Aydan Court: a New Threat to Jordan Lake

Little Creek is joined by Bolin Creek before flowing into Jordan Lake.  A key 5.8 acre parcel containing a significant forest, steep slopes and many creeks next to the Little Creek Bottom Lands is threatened.  A local developer has requested a change in Chapel Hill’s zoning ordinance from low density to conditional use which could allow 90 condos to be built there.  This proposed project, Aydan Court, borders a waterfowl impoundment built by the Corps of Engineers to create wildlife habitat for bottom lands lost when Jordan Lake was made.  The land is designated a Natural Heritage Area for its wildlife resources.

On February 21. 2011, the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, and Neighbors for Responsible Growth, along with other citizens, spoke against the rezoning to the Chapel Hill Town Council.

Neighbors for Responsible Growth (NRG) asked the Town Council to reject the Aydan Court rezoning proposal. Following are the key points:

Historical context

  • This R-1 designation was not intended as a holding zone, but rather zoned because of its location near the Little Creek Bottom lands and Jordan Lake.  Former Mayor Jimmy Wallace tried to buy the Snipes Farm for the Town years ago recognizing the intrinsic merit and importance of this property as open space.
  • This parcel is part of the East Entranceway Plan which was developed before Roger Perry brought the Meadowmont proposal to the Council.  The East Entranceway Task Force met for months and determined that Meadowmont would be a good place to put urban densities, while this parcel, as well as adjacent land near the water fowl impoundment, the Little Creek bottom lands, and Jordan Lake were judged appropriate for low densities.
  • The Council adopted the steep slopes ordinance because the Council and staff determined that development on steep slopes was harming water quality and causing severe erosion problems.

Environmental problems.

  • Urban densities don’t belong next to an area which the Natural Heritage Program says is a valued area for wildlife to migrate when the impoundment floods.
  • The amount of impervious surface is inversely proportional to water quality.  Low densities belong near a drinking water supply.

Precedent

  • The special use permit application under the new zone does not meet Town standards.  There are times when the Town must make an exemption to allow reasonable use of a property such as serving the site by gravity flow sewer exiting the site. However, the 7600 square feet of additional disturbance to the 25% slope standard is not a necessity.
  • It would set a dangerous precedent to approve a project that violates Town ordinances. Exemptions should be reserved for exceptional circumstances, not for 90 luxury condos on Natural Heritage land.
  • There is no legitimate public purpose for allowing a zoning change or exemptions from Town rules in order to disturb 70% of this fragile property.
  • If the Council changes the zone on this fragile property, then the Council sends a message a zoning change can occur at any time.

News articles
Aydan Court Still Draws Concerns, Carrboro Citizen, February 24, 2011
Town Council Gives Aydan Court Mixed Reviews, News and Observer, 6/6/10

Developer Sets NC 54 Project Back, Chapel Hill News, Aug 25, 1010

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