Developer wants to build for-sale townhomes for families on Chapel Hill forest land

·4 min read

A developer wants to bring family townhomes to the last piece of a forested stretch along North Estes Drive between Somerset Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Lock7 Development LLC has submitted a concept plan for 78 three- and four-bedroom townhomes in roughly a dozen three-story buildings at 710 N. Estes Drive. Each for-sale townhome would have a two-car garage, with guest parking throughout the community.

A clubhouse with a courtyard is planned.

The developer could offer some affordably priced homes under Chapel Hill’s inclusionary zoning ordinance, which requires at least 15% of for-sale homes in a new development to be sold at a price that’s affordable to lower-income residents.

“The developer’s vision is to supply the market with ‘missing middle’ housing while providing an opportunity for ownership as opposed to rental multifamily, the likes of which is being developed throughout the region,” the application noted.

The Chapel Hill Town Council would have to rezone the site for more homes than are currently allowed. The council does not vote on concept plans, which are not official applications.

The plan is scheduled for a review Oct. 26 by the town’s Community Design Commission. The council review is scheduled for Nov. 10. The developer will use the feedback to submit a future application.

Lock7 Development LLC wants to build 78 townhomes in 12 three-story buildings at the corner of North Estes Drive and Somerset Drive in Chapel Hill. The concept plan is scheduled for a Town Council review in November.
Lock7 Development LLC wants to build 78 townhomes in 12 three-story buildings at the corner of North Estes Drive and Somerset Drive in Chapel Hill. The concept plan is scheduled for a Town Council review in November.

Housing plans, need

The 7.33-acre tract is adjacent to the recently approved Aura Chapel Hill site, at the western corner of Somerset and Estes drives. The new Azalea Estates Gracious Retirement Living community is next door to the east.

The concept plan notes that nearly half of the townhomes site could be covered with impervious surfaces, including rooftops and driveways, and it would have a road connection to the Aura project, which is undergoing its final town staff review.

The project also would complete a segment of the town’s planned multi-use path along the northern side of Estes Drive. The town is expected to start building other parts of the multi-use path, along with sidewalks, bike lanes and additional traffic lanes from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Caswell Road in a few weeks.

The developer for Aura Chapel Hill will complete a third segment of the multi-use path.

The town also has been talking with the N.C. Department of Transportation about a future traffic light at Somerset Drive, where turning left to and from Estes Drive already is difficult.

Whit Rummel, who owns the site, was a member of the Central West steering committee, which led the community process to draft a plan for how the district could be developed. The council adopted the Central West small area plan for roughly 97 acres east of the boulevard, from north of Estes Drive to Mt. Bolus Road, in 2013.

The plan created through that process calls for adding multifamily residential uses on Rummel’s land.

Nearby neighbors also called for more owner-occupied homes and fewer apartments during the recent discussion surrounding the controversial Aura project. Aura will add 419 apartments and townhomes at the Estes-MLK intersection.

The town’s housing stock is split almost evenly between owner- and renter-occupied housing, according to preliminary study results presented Friday at the Council Committee on Economic Development meeting.

The study showed that about 90% of the owner-occupied housing units are single-family homes, and there are relatively few owner-occupied condos or townhomes being built, said Rod Stevens, senior director with Revitalization Partners, who completed the study. That has left the town unable to meet some housing needs, including among first-time homebuyers, families with young children, divorcees, empty nesters and seniors, he said.

The town could receive the full report in the next few weeks.

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