Orange County thinks 78 acres of future park land in northern Chapel Hill could help some residents losing their homes to redevelopment and others who need affordable housing.
Orange County Commissioners Chairman Mark Dorosin credited Commissioner Barry Jacobs on Tuesday night with the idea of using some of the Millhouse Road regional park land to address aging and threatened mobile homes countywide and create more affordable housing.
“We know that there is a lot of pressure on manufactured housing parks in Chapel Hill and Carrboro to be redeveloped,” Dorosin said.
The timing couldn’t be better, said Delores Bailey, executive director of Empowerment Inc., a nonprofit housing agency. The Chapel Hill Town Council will review a concept plan for Hanover – a 300-plus apartment and townhome rental community – on Wednesday night.
Hanover, which also features some commercial space, would replace 33 mobile homes across from Timblerlyne shopping center at the Lakeview Mobile Home Park on Weaver Dairy Road, as well as two duplexes. The developer is considering a small stipend to help the roughly 120 mobile-home-park residents move.
“A project like what you’re considering right now is major, and could absolutely be the answer to this first mobile home project,” Bailey said. “You know when one goes, the rest are going to fall like dominoes, and possibly with the Hanover project, if that’s what happens, there will be money that we can put toward the next mobile home parks that will go down.”
The town “is very passionate” about resolving the issue at Lakeview and other mobile home parks, Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said.
“This pressure is real,” Hemminger told the commissioners. “We have three of our mobile home parks that are under options right now – that’s a total of 90 families that are involved in these, and so it is very urgent and we are reaching out to these residents to learn more about their challenges and situations.”
Although most of the families own their mobile homes, some are over 40 years old, she said, making it difficult to move them and reducing their value, in some cases to less than $1,000. Utility bills also can be higher for mobile home owners.
“A mobile home tends to be a depreciating asset, and a lot of people end up in a worse position after a period of time involved in a mobile-home situation than they would have if they had rented,” Hemminger said.
She advocated for a mix of tiny and manufactured homes, and for town and county staff to explore multiple locations and talk with nonprofit and private developers about their options.
The county’s next step, County Manager Bonnie Hammersley said, is also to study how much of the Millhouse Road land could be used for housing and the options for installing a community septic system. There are new technologies that can be used in sensitive lands, said Jeff Thompson, the county’s director of asset management services.
The Millhouse Road site is just inside the county’s rural buffer, a 37,248-acre area created around Chapel Hill and Carrboro in 1987 that preserves rural lands by limiting commercial development and not allowing water and sewer utilities. The land also is in Orange County’s joint planning area with Chapel Hill, giving the town a voice in changes but not a vote.
Hammersley noted the county could reimburse its Lands Legacy Fund for the park land re-allocated to housing once the study is finished. There is money available that the county previously set aside for affordable housing, she said.
The issue also will be on the agenda when the county meets with Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough town leaders at the Assembly of Governments meeting on Jan. 30. That meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Whitted Building, 300 W. Tryon St. in Hillsborough.
Commissioner Earl McKee suggested waiting to talk with town leaders about the possibility of extending water and sewer to the Millhouse Road site, as a way to create the most housing possible on the land. That option garnered little interest from other commissioners.
The Town Council meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday (Jan. 24) in the Town Hall council chamber, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
The meeting will include a concept review of the Hanover project proposed for Weaver Dairy Road, the State Employees Credit Union Family House expansion and an update on the Blue Hill District design guidelines, among other items.