We did it!

We are absolutely thrilled at the November 7th election results!
You can’t do better than 100%!CHALT is so grateful for our talented candidates who are willing to dedicate their time to serve our town.

We truly appreciate our many poll workers, pavement stompers, voters, and supporters who helped elect all five of our endorsed candidates.

Chapel Hill has a better future because of your efforts and we thank you!

Now the governing begins! Our new town council will need our help. Upcoming topics of interest are the new proposed conditional use zone, addressing the major flaws in the Ephesus – Fordham Code, and plans for dealing with congestion on our major highways. An active citizenry will continue to make our town livable for everyone. We look forward to your continued involvement and support.

Durham Herald article

Daily Tarheel

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CDC Issues Certificate for More Apartments on 15-501

Another enormous, luxury apartment development is coming under the form based code; it is located along Fordham Boulevard (Highway 15-501) and the corner of  Elliott Road.

Who approves new projects in the Ephesus Fordham District?

In 2014 the Town Council gave away all public review of projects in the new Ephesus – Fordham District and gave sole final say to the Town Manager. However, one advisory board, the Community Design Commission (CDC) , makes design recommendations.

What are the details of the Fordham Apartments application?  Link to Town Webpage

The existing Days Inn hotel is proposed to be demolished and replaced by one building 521 foot long housing new 273-unit apartments at the corner of Fordham Boulevard and South Elliott Road.

The southern portion of building, closer to S. Elliott Road is proposed to be six stories. The northern portion of the building, near the existing Days Inn hotel is proposed to be five stories and wrap the parking deck on three sides.

The property is entirely within the 100-year regulatory floodplain and is partly within the regulatory floodway and Jordan Watershed Riparian Buffer.

Before the CDC met, Council member Jess Anderson asked the Town Manager why the town staff continued to negotiate details for 6 months on an application that fails to meet the Town’s newly adopted maximum block size of 450 feet within the Ephesus-Fordham (Blue Hill) District. The Manager replied that the Council allowed exceptions to be considered and granted if certain conditions were met. This issue became the central question at the CDC’s October 24th meeting; Did the proposed alternative (sent to the CDC a few days before the meeting) meet the standards for an exception?

Following is a summary of the October 24th meeting where the Community Design Commission decided to grant a certificate of appropriateness.

  1.  Charles Humble asked the Community Design Commission to adhere to the FBC block standards. Specifically he asked the Commission to deny RAM’s request to exempt the project from the FBC’s maximum block size standard on the grounds that it does not meet any of the conditions enumerated in the code under which an exemption can be granted. See his letter here.
  2. Council very deliberately adjusted the block size to address massing and connectivity concerns. The outcome of the CDC deliberations Tuesday night was at odds with those council policies and the code.
  3. Only five commissioners attended the meeting. Four were absent. The chair pushed the Commission to a final vote despite unanswered legal and technical questions, missing members, and a motion to table the vote until questions could be answered and the other members were present.
  4. The developer argued that the plan warranted an exemption to the 450 foot. maximum block length due to site constraints;  however two commissioners argued that the problem lay with the design of the building as opposed to the site itself.
  5. In addition, one commissioner said the applicant’s plan is not consistent with the Town’s goal of redeveloping the Ephesus Fordham district as  a connected mixed-use area that supports all modes of transportation.
  6. Commissioners posed legal questions that staff could not answer. Commissioner Dancy asked whether a pedestrian easement qualifies as a “thoroughfare.” (If a pedestrian easement does not qualify, then we assume the staff can deny the compliance certificate.) Other questions included:  (1) the legal definition of a “block,” and (2) the implications on connectivity within the Ephesus Fordham/Blue Hill District of not requiring RAM to provide a bona fide street within the site.
  7. The motion to table failed by a 2-3 vote. The motion to grant a design alternative passed 3 – 2. The motion approving a Certificate of Appropriateness passed 4 – 1.

At some point the Town staff and the Town Council must acknowledge that the form based zoning code in its current form is not delivering what the citizens wanted. The proof lies in the discontinuity between the zoning code and the Ephesus Fordham Small Area Plan. It is scandalous to us that the new development occurring under the code does not resemble the Town’s own adopted plan that was endorsed by both the Council and the community.



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Indy Endorses Four Council Candidates

The INDY Endorses Ed Harrison, Hongbin Gu, Rachel Schaevitz, and Karen Stegman for Chapel Hill Town Council

Read article here.

