CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – Nine years ago, the Town of Chapel Hill started working on plans to redevelop the property the police department is located on. The site at 828 Marin Luther King Jr. Blvd. is a complicated site to work with.
This week, Town Council and several Advisory Boards will review a concept plan for what the site could one day become. City leaders will also give the potential developer feedback on their plans. A decision or change in zoning won’t necessarily come out of the meetings.
The challenge with the property is that underneath it is coal ash mixed with other structural fill materials. These materials existed before the police department was constructed.
What is coal ash?
A fact-sheet from the town says the coal ash is a by-product when coal is burned in a coal-fired power plant. It’s a concern because, if uncovered, the fine ash particles that make up material can pose a respiratory or other health risks.
Most of the coal ash on site is covered by the police station, parking lots, and soil. A few small areas of uncovered ash remain on a steep site embankment. Environmental consultants have concluded ash at the site poses no unacceptable risks to people in the area or the nearby Bolin Creek Trail, or to the Bolin Creek ecosystem. A person who repeatedly came in contact with the exposed ash, however, may face health risks.
What happens next?
Right now, the town said it is working with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to establish an Environmental Management Plan. Leaders hope to safely redevelop the site using a combination of mitigation methods. The town plans to also develop long-term maintenance and monitoring of the site, creek, and groundwater.
In the coming weeks, a concept plan will go under review. The potential plan includes a new 80,000 square foot Municipal Services Center for the Town’s Police and other departments. It also includes a proposal for 200 units of privately developed mixed-income apartments. The town may explore other uses on the site, too.
These plans won’t be approved right away. There will be opportunity for the public give feedback and to see the technical findings.
Updates on the project’s progress and meeting dates can be found by clicking here.