Ed Harrison, Rich and Jim Ward voted against it.

The council has seen the project evolve over the last few years as developer Carol Ann Zinn has brought it back several times for review. The site of the project – east of Meadowmont at 2476 N.C. 54 – is adjacent to the Upper Little Creek waterfowl impoundment and Jordan Lake game lands, which has drawn concern from both council members and residents.

The project plan proposed a state-of-the-art stormwater retention system and an erosion-management plan to mitigate impacts on the nearby waterfowl impoundment.

Ward said he had struggled with the decision, but that ultimately he could not support the project.

“I think it’s failing, in my eyes, because of the adage that you hear time and time again … it’s location, location, location. It doesn’t matter how much you do to the project – it still has the same location,” Ward said.

Zinn told the council that if they did not approve the rezoning for the project she would develop the property into a tradition single-family home subdivision with 12 homes, allowed under current zoning. Several council members said they would prefer the proposed development to the subdivision, because it allowed them more control over the features of the project.

Czajkowski said that given the shortage of developable land in Chapel Hill, the development of the property is inevitable.

“We’re going to face more of these in Chapel Hill,” he said.

Others said they did not feel like it was an either/or choice.

“I don’t like feeling like I’m being nickeled and dimed and bargained into a spot,” Bell said.

“It would be the developer’s choice to build the single-family [subdivision] and it would be up to her,” Rich said.

Residents spoke both for and against the project on Monday.

Mark Pons, owner of Chapel Hill Tire, said he felt the project supported the triple bottom line of economic, environmental and social sustainability.

“This project is a significant investment in our community at a time when I think significant investments are needed,” he said.

Aaron Nelson, president and CEO of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, said the project would bring additional residents that would support local businesses in East 54 and Meadowmont.

“This project will continue to add needed density along the 54 corridor to support current and future transit, specifically the regional rail plan,” he said.

The Neighbors for Responsible Growth, who have opposed the project, gave a presentation citing environmental and other concerns regarding the development.

Robin Cutson said erosion from the steep slopes of the property could further impair Jordan Lake drinking water, given that the property lies in the lake’s watershed.

“It is not the council’s job to ensure that those who buy problematic property can make a profit,” she said.

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