By Susan Dickson
CHAPEL HILL â€“ Members of the Chapel Hill Town Council expressed strong concerns about a student housing development proposed for Homestead Road on Monday, citing issues similar to those raised with another development proposed for the same site two years ago.
The council heard a concept plan for The Retreat at Homestead, a development with 180 two-story units on 39.5 acres proposed for 2301 Homestead Road, to the west of the countyâ€™s Southern Human Services Center. As planned, the project, proposed by Athens, Ga.-based Landmark Properties, would include 799 bedrooms and 809 parking spaces, as well as a number of amenities, including a clubhouse, fitness room and pool.
Council members noted similarities between The Retreat and The Cottages of Chapel Hill, a student-housing complex proposed for the same site in 2010.
However, The Retreat would sit on a slightly larger site than The Cottages, which were proposed for a 33-acre site. Town staff said the increase in site size could affect whether the project would require a rezoning.
Developers for The Cottages never submitted a development application with the town after receiving negative feedback from the council regarding the projectâ€™s concept plan.
John Williams, a representative for Landmark, said the development could help ease the student-housing burden in Chapel Hill.
â€œWe know that our communities draw students out of existing single-family neighborhoods like the Northside neighborhood here in Chapel Hill,â€ he said.
However, both neighbors of the site and council members expressed concerns about the projectâ€™s distance from campus and the traffic it could bring to Homestead Road.
Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said he didnâ€™t think developments like The Retreat would draw students out of neighborhoods like Northside, because they want to live close to campus, noting his recent conversations with the newly elected UNC student body president.
â€œStudents who choose to live in Northside in single-family homes, if we want them out, we need to create dense student-housing development in the downtown,â€ he said.
Council member Donna Bell said she felt that the project didnâ€™t meet the basic principles the council had said it wanted to prioritize, since while it would include dense development, it also would include parking for a car per resident.
â€œI understand the argument that thereâ€™s a need for the car per head because the development is so far out. I reject that,â€ she said. â€œThe number of people there is not as problematic to me as the number of cars.â€
Tom Swanekamp, president of the Homestead Village homeownersâ€™ association, said he and his neighbors were â€œfocused on encouraging appropriate and responsible development along Homestead Road,â€ but that The Retreat is â€œsimply the repeat of a bad idea.â€
Others said the siteâ€™s distance from public transit and services would force residents to use their cars to go anywhere.
â€œThe Retreat is an environmental disaster for our community and our town,â€ said Homestead Village resident Jaleh Hagigh.
The developer has not yet submitted an application with the town.