Lot 5 Part 2

As you will recall earlier on my website here, I had various personal stipulations to approving a development agreement between RAM Development Co. and the Town for developing Lot 5.  These personal requirements are listed below, and in bold, I have offered my current response based on what was presented to the Council and the public a week ago—the draft development agreement. 

1.  affordable housing units at 21– no more negotiations on this number. No other negotiations regarding open space, etc.  No more surprises!  Affordable housing is at 21 units. 

2.  affordable parking ON SITE, not 2 blocks away at the Wallace Deck.  Maybe across the street, but that’s as far as I go. We don’t have to have a parking space for every unit, but include any affordable housing on site.  The Development Agreement presents a map with suggested areas for “affordable” parking which are all “within a block” of this project.  While I support the efforts at locating parking nearby, I still cannot get over the idea that our lower income residents will be trudging through the rain to and from their cars while their immediate neighbors scoot right on down to the covered parking.  Clearly in Chapel Hill we support affordable housing mixed in with regularly priced homes, as exists in communities like Larkspur.  This way neighbors feel like neighbors without a financial division.   Not including parking onsite, at least for half of the units, is not equitable to me.  If RAM were to propose no affordable units at all and had those 21 units as regularly priced, wouldn’t they have included spaces for those 21 units?  Would they have reconfigured their plan totally such that the numbers of units actually matched the numbers of parking places or better?  I contend they would have.  I think that the Town and RAM need to come to some agreement on what parking exists there and provide parking for at least half of these affordable units, in the same building.  I appreciate the effort to locate parking close by.  I just have a problem with the very obvious social and physical division.

3.  Permanent reduction of condominium association fees for affordable units.  It’s simple.  Are we getting affordable units or not?  High condo association fees make some units completely unaffordable.  This is an issue now for the council with upcoming projects.  This was a great compromise and I appreciate the agreement laid out in the development agreement, and look forward to the study that RAM has agreed to pay for to determine how best to keep these units affordable. 

4.  Details! Details! Details! on the performance bond–how much and it should cover the project “as designed.”  Performance bond numbers are not there but I understand the project is covered “as designed”.

5.  Start and end date for the project.  We will be tying up our revenue stream from parking on lot 5 for years and should not have to suffer more losses if the project goes on and on….the developer should be fined for going over the agreed to date of completion equivalent to the revenue loss for the year.  The developer should lose all property rights if they do not complete the project within a reasonable agreed to time frame, as well.  There is a stated start date and end date and financial ramifications of not being completed on time. 

6.  Where are the details of the increased town services that will have to be provided for this project?  I did not see that in any of the financial analyses.  I want to see that projected to get a real picture of our financial situation.  I do not have these details, but I did not request that they come in the development agreement itself.  I will ask again with a projection for costs of increased town services.

7.  Make sure that the project is in fact LEED certified at best and go farther with using renewable energy.  This was a point that Jim Ward argued, and I will support this in seeing that this building, as others that come before the town, are held to the highest accountable standard for energy efficiency.  RAM needs to agree to this, and not only if it is economically feasible in the project’s budget as they have indicated.   Buildings such as these account for the majority of CO2 emmissions in our nation and the world.  We are going to be facing many such development/redevelopment projects coming soon in Chapel Hill, and it is our responsibility to ensure that buildings that outlive us remain a part of a sustainable community with the most energy efficient designs possible in our time.  To require less is not responsible.   I would like to request that RAM remove the language “if feasible within the project’s budget” or else I won’t approve it.  We need to set an example.  We need to adhere to our CRED goals, and all eyes are on us now in project approvals as UNC prepares for Carolina North.   As Jim Ward stated, if we cannot require these standards of ourselves, then how can we require UNC to do the same?  I agree. 

8.  Make sure that this development agreement is made available to the public at least 2 weeks in advance of a council meeting in which it is to be approved/not approved.  The public needs more notice of this!  (short notice with 500K to 7.25 million).   I didn’t know much more in advance than the public did.  Thanks to getting this to the public in a timely manner.

If these minimums are not met in some form or fashion with the development agreement, I feel that this project is not in the Town’s best interests, and I won’t support it.  Consider this list to be not inclusive!  I will wait to see what agreement comes before us.

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14 responses to “Lot 5 Part 2

  1. Still a terrible deal.

  2. You may be right. Will, do you like the Franklin Hotel? Just curious.

  3. At the risk of upsetting some folks I really like (sorry Josh), the Franklin Hotel is a disappointment in terms of physical presence on Franklin St. Do you remember Jason, you and I doing Festifall campaigning out in-front of it? I thought at that time its “looming” quality would be tempered by the end treatment. Now, as I experience its “mass” on a daily basis – as I see its towering/dominating presence on West End – well, I’m a bit disappointed.