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CHALT Endorsements for 2017 Municipal Election

CHALT Endorses Hemminger for Mayor, Buansi, Gu, Schaevitz & Stegman for Council

On October 5, the Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town (CHALT) announced their endorsements for the November 7, 2017 Chapel Hill municipal election. They are Pam Hemminger for Mayor and Allen Buansi, Hongbin Gu, Rachel Schaevitz, and Karen Stegman for Town Council.

“CHALT’s endorsements are based on individual interviews and rigorous evaluation of candidates based on specific criteria,” said Julie McClintock, former member of the Chapel Hill Town Council and member of CHALT’s selection committee. “These criteria include a candidate’s commitment to making steady progress toward community goals; an ability to offer practical suggestions about how each goal can be addressed; listening skills, respect for dissenting views, critical thinking and personal qualities that will allow for effective collaboration with the community; and an understanding of the need for a comprehensive approach to town planning.”

Listen to the CHALT candidate forum here.

Summaries from individual interviews here.

Hemminger, 57, is the incumbent mayor of Chapel Hill. Since being elected, she has brought a new tone of collaboration to town hall and has achieved remarkable progress in the challenging areas of downtown parking, tech sector jobs, regional planning for water quality protection and development review.

Buansi, 30, is a civil rights attorney who was raised in Chapel Hill. He also served as the legal redress chair for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP and policy and field director for current North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein’s campaign.

Gu, 49, is a quantitative researcher at the UNC School of Medicine who has lived in Chapel Hill for 22 years. Gu serves on Chapel Hill’s Environmental Stewardship and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools District Asian American Parents Advisory Boards. She organized the Chapel Hill LIGHTUP 2017, the first town-wide celebration of the Chinese New Year, which took place at University Place.

Schaevitz, 37, is a social justice filmmaker and postdoctoral fellow in the Public Humanities program at UNC. She currently serves as the chair of the town’s task force dedicated to development of the American Legion Property, a 36-acre parcel recently purchased by Chapel Hill. She also serves as a Town of Chapel Hill Cultural Arts Commissioner.

Stegman, 48, a Chapel Hill native, is director of business development for IntraHealth International, a Chapel Hill based non-profit organization. She has also served on the Chapel Hill Housing Advisory Board and as her neighborhood’s PORCH coordinator.

“We believe that the four council candidates we’ve endorsed will bring new voices and fresh perspectives to the Chapel Hill Town Council,” said McClintock. “Along with our mayor, they will provide the strong leadership and values we should expect from those who serve in town government.”


The Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town (CHALT) was founded in 2015 by former members of Chapel Hill town governance, UNC faculty members and other community leaders. Its goals are to apply evidence and data to maintaining high standards for development, solving traffic problems, keeping Chapel Hill’s schools strong and making the town affordable for individuals of all income levels. You can find out more at http://www.chalt.org/.

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“A Place Called Home: Making Housing Available for All Income Levels”

A Place to Call Home: Housing Available for All Income Levels

Monday, October 2, 2017
7:00 pm – 8:45 pm, Chapel Hill Town Hall

I. Welcome and Introduction: Julie McClintock CHALT

II. Framing the Issue: Nancy Oates, Member Chapel Hill Town Council

  • Different Types of Housing for All Income levels & ages
  • Trends in Chapel Hill affecting Housing (rental/ownership)
  • Council policies

III. Success Stories: Private and Non-profit Initiatives

  • Redevelopment Glen Lennox: Tim Jezisek, Vice President for Development/Grubb Properties
    • Economic Challenges & Benefits in incorporating accessible housing
    • Into Redevelopment of Glen Lennox
  • Partnership between UNC and Northside: Hudson Vaughn, Senior
    Director, Marian Check Jackson Center

    • Preserving Varied Housing in a Historic Chapel Hill Neighborhood

IV. Affordability Gaps and New Approaches

  • Mai Thi Nguyen, Associate Professor, Department of City & Regional Planning, UNC Chapel Hill
    • The challenges and opportunities to preserving and developing affordable housing.

V. Question/Answer/Discussion Moderator: Sheila Creth

  • Questions for Speakers and Open Discussion

VI. What Next?

  • What is needed to successfully address creating accessible housing for all income levels in Chapel Hill?
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Blue Hill District and Flooding

If you think that development in the Ephesus – Fordham, a.k.a. Blue Hill District, is not increasing the risk of flooding, think again.

