Third Draft of Chapel Hill’s Comprehensive Plan Released: The Town of Chapel Hill posted an updated draft of the Chapel Hill 2020 comprehensive plan for review and comment. The Town asks that citizens keep in mind that this draft is in progress and they are expecting another updated draft to be issued in mid-May. The draft plan includes synthesized input from the theme groups and feedback from the community and Town departments. Read the plan here and give your comments here.
Light Rail Proposed for Orange County: As reported by WRAL, “The future of mass transit began taking shape in the Triangle as planners unveiled specifics about a proposed 30-mile light rail that would connect Wake, Durham and Orange counties in the next 10 to 15 years. The Durham and Orange county sections would be completed first, organizers said, and would begin at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, end at North Carolina Central University and have 15 stops in between…The estimated cost for the light rail proposal through Durham and Orange counties is about $1.4 billion. Durham already passed a half-cent sales tax increase. Orange and Wake counties have yet to hold their referendum to pay for the local portion.” Read about the plan here and submit your comments here.
Missed the Chatham County Development Briefing? Check Out What’s Going on with Our Southern Neighbor: The Chatham County Chamber of Commerce and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce hosted their Chatham County Development Briefing which was sponsored by the Greater Chapel Hill Association of REALTORS. Mark Zimmerman of RE/MAX Winning Edge presented an update on residential real estate on behalf of GCHAR. View the entire presentation from the briefing here.
Pulse on Politics
Member Mark Zimmerman writes about “A taxing decision:” GCHAR member Mark Zimmerman writes, “Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County have not raised property taxes for three years. A skeptic would suspect that taxes must have been too high four years ago. An optimist would praise a period of government restraint. Everyone should be worried about how long it will last. Across the country, many counties, cities and towns have had to cut programs and personnel to avoid resorting to tax increases on families still mired in recession-like conditions. For the most part, our elected officials have been able to minimize programming cuts and avoid any layoffs…Without raising more money – meaning taxes – there is a day of reckoning coming.” Read the rest of Mark Zimmerman’s column in the Chapel Hill News.
Kirk Ross: Time to retune our affordable-housing strategy: Carrboro Citizen contributing editor Kirk Ross writes, “You measure the success of any public policy not on what happens on paper, but on what actually happens. Decades ago the various boards of local government struggled to adopt affordable-housing policies that made sense for this area. The challenge then was pretty much the same as now: In an expensive and appreciating market, how do you maintain a diverse stock of housing? Maintaining a housing supply that allows the people who work here to live here and be a part of the life of the towns has been a long-established value in this community.” Read the rest of his column at the Carrboro Citizen.
¼ Cent Sales Tax Levied in Orange and Durham Counties Beginning April 1: The ¼ cent sales tax endorsed by GCHAR and passed by the voters of Orange County last year went into effect on April 1, 2012. A ¼ cent sales tax was also passed by Durham County voters and is now being levied beginning April 1. Details and scope of the implementation are provided by the North Carolina Department of Revenue here and here. The effective sales tax rate is 7 percent. If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to call 919.357.9988or email me.
BOCC eyes property tax increase for 2013: According to Chapelboro.com, “With the county facing nearly $14 million in unexpected expenses, commissioners say they can’t rule out a tax increase for next year. It’s been three years since county commissioners raised the property tax rate, but Board Chair Bernadette Pelissier said Tuesday it may be time to reconsider that approach. At a budget work session, Financial Services Director Clarence Grier presented the board with four major issues that will drive spending in fiscal year 2012-2013. Increases in health care and retirement benefit costs, coupled with growth in the school systems and the need to revamp the Emergency Services communication system could tack as much as $13.8 million onto the county’s total general fund budget of approximately $178 million.”
Tax assessor: Revaluation will force higher tax rates: According to Chapel Hill News, “Lower property values would force tax-rate increases across the county if the Orange County commissioners proceed with a property tax revaluation next year. The commissioners are expected to decide May 15 whether to go forward with the scheduled revaluation, Tax Assessor Jenks Crayton told the Board of Aldermen. At this point, the commissioners are seeking input from other local leaders, Crayton said. If approved, the reassessed values would become effective Jan. 1, 2013.”
Chapel Hill to make cuts using priority budgeting: According to Chapel Hill News, “After experiencing its first deficit since 2006 last year, Chapel Hill is trying a new method to allocate its $51 million 2012-2013 budget — and officials say the system will give residents more say than ever before. This is the first year the town will use priority budgeting, which adjusts department budgets individually rather than making uniform, across-the-board cuts. As Chapel Hill Town Council decides what services it deems most important, residents have contributed through surveys and public hearings.”
Judge Suspends Cell Phone Ban And Towing Rules Indefinitely The temporary injunction on Chapel Hill’s new towing regulations and cell phone ban has been extended indefinitely. Durham County Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson decided that George King, of George’s Towing and Recovery, has enough of a case to require a full hearing about the new laws.George’s Towing filed the complaint against the Town of Chapel Hill on May 2. Tom Stark, King’s attorney, argues it is impossible for his client to comply with both ordinances at the same time. The towing ordinance requires tow truck drivers to answer the phone any time someone calls, and the cell phone ban prohibits anyone from answering their phone while driving. How then, Stark argues, can King answer a call that comes in while he’s driving? Read more at Chapelboro.com.
