Last Monday, the Chapel Hill Town Council approved the Ephesus-Fordham renewal plan. Depending on what news sources and opinion columnists you read, you might have some understanding of what this plan actually is and does, or you might not. Since there has been so much spin around the plan, here's our guide to what the Ephesus-Fordham plan includes - and what the Council passed last Monday.
What did the Town Council pass last Monday?
The Town Council did two things related to Ephesus-Fordham on Monday. The first thing they did, by an 8-1 vote, was amend the Land Use Management Ordinance (LUMO) to include form-based code, which is the basis for the new Ephesus-Fordham zoning. The second thing they did, by a 6-3 vote, was to take those new form-based code sections of the LUMO and apply them to the Ephesus-Fordham area.
They voted to apply the new sections of form-based code to all areas in the following map EXCEPT areas 1-4.
Why didn't the Council apply the form-based code to areas 1-4?
Councilmember Sally Greene said during the meeting that, after discussions with some community members, she wanted to apply more affordable housing strategies to the project. Specifically, she wanted to change the zoning on areas 1-4 from WX-5, which would allow redevelopment of up to 5 stories, to WX-2 (redevelopment of up to 2 stories), with the provision that developers could go up to 5 stories if they made 10% of all units affordable units in their redevelopment. Council ultimately decided to postpone this discussion on areas 1-4, which is why those areas were not voted on at Monday's meeting.
UPDATE: Councilmember Sally Greene contacted me asking for some clarification to this section about her motion, which I'm happy to provide. As a clarification, affordable housing cannot be mandated in form-based code, and Greene's proposal for the density bonus would be completely voluntary for developers. Greene wanted to hold these areas out until town staff could refine the idea and return with an opinion as to whether this is a sufficient voluntary density bonus that would actually attract developers. Council agreed to postpone this discussion on areas 1-4, which is why those areas were not voted on at Monday's meeting.
What does this redevelopment mean for affordable housing?
The redevelopment proposal includes 144 affordable units that will be managed by DHIC, Inc. Some Council members expressed the view that the DHIC project did not have to be included as a part of the broader Ephesus-Fordham redevelopment plan, but DHIC’s Greg Warren spoke in support of the entire project as a way to make these affordable units better, more integrated, and provide better access to residents to improved transit and retail.
Furthermore, the Ephesus-Fordham rezoning enables mixed-use redevelopment across the district, which will enable developers to build more residential units, which is vital to improving affordable housing in Chapel Hill. One of the key reasons Chapel Hill’s housing has become so unaffordable is because of a lack of new housing units coming on the market. By rezoning the entire district as mixed-use, the Council has set the stage for new units to be added to the market, which will help lower rents across town as competition on the supply side increases as supply catches up with pent-up housing demand.
What does this redevelopment mean for tax revenue?
As you can see from the chart below, presented by Town staff at the April 23 meeting on Ephesus-Fordham, using the most conservative estimates, the redevelopment will pay for itself. Using a more realistic analysis, the redevelopment will provide much-needed tax revenue that will stay right here in Chapel Hill and Orange County.
What does this redevelopment mean for traffic?
The Ephesus-Fordham renewal plan as enacted will enable several critical traffic and transportation improvements in an area of town currently plagued by traffic issues and confusing intersections. Specifically, the plan includes an extension of Elliott Road to Ephesus Church Road across Fordham Boulevard, and of Legion Road to Fordham Boulevard and a realignment of Ephesus Church Road to Elliott Road Extension.
The plan will also provide for much better pedestrian and bicycle connections as required under the Town’s Complete Streets policy.
What does this redevelopment mean for stormwater and flooding?
As a part of the redevelopment plan, major stormwater improvements will be required to reduce the flooding that currently occurs in much of the district during major rains. The Council will consider creating a stormwater municipal service district to help finance some of these improvements, as well as mandate higher standards than usual for this area of town under the Town’s Stormwater Master Plan, which is currently pending before the Council.
These improvements are critical to resolving the flooding issue because the area was developed under outdated regulations that did not require adequate safeguards to avoid flooding and protect water quality, making this another big win in the Ephesus-Fordham renewal plan.