The tragic events in Houston are a worrisome wake up call to Chapel Hill – especially in the Blue Hill district which is already prone to flooding. Already approved upstream projects and changing weather conditions will increase flooding in this low lying area.

Our editorial on the Lessons of Houston elicited a response from Molly DeMarco and Sue Hunter which lauded Chapel Hill’s land use planning but incorrectly referenced the district’s “superior flood control requirements.” (Read their opinion editorial posted in the Durham Herald here).

CHALT readers know that the Council did apply water quality treatment standards in 2014 to the District, but flooding mitigation actions have yet to be taken.

Read more here…


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Let’s Avoid the Mistakes of Houston

By Julie McClintock

In the wake of the calamity in Houston, we are learning – yet again – how dangerous and harmful flooding can be. What happened in Houston can happen here. We, too, are overbuilding and allowing construction in low-lying areas just as Houston did.

With seeming indifference to the constraints posed by Chapel Hill’s geography, the Chapel Hill Town Council in 2014 endorsed and encouraged an intensification of development in the Booker Creek flood plain, an area already prone to flooding. Because “paved-over swamp” doesn’t quite convey the image of hip urbanity necessary to entice affluent twenty-somethings to the district’s shopping centers, the town spent $24,000 in public funds to hire a branding consultant, who, with no trace of irony, recently rechristened the low-lying area “Blue Hill.”

Branding exercises and other efforts to shape public perception cannot obscure the substantive, ongoing problems with the redevelopment that is occurring in the district formerly known as Ephesus-Fordham. To produce a better outcome than we are currently getting, the town needs to rewrite the underlying zoning code or start over.

The town would be well served to first affirm the overall vision for the district that the community supported years ago. That means reducing maximum building size to more human-scale dimensions and providing shared parking, reasonably priced housing and pleasant places to hang out or stroll.

The main problems that need to be fixed include:

  • The current zoning disregards the community-endorsed plan. In 2010, the town invited residents to participate in a public planning process to devise a redevelopment plan for the area. The council approved this community consensus plan in 2011. However, the code adopted in 2014 deviates markedly from the residents’ vision. It is instead a land speculator’s dream: few standards, no public hearings and a quick approval process.
  • Benefits all accrue to the developer, not the community. The adopted code threw out all the things that Chapel Hill residents value: public input in development review, attractive, human-scale buildings, trees and wide sidewalks, storm water volume control, modestly priced housing, improved bus service, and public parks.

To produce a better outcome than we are currently getting, the town needs to rewrite the underlying zoning code or start over.

  • Commercial gentrification is driving out valued local retail and services. The small businesses we want and need are disappearing fast due to escalating rents and are being replaced by chain stores, expensive restaurants and unneeded luxury apartments. Gone or going soon are the dry cleaners, the yarn store, the copy shop, the barber shop – the kind of services we depend on for everyday living.
  • Lowered building standards have encouraged real estate speculation and the rapid flipping of properties. The Alexan recently sold for $72 million but many units are still vacant.
  • The area is not walkable. The first project approved under the new zone is the “beached cruise ship” sitting awkwardly on Elliott Road. The building and its attached parking deck make it more difficult to reach other businesses in the same shopping center. Each large new building will supply its own parking, thus discouraging people from walking to other locations within the district.
  • We are losing our town’s character. Tree-lined streets are being replaced with pavement and concrete that take up every square inch of property, just as in Houston and large cities everywhere. As a result of this poorly devised new building code, the town’s investment of taxpayer funds is sadly harming the very qualities that make our town livable and is changing the look and feel of our college town for the worse.

But the most severe adverse impact caused by fast-tracked development in the “Blue Hill” district will be more flooding, as more buildings are approved within an already overbuilt floodplain. The town has several watershed studies underway that will recommend expensive remedies, but as the devastation in Houston has shown us, it’s far more prudent to prevent problems by not constructing pavement and buildings on what little absorptive natural surface remains in the district.

This article printed on line in the Durham Herald Sun on September 1, 2017.

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Community Forum for Town Council Candidates

Make an informed decision November 7!