Apartments boom in Orange: The 85-unit Shortbread Lofts is planned for West Rosemary Street, not far from the Greenbridge condominiums. Given the current strength of the Triangle apartment market – and the Chapel Hill market in particular – one could make the case that the 85-unit project could be royal blue and still succeed. With its tight supply and high barriers to entry, southern Orange County has long been among the best performing markets in the Triangle. Now, at a time when the apartment market is benefiting from the woes in the housing market, that is even more the case. Read more in the News & Observer.
Town Council pans planned hotel, student housing project: According to Chapel Hill News, “Town Council members sharply criticized a proposed hotel and student housing across Martin Luther King. Jr. Boulevard from UNC’s future satellite campus. One Council member said developers should delay the plan until the town finishes its 2020 Comprehensive Plan process, in which residents and the town are figuring out what should be built in this part of town. Carolina Flats would put a four-story, 125- to 145-room hotel and about 190 apartments designed for upperclassmen and graduate students at 850 N. Estes Drive on the northeast corner of Estes Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The studio, and one- to four-bedroom apartments would house about 588 residents in three or four-story buildings with 532 parking spaces, according to the concept plan submitted by Orlando, Fla.-based Progressive Capital Group and consultant Scott Radway.”
Charterwood developer amends application for Chapel Hill project; Change could dodge critics: Charterwood may be on its way back. The developer of the planned residential and retail project along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard near Weaver Dairy Road has reconfigured the property boundaries on the site in an amended application. The project failed last month after neighbors filed a protest petition. The council voted 6-3 in favor, but requires seven yes votes for approval. Council members Laurin Easthom, Lee Storrow and Mayor Pro Tem Ed Harrison dissented. The town currently is reviewing the new application. If it’s approved, developer Bill Christian could resubmit a Special Use Permit application, which would bring the project back to the Town Council. Read more in the Chapel Hill News.
Aldermen approve Claremont South: In a move that will add a commercial component to a previously residential-only approved development, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to approve Claremont South, a development that will replace the previously approved Claremont Phases IV and V, proposed for 38 acres on the south side of Homestead Road, north of Wexford. Read more in the Carrboro Citizen.
Judge strikes down new method limiting annexations: The Associated Press reported, “A North Carolina judge on Tuesday struck down the state’s new method for giving citizens of unincorporated areas the opportunity to block forced annexations by towns and cities. The ruling potentially strips away a key element of laws that property rights activists sought for years.Judge Shannon Joseph issued a written order throwing out the petition process authorized last year by the General Assembly. The measure halted a municipality’s effort to expand its borders if enough property owners in the targeted area said no. The case is likely to be settled in the appellate courts. The Republican-led Legislature passed laws last June that overhauled the state’s involuntary annexation rules, which have guided municipal growth in the state for more than 50 years. While many property owners in unincorporated areas have long chafed at being absorbed by cities and having to pay higher taxes, city leaders have said the previous laws had served the state well by helping cities such as Charlotte grow at a manageable rate.” Read the rest of the Associated Press article here.
Carrboro breaks ground for the construction of its first hotel: A crowd gathered at 300 East Main Street for the groundbreaking on a mixed-used development that will include Carrboro’s first hotel. He, along with about 150 local residents and elected officials of Carrboro and Orange County, participated in the groundbreaking ceremony. The morning included a few words from Carrboro mayor Mark Chilton, along with Main Street Properties partner Laura Van Sant. The Atma Hotel Group, along with Main Street Properties, are heading up the project. Upon completion, the five floor building will be located at 300 East Main Street. It will include a 142-room Hampton Inn and Suites and the ground floor will encompass 18,100 square feet of retail and restaurant space. The project also includes a 500-space parking deck. Read more at Chapelboro.com.
Walmart submits plans for northern Chatham; heightens sense of urgency for Obey Creek: Following months of rumors about Walmart locating in northern Chatham County, the company submitted a site plan last week for a location in Chatham just south of the Orange County line along U.S. 15-501. According to a statement issued by Chatham County officials, Walmart plans to develop 20 acres of a 63-acre site along 15-501. The portion of the site proposed for development is already zoned for business use, which means the project won’t require a rezoning or approval by the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, according to County Manager Charlie Horne. The move could bring development to a site that has been the subject of debate for a number of years.Read more in the Carrboro Citizen and the Chapel Hill News.
Local Real Estate News
Triangle new home sales up nearly 12%: Growth in new home sales in the Triangle region continues to outpace growth in new home construction starts, which has resulted in an inventory level that’s at a 13-year low, according to the latest report from Metrostudy’s Raleigh office. In the first three months of 2012, construction was started on 1,458 new homes, which was up 10.7 percent from the year prior. But new home sales were also up 11.7 percent compared to the year prior with 1,395 new homes sold, says Jay Colvin, director for Metrostudy’s Triangle region. For more details about Metrostudy’s first quarter 2012 report, click here.
Inventory of new homes in the Triangle at 13-year low: According to the News & Observer, “As the Triangle’s housing market has shown signs of improvement in recent months, it has once again raised a question that is crucial to this region’s economic recovery. When is demand for housing going to increase enough to translate into a substantial boost in new home construction? The Triangle had 4,051 new homes either under construction or completed but vacant in the first quarter of this year, according to Metrostudy, a research firm that tracks Triangle housing trends. That was the second-lowest level of inventory Metrostudy has recorded in its 13 years of surveying the region. The lowest was recorded the prior quarter.”
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