An estimated 100 Durhamites squeezed into the tight confines of the clubhouse at the Chancellor's Ridge development last night to hear from representatives of the team proposing a 1,200-plus unit mixed use development on a 164-acre parcel at the intersection of Fayetteville Rd. and NC 751 in South Durham.
The development team -- which included representatives from Boylan Development Co. of Raleigh, Coulter Jewell Thames, Civitech, along with land use, transportation and legal consultants -- talked to the overflow crowd about the project, which as we discussed yesterday has attracted a significant amount of public and media attention. Mike Woodard (City Council) and Becky Heron (County Commission) stopped in as well, along with George Brine of the Planning Commission.
The team stated that of the 164 acres in the parcel, 19 fell within the "critical watershed" area identified for Jordan Lake, with the remaining parcels sitting within Durham's urban growth area. A bed-and-breakfast and soccer fields were proposed as the sole elements for the critical watershed acreage, with all other development occurring on the remaining acres. All told, about 130 acres would be developed under this plan, with almost 60 acres preserved as open space. (Of the site's greenspace, the team noted that about half would remain natural with some trails.)
The developers presented a letter of support from the chief of the Parkwood VFD, noting their desire for a new firestation (a proposed element of the project) and stating the chief's support for the project. (Some residents noted the uncertainty of the VFD's future in Durham given the consternation last year over a new fire services contract with volunteer departments in Durham.)
The team also discussed the well-known issue of overcrowding at the popular Creekside Elementary and talked of the Durham Public Schools' interest in their offer to donate a site within the development that would be sufficiently large for a 90,000 sq. ft. school facility. Heron piped up at the mention of a school site and, while noting the benefits of developers offering land, mused that the county didn't have the $30-40 million cost of a new school in hand and would certainly like to see developers offer complete school facilities, not just land.
The development team confirmed they had been speaking with Triangle of the YMCA representatives, whose interest in a South Durham site emerged as part of the Lakewood Y discussions; the developers noted that rising prices for land in South Durham was squeezing the non-profit in its search for a facility. They noted that the development team had offered a site for a South Durham Y within the development; the YMCA of the Triangle, which has not formally committed to the project, would have to build their facility on the site.
In terms of residential units, the team sketched out a proposal for about 60 single-family detached homes and 200-250 townhouse/rowhouse units, with the remainder of the residential units coming in the form of condo and apartment development, through both standalone structures and through above-retail development. The proposal will call for between 500,000 and 600,000 sq. ft. of commercial and retail space, with a focus on "neighborhood-scale retail" like coffeeshops. The team noted that Randall Arendt, a well-known advocate for both conservation subdivisions and mixed-use projects, had been engaged by the developers to review and guide the planning of the site.
The developers argued that the density of the project in this case could help with runoff, since structured parking (parking decks) with wrapper residential/retail/commercial structures would predominate many areas of the site, and that the developer would have the ability to maximize capture and re-use of stormwater on-site (which is purportedly easier to manage with the large, flat roofs of a structured parking/wrapper building.) The team noted a goal of meeting or exceeding North Carolina's Cape Fear Basin stormwater requirements, with a hope of recapturing water for chiller and other non-potable uses for the institutional buildings like schools and the Y on site.
The team's traffic consultant projected a traffic impact of approximately 10,000 average daily trips, which would roughly double existing traffic on NC 751; the proposal would include a partial widening of NC 751 to four lanes, including the addition of traffic signals at several intersections.
Zoning and the density of the site came up as a frequently-mentioned concern of the homeowners present, notably around the issue of increasing the density from the current level (2 acres per dwelling unit) to a level that could be fifteen times higher to support the number of residential units under discussion.
During the early part of the meeting, some homeowners raised concern about the mix of rental/owner-occupied properties for the site; one speaker expressed her fear that South Durham has too many apartments already, and that further rental growth could contribute to higher crime or impact the family-oriented nature she ascribed to the community. Others asked about the former plan for single-family homes on site, as proposed under the old Colyard Farms project for the parcels.
The development team noted that this project would be proposed as a County project and would thus be reviewed by the County Commission, though it would appear the developers might need to reach an agreement with the City at some point for the extension of water and sewer to the site. As the project would be at odds with Durham's Comprehensive Plan, this project would appear to need both a plan amendment as well as a site rezoning to move forward. The team noted that the proposal was likely at least eight months away from reaching a hearing; the developers currently have the property under contract to purchase.
A persistent concern of some residents was the juxtaposition of some of the commercial/retail development across from the townhouse section of Chancellor's Ridge, giving those units a significantly different vista than they enjoy today. Issues of traffic cut-through and vehicular use of the site were also raised by some neighbors in the adjacent property.
We'll keep an eye out for updates on this project as they become available.