WCHL interview about the forum


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Form Based Code is Hurting Our Town

Form Based Code (FBC) is the zoning code that covers the Ephesus Fordham District, just renamed “Blue Hill” which targets 180 acres for high density redevelopment, from South Elliott Road and East Franklin Street, to Legion Road and Ephesus Church Road.

Tammy Grubb writes here in the Durham Herald about the Town and property owners re-branding the district to “Blue Hill”.  To us, this business marketing effort by the property owners to improve the rental rates of the high priced apartments draws attention away from the need to fix the many flaws in the underlying code. 

We wish the Town’s Economic Director had sponsored a competition to name the district and consulted retail owners and affected residents.  The only “Blue Hill” we know of is a well-known small seaside town in Maine that many here in the Triangle frequent in the summer for its quaintness, theater, music, cool weather, and antiques.

We want the Town to redirect its resources toward clarifying an overall vision and addressing the height and massing standards, as well as the lack of shared parking, reasonably priced housing and pleasant places to hang out or stroll.

Why is so much of the community unhappy with how the district is developing?

  • The community plan was not followed.  In 2010, the Town invited residents to participate in the renewal strategy  and asked them to vision a redevelopment plan for the area.  The Council approved this community consensus plan in 2011.  But what happened next is that the Manager hired a consultant who recommended  a zoning code that was approved quickly by the Town Council.  This code is a land speculator’s dream: few standards, no public hearings and a quick approval process. It does not resemble the citizens’ plan.
  • Benefits all accrue to the developer, not the community. The final code threw out all the things that Chapel Hill considers valuable: public hearings, in scale attractive buildings, trees and wide sidewalks, storm water volume control, and development that would serve the community such as modestly priced housing, improved bus service, and pocket parks.
  • The retail we want and need is disappearing fast due to escalating rents replaced by high end apartments, chain stores, and expensive restaurants. Gone or going soon are the dry cleaners, the yarn store, the copy shop, the barber shop, the men’s clothing store – the kind of services we depend on for everyday living.  
  • We will need to drive to Durham to find what we need. Replacing needed office and retail with the new glitzy stuff will mean even more traffic on a congested 15-501.
  • The Town is spending tax money to market a bad product instead of fixing the underlying problems.  We want the FBC improved or replaced with code that allows the kind of development we want and need. We are not excited about spending $24,000 of Town funds to help the property owners market their rental units.
  • Lower standards has led to more real estate speculation and the rapid flipping of properties.  The Alexan recently sold for $72 million.
  • The FBC is not promoting transit friendly development. Each apartment owner is building a parking deck which will keep people in their cars. The town is short on funds to expand our bus service.   A consultant has just been hired to design sidewalks and bikelanes for the district well after the approval of the zone.
  • Flooding will continue.  The Town has several watershed studies underway to recommend expensive remedies, but it it far less expensive to reverse the trend by not building pavement and buildings on natural surfaces.
  • The area is not walkable.  The  first project approved under the new zone is the “beached cruise ship” sitting awkwardly on Elliott Road. The building and attached parking deck make it more difficult to reach other businesses in the same shopping center. Each large apartment building will supply their own parking and walking to other locations is discouraged.
  • We are losing our town’s character.  The tree lined streets are being replaced with pavement and concrete that take up every square inch of property, just like large cities everywhere.  After all the Town investment of taxpayer funds, the Form Based Code has caused the ordinary things people need to live to disappear, along with the look and feel of our college town.

We invite our readers to respond to the article.  These newspaper quotes particularly stand out:

 “The desire was to become a thriving, walkable district with an urban character attractive to younger generations that work and live in the Chapel Hill area,”
Regency Centers also plans to remodel part of Village Plaza’s Whole Foods-anchored shopping center, which has lost several smaller tenants in recent years, Kanik said. Those losses can cause “a lot of heartache and grief,” he said, but the company also has a duty to its investors and to help other tenants thrive.

The district “is going to bring a lot more of this kind of entertainment lifestyle and activity,” Kanik said. “The PTA Thrift Shop, the Print Shop and the old dry cleaner that was there for generations, it’s all legacy stuff and there’s a time and place for that, but with this evolution there’s going to be a lot more energy.

Write your opinion in the comment section just below.

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What to do about Silent Sam? UNC is at an impasse

Read more here: http://www.heraldsun.com/news/local/counties/orange-county/article168973032.html?#emlnl=Morning_Newsletter#storylink=cpy
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