    I guess we can moderate that issue by creating a concrete canyon downtown – then the Franklin will shrink relative to those proportions 😉

    There’s a funny parallel to our own Lot 5 development. Like the town-sponsored $1M penthouse housing for the elite we’re planning to build , the Franklin is not for your average Joe. I’ve had many folks tell me that they called to see about rooms for relatives, etc. but were shocked by the $$$.

    Downtown is going to become the province of the rich – which might be OK – but it would certainly be nice if the Town had used a more inclusive approach for making that choice (like a NCD process for all stakeholders in Downtown).

  4. There must be something here that I am missing. I have a few questions that I hope you can answer.

    The town presently has 170 parking spaces at Lot 5. We are going to borrow and pay the developer over $7 million so that we will have about 160 spaces when he is finished. For that, we will receive $1 a year in rent. The revenue generated presently from the parking nets positive cash flow. It doesn’t seem possible that the spaces will ever generate enough to pay back the loan, so that positive cash flow just turned into a negative. Where will the money come from to service the debt? Plus we’ve effectively given away our land, our legacy, and deprived future generations of the opportunity to make a more beneficial use for the public.

    Will the taxable value of the land be exempt, because the town retains ownership? I hope not, many municipalities collect property tax on public land if it is leased for private purposes.

    Has anyone analyzed the 50 year buyout purchase price on the air rights? What value will that leave the land? Is a referendum required to sell public land?

    Sorry to be so late in grasping details on this; there are so many developments simultaneously before the council that I don’t know how you or staff can possibly track all of them. Each project has a full time team working its angle. Poor little Chapel Hill and its residents are being out-gunned and I’m afraid we aren’t negotiating the best deals that we could.

    Has there been an analysis of the cumulative effect of these projects on our schools and public services?
    Lot 5…137 units; Chapel Watch Village… 120 units; University Village (East 54)… 200+ units; Greenbridge… 90 units; Residences at Chapel Hill… 123 units.

  5. Hi Elliot,
    Unfortunately our meeting is tonight and your questions that you have posed have been answered for the most part in the staff’s financial analyses in meetings prior to tonight’s in preparation for the draft development agreement, which is available by accessing our related agendas on our town website. The staff has indeed been busy but has been working on this particular project for two years or more. As far as the “cumulative effect”, that is always on my mind in particular as I review these projects but we have SAPFO for school capacity (altho some do not feel this goes far enough) and “public services” is a general concern that has to be tackled for each individual project and analyzed for the amount of property tax that would be generated to pay for such services. I know that many in town, including myself, feel overwhelmed with the amount of developments coming forward, as you list. The northern part of Chapel Hill seems really to be under siege with applications, and our council work session coming this month will begin to tackle the problems associated with rapid growth in this area. The Council will undertake its due diligence with each new development in ensuring we protect the health, safety and welfare of our citizens.

  6. I have heard just about every negative thing this building is responsible for except the Israeli-Palestinian conflict-global warming, social inequity, poor schools, etc. The critics have not offered any better alternatives to encourage habitation in downtown Chapel Hill or to revitalize a rapidly dying downtown. I agree that more affordable housing needs to be available in downtown but this will never happen if residential development can’t even get off the ground. This seems to have become sport in this town and what we are left with are empty surface parking lots and abandoned eyesores (see Elliott Rd). I don’t think you get a doghouse built in this town unless its in an overpriced, glorified subdivision or rest home community.

  7. Affordable housing at any cost is not a good deal.

    The RAM proposal is quite flawed – the value received for the value given so watered down – that it should be scrapped.

    The critics have offered alternatives.

    Sure, building a bunch of million and half-million dollar condos to get 21 “affordable” housing units is a bit much, but that would acceptable if we really knew that families would accept part-time parking, %1.5 condo fees, 800 usable sq/ft. etc.

    But for the public investment – with $$, land, service, etc. costs – is going to somewhere North of $18M – we should be getting much, much more….

