Council’s Conflict of Interest? Maybe just a slight edge….

Following up on my earlier post on RAM Development’s “425 Hillsborough Street” 335 condo megaplex, today’s HeraldSun reports:

Foy acknowledged that a good prior experience with the town might give a developer a slight edge.

“If we’ve had a good experience in the past, then we might know we can negotiate in good faith,” he said.

Someone that you trust – someone that delivers – usually does have an edge in business.

But our town leaders have responsibilities that transcend “business as usual”, as Foy acknowledges:

Mayor Kevin Foy said Friday he hasn’t seen plans for the project, which is being called 425 Hillsborough Street by the developer. But, he said, the plan will be judged on its merits alone and the town’s handling of an application will not be affected by the official relationship with Ram Development.

“We view every development through the prism of what’s best for the town,” Foy said. He added that the town will judge the developer’s project against the town’s Comprehensive Plan, which describes where growth should occur.

The project’s expanse, as reported by the HeraldSun, is greater than that reported in the New & Observer:

According to the Ram concept plan, the new development would have 390 multi-family units on 15.6 acres. The site, just north of the university campus, currently holds 111 rental units, most of which are occupied by UNC students.

That’s quite an increase in density. Luckily, the plan will require a rezoning – putting it squarely before Council and local citizens.

The article also mentions the problems with Lot #5’s development

Recently the town sent a letter to Ram indicating the Lot 5 project wasn’t fully meeting expectations for the redevelopment of that town site

and quotes out-going Town Manager Cal Horton:

Horton said Ram’s performance wouldn’t impact the town’s handling of an application on the Hillsborough Street project if the developer chooses to submit a formal proposal.

“In our process, every development stands on its own,” he said. “There are many occasions when we work with people who are doing multiple developments. This situation is pretty ordinary.”

The current Council hopes that ceding prime public properties to RAM Development (for, what I believe, less than their longterm value) will spur a downtown economic renaissance (a rebirth that’s proceeding apace without RAM’s help). Taxpayer monies have and will continue to flow into this project. Further, the Council is closely partnering with RAM in the overall design of their $90+ million buildout.

And, then, as the downtown development plan nears kick-off, RAM proposes what has been reported as the largest condominium development in Chapel Hill’s history? A development that will surely benefit by its proximity to the same project Council is partnering on?

Ordinary? Try unprecedented.


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