CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Ronnie Pennell has placed hundreds of headstones in Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery over the years, but soon there won't be any space left.
"When I first started there were maybe 10 monuments in this section. It's amazing. I would've never thought 12 years ago that this place would be about full," he said.
Chapel Hill is expected to run out of burial plots by the end of the year unless it expands.
The town operates four public cemeteries, but only Chapel Hill Memorial on Legion Rd. has spots available; 30 traditional burial plots and 60 cremation urns remain.
"This is not something we want people to have to worry about and find out at the very last minute when they have so many other concerns and sadness in their life, and we were afraid that people were assuming there is room," said Jane Slater with the Chapel Hill Cemeteries Advisory Board.
Chapel Hill's town council re-zoned nine acres of land next to Chapel Hill Memorial in 2014 for affordable housing.
80 rental units are slated for construction as early as September. Another 69 senior apartments are planned in phase two of the project, pending approval.
Town officials describe the housing project as a balance between community interests. They say Chapel Hill is running out of options for development as demand skyrockets.
"This is a really great location for affordable rental housing. They're close to transit lines, the greenways, so it would really be ideal for working families and also for seniors," said spokeswoman Catherine Lazorko.
Town council members will consider a proposal later this month to add 80 additional spots for burial urns in Chapel Hill Memorial.
The Cemeteries Advisory Board is petitioning the town to purchase more burial space in Orange County.
A similar petition in 2013 was not considered.
"I'm sure there are plenty of people who, like me grew up here, went off, worked, had families and moved back and this is home and this is where I want to stay," said Slater.