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Chapel Hill Considers Creating Innovative, Light Industrial District

Post Date:01/05/2017 9:48 AM
Franklin Street, Chapel Hill

New Meeting Added: Jan. 17

To encourage the creation of new creative jobs that are a good fit for the community, consistent with the Town’s adopted Commercial Development Strategy, the Town of Chapel Hill is considering a new zoning district for creative, light industrial, advanced manufacturing and research type uses. The Town intends to pilot this program first in the area near the intersection of Millhouse Road and Eubanks Road as a test and then review the results. This area will be identified with a letter designation on the Town Future Land Use Map, adopted by the Council as the zone is adopted. The Town currently uses this process to identify possible school sites (S) and development opportunities (D) in the Town.

In the future, through a public and transparent process, the Town Council may decide to apply the zoning district  to other properties where it finds that innovative, light industrial uses are appropriate based on adopted community plans, including the Chapel Hill 2020 Comprehensive Plan. The purpose statement for the proposed zoning district clarifies that it is intended to be applied in areas along major roadways and transportation corridors identified for change in the comprehensive plan, such as the area near the intersection of Millhouse Road and Eubanks Road. The zone is not intended to be applied in or adjacent to single-family residential neighborhoods which make up the majority of the Town. Property owners interested in rezoning to this use would need to submit an application for a conditional rezoning for review and approval of the Town Council. The conditional rezoning process would ensure that rezoning and new uses would be carefully evaluated and that properties proposed for this use could be annexed into the Town limits.

Public Information Meetings on the proposed new zoning district will be held at Chapel Hill Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., on the following dates:

  • Dec. 20, 2016 at 6:30 p.m.
  • Jan. 3, 2017 at 6:30 p.m.
  • Jan. 17, 2017 at 6:30 p.m.

The meetings will provide an introduction and overview of the proposed zoning district draft zoning ordinance, and are scheduled coincide with Planning Commission meetings, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. The Planning Commission will review the proposed zoning district first on its agenda on these dates.

The Town Council authorized the Town Manager to initiate a text amendment process to establish a new zoning district on June 27, 2016. Following the public information meetings and advisory board review, the Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on Feb. 20, 2017, and could consider enacting the text amendment on March 27, 2017.


More about the Innovative Zoning District (I-2)


  • Allow efficient use of limited undeveloped land in Chapel Hill
  • Encourage uses that produce creative jobs that fit Chapel Hill’s brand and goals
  • Maximize buildable floor area while protecting environmentally sensitive areas

Example Uses

  • Light food processing, brewery / distillery
  • Creative / artisanal / advanced manufacturing and processing
  • Flex buildings, combinations of office, retail, manufacturing/processing, and warehouse/distribution
  • Research, wet-lab space
  • Residential not allowed

Proposed Standards      

  • All uses must be contained wholly indoors. Noise, vibrations, dust, odors, may not be detectable at the property line
  • Protections for stream buffers, steep slopes, tree canopy
  • Enhanced stormwater treatment and runoff controls
  • Full landscape buffers between existing and future residential development

Development Process

  • Streamlined review and approval process
  • Council approval of conditional rezoning and associated sketch plan
  • Administrative approval of detailed site plans consistent with sketch plan


For more information

Contact Jay Heikes in the Office of Planning and Sustainability  or visit

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