Mayor Pam Hemminger & Chapel Hill Town Council; Dr. Wesley Burks, CEO, UNC Health Care
United States of America

WHEREAS UNC Health Care proposes to build a new medical campus that would redevelop 5 parcels in the central horseshoe of Eastowne Office Park and one previously undeveloped 20 acre wooded parcel in Chapel Hill;

WHEREAS negotiations are currently underway between the Town of Chapel Hill, the regulator, and UNC Health Care, the applicant, for a development agreement that could allow several times the amount of square footage than the current zoning allows;

WHEREAS the 20 acre "northern parcel" of the adjacent UNC Health Care property was designated a Natural Heritage site by the State of North Carolina (part of the much larger Dry Creek/Mount Moriah site) and the NC Natural Heritage Program has documented the unique and unusual aspects of this forest;

WHEREAS this Natural Heritage forest is an area of unusual geology, soil and therefore vegetation; it contains one of the state’s most mature examples of the Dry-Mesic Basic Oak Hickory Forest type; with its old-growth trees and high plant diversity, the forest provides a home for wildlife, a wetland habitat and community of dam-building beavers, as well as providing food and shelter for turtles, salamanders, and a variety of migrating bird species; it includes part of a high quality example of the uncommon Piedmont Swamp Forest type and of the scenic Basic Mesic Forest type;

WHEREAS maintaining forest and tree canopy can directly affect local and regional air quality by altering air quality through temperature reduction, removing volatile organic compounds from the air; and sequestering carbon that slows climate change, and

WHEREAS the preservation of this Natural Heritage site will maintain a contiguous wildlife corridor for our native animal species, connected to land already purchased for habitat, water quality and recreation by the Town of Chapel Hill on one side and by Durham on the other, thus connecting conserved lands in th e New Hope and Eno River river basins as documented in the Natural Heritage report; and

WHEREAS the characteristics of the Natural Heritage site include a perennial stream, a number of intermittent streams and a 100 year floodplain protected by the Town’s Resource Conservation District and the Town’s steep slopes ordinance, as well as by state rules; and

WHEREAS even limited building in the Natural Heritage forest will break up the integrity of this ecologically valuable property; and leveling steep slopes and removing tree canopy would hasten the rate and the volume of stormwater runoff to the lower portions of the site, causing erosion and permanent damage to its ecological value; and

WHEREAS permanent conservation of this site could be achieved through a number of means, including possible grant funding or permanent conservation easements that would protect the unique natural and scenic resources of the Natural Heritage parcel and provide a passive recreation park with natural surface trails and canopy bridges that could be used by visitors and patients alike, and

And WHEREAS the Chapel Hill Town Council has ranked environmental stewardship as their #1 strategic goal with a second goal of improving local waterways and conserving biological ecosystems, and indicated its preference to locate the campus on the main redeveloped "horseshoe portion" of the property in order to conserve the forest in the northern Natural Heritage parcel;

Be it therefore resolved that....

We, the undersigned, call upon our elected Chapel Hill Town Council representatives and Wesley Burks, MD. Dean, UNC Healthcare Vice Chancellor for Medical Affairs, to conserve the northern 20 acre Natural Heritage forest in Chapel Hill. We call upon the negotiating parties to save this forest through permanent conservation and through the development agreement contract and through other permanent conservation instruments.

Reference document: Dry Creek/Mount Moriah Bottomland – Eastowne tract Report, Natural Heritage site

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The Save Chapel Hill's Natural Heritage Basic Oak - Hickory Forest petition to Mayor Pam Hemminger & Chapel Hill Town Council; Dr. Wesley Burks, CEO, UNC Health Care was written by Julie McClintock and is in the category Environment at GoPetition.