The Chapel Hill Town Council voted 5-3 Wednesday night to approve the conditional zoning for the 1200 MLK Boulevard development, a mixed-use project that has been the subject of recent controversy in the town.

The project includes the Tar Heel Mobile Home Park, a community of more than 70 households that were facing a nearly certain eviction notice if the town council rejected the proposal. El Centro Hispano sent volunteers to canvass the neighborhood after the initial February 24 vote. After speaking with 57 of the residents, the non-profit concluded that council approval was the safest way to ensure that this community stays intact. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP and EmPOWERment Inc. also asked the council to vote “yes.”

“We have to keep the people on the top of our minds,” Councilmember Allen Buansi said prior to the vote. “I understand that this decision doesn’t line up with the vision that we have for this part of town. But also, we have real families—real lives—at stake.”

The rezoning passed with some changes to the covenant between the town and the developer, Stackhouse Properties. The group is required to undergo a rent appraisal every two years by a third party, and report that appraisal to the town. The appraisal has to find that the rental rates in the mobile home park have less than five percent difference from comparable mobile home markets in Raleigh and Charlotte. The owner has also agreed to keep the mobile home park operable for the next 15 years.

Neighbors of the development have been concerned about several aspects of the development, including the size of a self-storage unit that will be built on the property. The developer agreed to scale that part of the project back by 1,000 square feet. The opponents also worried about trusting the developer, something that supporters also shared concerns over. Councilmember Jess Anderson said she hoped the controversy sparked the town and neighboring municipalities to develop a strategy for mobile home park development.

“Let’s take this experience and let it spur us into meaningful action in ways that help us mitigate and avoid this situation in the future,” Anderson says. “Since it’s coming at us again and again and again.”

The vote fell along the same lines as the February vote: Anderson, Hongbin Gu, and Amy Ryan held onto their “no” votes. Unlike a first reading, the second reading of the ordinance didn’t require a two-thirds majority (something complicated by the council’s still-vacant seat).

At the beginning of the meeting, Gu attempted to petition the council to consider a Manufactured/Mobile Home Zoning (MHZ) overlay district. The decision would have had to go back to the developers, and couldn’t have been voted on Wednesday night; the legal advisor for the town also alluded to the fact that the possibility wasn’t feasible, and had been discussed with councils individually. Hemminger addressed this, and other proposals from opponents, in her closing remarks after the vote.

“Contrary to what many people in the community have heard, local governments in North Carolina have no authority to stay evictions—only the governor has that right—and no power to force a land owner to keep a mobile home park open,” Hemminger said.

Despite the split vote, each councilmember who spoke made it clear that protecting the Tar Heel residents was a priority. Partners in the community shared the same opinions through social media.

“Keep that same energy we’ve seen over the past week and a half, throughout the months and years to come,” Dawna Jones, NAACP chapter president, said on Twitter. “This is but one step and there is much to be done.”

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