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The Greene Tract is a 164 acre parcel of which 104 acres is jointly owned by Orange County/Chapel Hill/Carrboro and 60 acres owned by Orange County (Headwaters Preserve). The Greene Tract is part of the Historic Rogers Road Neighborhood area.
In 2002, the Greene Tract was designated as an area for the development of affordable housing and preservation of green space. Several planning efforts since that time have also identified a need for mixed-use development and a site for a future elementary school to accommodate Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools’ growing enrollment needs.
In May 2017, a joint staff work group was requested to examine the development potential of the existing Greene Tract and provide three alternatives illustrating high, medium and low development alternatives. Each alternative had to take into account specific elements and goals including, but not limited to, incorporating a future elementary school and park site, preserving valuable environmental features and corridors, protecting historical and cultural resources, encouraging cost-effective infrastructure, and identifying areas for future development. These alternatives, vetted through a multijurisdictional staff work group, assisted in the development of the conceptual plan that was presented to the local governing boards in January 2019.
After reviewing the entire property and identifying the most environmentally sensitive areas, the County voted to reconfigure its 60 acres to protect those critical areas, as well as recommending a conservation easement over an additional 22 acres. The County also voted to recombine other areas to increase the opportunities for affordable housing and potential mixed use development, including accessible community commercial opportunities the Rogers Road community has sought for several years. The plan recommends:
Orange County has one of the worst income disparities of any county in the state, and there is a desperate need for more affordable housing in our community. All the elected boards have made this one of their highest priorities. Many residents understand the need and overwhelmingly approved a $5 million affordable housing bond in 2016 (65.6% approval).
Costs to provide affordable housing in Orange County are high. Costs can be lessened by using county or town-owned property like the Greene Tract. In addition, in order to effectively support the residents of affordable housing, it is vital that it have access to essential housing related services like water and sewer, transit, schools, recreation, and economic opportunities. The Greene Tract scores high on all these metrics.
The 2002 agreement called for preserving 85.4 acres of the original 104-acre parcel. With the additional 60 acres (Headwaters Preserve) added to this parcel, plus the 22 acres of land dedicated for conservation and four acres for recreational use, the revised agreement will preserve a minimum of 86 acres. Open space is also anticipated to also be interspersed within the areas suggested for future development, as is the norm in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Orange County.
Preserving our county’s natural spaces is a priority for the Orange County Board of Commissioners. We have invested in conservation easements throughout the county. In conjunction with Chapel Hill and Carrboro, we created the Rural Buffer in 1988, a joint planning and zoning area that encourages very low-density residential development and promotes agricultural uses.
In order to modify the existing Headwaters Preserve area, a recombination survey will need to be completed illustrating the new parcel lines of the Headwaters Preserve area (County owned) and Joint Owned area. Once complete, the recombination survey will be presented for approval to the BOCC and the chair's signature for the Headwaters Preserve and all three local governments for the joint area.
Development and preservation options will be further evaluated and discussed in order to determine goals for the Greene Tract in regards to development type, land use, preservation, density, and affordable housing. This phase will include community outreach and is expected to be be presented to elected officials in the fall of 2019.
Staff will also be seeking general direction on how to achieve goals using zoning strategies such as "Master Planned Developments", developer agreements, etc. and the interest in releasing a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to partner with a developer(s) to achieve mixed income neighborhoods. This plan is expected to be presented to elected officials in early 2020.