    So, we need to do affordable housing in or near Downtown – I think we agree on that… What the critics, like myself, are saying is this is not the deal to get it… it’s broke

  8. Hi Elliot-
    I have formed a NW Area Group that is doing exactly that-tracking all of the development. We are concentrating on the NW part of Chapel Hill, but since I have aligned at least 20 neighborhoods, we are a pretty powerful force (I hope!). I petitioned the Council to do a small area plan and as a result of that petition, the Council is holding a work session to assess what is happening in the area on 3/7. Approval of the Residences SUP was delayed last night until after the work session. There are 4 large impact proposals being considered shortly: University Station (374 apts/820 parking spaces) between I-40 and WDR, Walgreen’s mixed use on MLK and WDR-drugstore plus office/other retail-139 parking spaces,the Altemueller tract (right across the street on MLK) 48 units, 2 drive thru banks, office and retail -not 100% sure about the supplied 820 parking space number, and Chapel Watch Village-123 units 331 parking spots on Eubanks Rd….and there are others in the pipeline!
    NW Chapel Hill is feeling squeezed, to say the least!

  9. I’m going to add something here that hasn’t been mentioned above, but something I brought up in our meeting last night. I think the Town needs to put a cap on the amount of money we’d be required to pay for cleaning up any hazardous materials from the Lot 5 site: an “escape clause” if you will, that would not end up placing us in “default”. Right now the Development Agreement says we are totally responsible financially for this hazardous cleanup beyond excavation. Imagine an excessively expensive clean up, in a tight budget year (or any year for that matter). Obviously this is worst case scenario, but I think that we should protect ourselves from this financial risk. Who knows what’s under there.

  10. Del, I’d like to pitch in on the NW Group. Where do I sign up?

    While I’m located more centrally, I’m concerned about the whole MLK corridor from I-40 to Hillsborough St.

  11. Will-
    Consider yourself signed-I originally included Hillsborough St as the southern point of my group because of the RAM development there plus the Townhouse Apts., but to keep it focused on NW, it evolved to Homestead as the Southern point. How does this work-caan you put down your e-mail address here?

    On another point, I’ve been thinking about the energy efficiency issue on LOT 5. Everyday there are articles in the papers about companies changing their protocols to utilize green principles in their operations. It seesms to be crossing all lines from building, manufacturing, etc. Why can’t we bing public pressure to bear on RAM to do better not because they have to per the Council, but because they SHOULD as a moral (?) citizen of the world. They are bucking trends all over the world. How does that look? Image is a powerful motivator-not as much as money and power, but up there…

  12. campaign AT willraymond.org

    RAM is cashing in on Chapel Hill’s good environmental reputation so you would think, if for no other reason than bolstering their business, that they would be interested in promoting green practices – using their NC projects as calling cards for future business.

    They certainly did that with their transit friendly FLA project.

    Sadly, instead, our reputation has been tarnished by their involvement. Look at their proposals for MLK – where’s the transit component? Where’s the “neighborhood” facing integration?

    And look at RAM’s VP Dec. response to Jim’s concern. Was that a true reflection of their character?

    As far as trends, the rest of the world is going green. Notable examples come from Europe and the Far East. As you know, I called on UNC to make Carolina North’s research focus “green technologies”. To use their build out of CN as a giant laboratory to evaluate green building techniques, green energy technology, green transit policies.

    Unfortunately, our current Council really undercut our own moral authority to ask RAM, UNC , Perry’s East/West or any other developer to adhere to a higher standard. We know what kind of respect you get curry when you practice “do as I say, not as I do”. Not much.

    Glad to see folks are gathering strength to assert their vision of a greener Chapel Hill.

  13. Wow, I checked back and there were more comments.

    Thanks WILL and DEL for your additional thoughts, and LAURIN for continuing to thinl about cleanup consequences (and hosting this dialogue). I filled in the website line, so hopefully that will allow Del to contact me directly the way that one can get to Will, by clicking the link.

    Formalities aside, I agree with Laurin on limiting cleanup costs. I believe that there are various levels of cleanup depending upon final usage. Residential requires the highest level, but just paying over the whole thing as a parking lot (containment) prevents leaching and is frequently used by the federal government itself when turning over former DOD land through Base Realignment and Closure.

    The other approach that we do not put enough stock into is Green-banking. We own land which we will not be able to afford or assemble in the future. We may regret not having demanded a higher percentage of affordability. Also, energy efficiency will also make significant strides in the next decade. If we develop that property now with major concessions, we will not get another chance to get it right.

    My understanding of this project is that it has greatly reduced the impact of its “redevelopment” by jetisoning the Wallace Deck, while increasing the financial participation required of the town to the point where it is not economically beneficial.

  14. When I wrote:

    My understanding of this project is that it has greatly reduced the impact of its “redevelopment” by jetisoning the Wallace Deck, …

    What I meant to say was that the project has reduced the POSITIVE IMPACT of its redevelopment..

    These days, when you talk of reducing impact it is normally considered as a good thing. I meant to say that RAM abandoning its redevelopment of the Wallace Deck was A BAD THING@

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