What Chapel Hill Means to Me

What Chapel Hill Means To Me – A Northside Perspective

Every week or so, we’ll post personal stories from Chapel Hill residents about what living in this town means to them. This story is the first in the series.

by Keren Goldshlager, UNC Journalism Student

Velma Perry, a ninety-year-old lifelong resident of Northside, has lived in the same 132-year-old house on Church Street for her entire life. But now, the place she has always called home is slowly starting to change.

Northside has been overrun by an ever-growing tide of students. What was once a family neighborhood is now a hotbed for developers looking to demolish old, rundown houses and build new duplexes in their place. The presence of these duplexes, which house up to six students and are priced at about $600 per bedroom, is slowly but surely raising property taxes for long-term residents.

For many of these long-term residents, paying higher taxes simply isn’t an option.

 “You can’t keep a house, because they keep raising our taxes,” said Perry. “What can you do? It puts you out of town.”

In addition to the taxes that are forcing many Northside residents to forfeit their homes to eager developers, student parties are becoming a major problem. It isn’t abnormal for Perry and her neighbors to wake up to an array of beer cans and plastic cups scattered throughout their yards.

The noise itself was enough to inspire Perry to take action. She joined the town’s noise ordinance committee, which created fines from $50 to $600 for excessive noise. Despite the rules that have been put in place, though, police pay little attention to complaints.

Janie Alston, a 66-year-old who lives on Lindsay Street, has made multiple calls to local police after becoming frustrated with excessive parties. But most of her efforts have proved futile.

“They know they’re college kids, and they take their time coming over,” she said. “The police have to be more forceful and enforce the laws.”

Alston realizes that students can’t be blamed for wanting to find housing close to campus. The Northside neighborhood, with its close proximity to Franklin Street, is a prime location.

That’s why Claire Carstens was elated when she found a house on Church Street that could accommodate her and five of her best friends. After a long and initially fruitless search that involved touring ten other houses, Carstens couldn’t be happier to finally have a two-year lease signed. She pays $650 per month for a room in the brand new house, built just this summer.

It’s a complex situation. There’s no debating the fact that elderly citizens like Perry were here first, but there’s also no denying the fact that the University – and its students – are an integral part of the town.

To Claire Carstens, Chapel Hill is a place where she can live, study, and enjoy her college years. To Velma Perry and Janie Alston, Chapel Hill means moderately price housing, family oriented neighborhoods, and decades of history. What does Chapel Hill mean to you?

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