John Quinterno Looks at Chapel Hill Demographics

John Quinterno gave a talk to C.H.A.L.T., titled  “The Changing Demographics of Chapel Hill, 1990 – Today”, and led a discussion at the Chapel Hill Public Library on July 23rd. Among the discussion participants were candidates for council David Schwartz, Nancy Oates, and Jessica Anderson, and Pam Hemminger, Candidate for Mayor, as well as Kristin Smith Chapel Hill – Carrboro Chamber of Commerce.

The presentation looked at  population changes and social factors affecting Chapel Hill over this period and a lively discussed ensured.  Read the material presented by Quinterno here.  Changing Demographics of Chapel Hill

STxChgBXEHp0qClBFEiNXc3-Z1x76Avpts5OVjGX-mqit50ykn9mE-eHXHflyMz0fuh6z30=s85John Quinterno is the founder and principal of South by North Strategies, Ltd.,a research consultancy specializing in economic and social policy.  He is the author of the book “Running the Numbers:  A Practical Guide to Regional Economic and Social Analysis”.  In 2015, Quinterno became a visiting lecturer at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.  He has resided in Chapel Hill since 2000.


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David Schwartz Files for Town Council

David Schwartz announced in a press release last week that “It’s time for new voices to be heard in Town Hall.”

“Our Town Council needs people who will make decisions based on facts and analysis rather than on myths and wishful thinking. We need leaders who can unite us around a common vision for improving the town and who will heal the rifts that now divide us….”

“It’s time to restore residents’ place at the table and renew the town’s commitment to responsible stewardship.”  His campaign will emphasize the need to set high standards for new development and carry out comprehensive planning, so that we can maintain our high quality of life as the town grows.

Read more about David and his priorities on his website:

David has played a key role in developing the Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town (C.H.A.L.T.) into a dynamic grass roots group working to bring about a change in Chapel Hill leadership.

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Nancy Oates Files for Town Council

In a wonderful July 5 Chapel Hill News article “What We Need in Chapel Hill Town Candidates”, Nancy Oates describes what we need in a candidate.

To our delight, Nancy filed herself as a candidate for the Chapel Hill Town Council on Tuesday, July 8.

Nancy has been following Town affairs for years.  She has offered astute observations to her blog readers about Town issues ever since she started writing Chapel Hill Watch in 2009.  She supports the CHALT movement to bring major changes to town policies that will make us a livable town.

Read the story on Nancy Oates website.

OatesRead the CH News story about all the candidates that filed this week and see Bonnie Hauser sorts out the scene for this year’s local elections here.

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Pam Hemminger Runs for Mayor of Chapel Hill

Former Orange County Commissioner Pam Hemminger launches a bid to unseat Chapel Hill mayor.  Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt filed for a fourth term as Mayor and Southern Village resident Gary Kahn filed for mayor as well.   

Story from Chapel Hill News July 8 follows:


Former Orange County Commissioner Pam Hemminger returned to the political ring Monday in the race for Chapel Hill’s next mayor.

Hemminger, 55, and current Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, 45, were among several local leaders and challengers who filed to run in this year’s municipal and Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board races. Read entire news article here.

“Town leaders have lost their way and have put Chapel Hill on the wrong track,” Hemminger said in her announcement. “We can’t balance our budget or provide affordable housing by adding more luxury residential buildings that will drive up taxes for services.”

“Where is the overall plan for handling the heavy traffic caused by the new development that the mayor and council members have approved? Why did we stop protecting our water supply and start building in the floodplains? Are we really okay with 7-10 story buildings in residential areas?”

Read Pam’s entire announcment here.  See Pam’s website here.


Hear Pam’s interview with WCHL by clicking below.

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Filing Date for Local Offices Coming Up

On this Fourth of July, we note with pride that the mainstay of our democracy are the elections by which we choose officials to represent us and make decisions that affect us all. The filing date for local offices begins next Monday, July 6 at 8 am.  Orange County has released the formal filing announcement below.

In Chapel Hill, Council members serve four year terms, so half of the eight council seats will be contested this fall.  The terms of Donna Bell, Jim Ward, and Lee Storrow are up at the end of the year.  A fourth seat was vacated when Matt Czajkowski resigned before the end of his term.  Bell and Storrow have announced plans to compete for another term. Harrison, Greene, Cianciolo, and Palmer will serve an additional two years.  For a complete list of current office holders and term limits, click here.

The electorate also chooses a Mayor every two years.  Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt has completed his third term and has not announced whether he will run for a fourth term.

Over the last 3 – 4 years the Town Council  has made a number of big decisions that many people did not think are in the town’s best interest.  Town Council votes on Central West, the Edge, Ephesus Fordham, and most recently Obey Creek, did not incorporate the recommendations of the town’s advisory boards or represent the informed views from Chapel Hill citizens.

Read Nancy Oates column “What we Need in Chapel Hill Town Candidates” in the July 5 Chapel Hill News.

CHALT wants to know what you want to see in a Council candidate.  Please write a comment here in response to this blog post.

—   —– —  —-

Media Contact, Tracy Reams, Director
Board of Elections
Phone: 919.245.2350



ORANGE COUNTY, NC (July 2, 2015)—The Orange County Board of Elections is announcing the filing period in which candidates must file their notice of candidacy for their name to appear on the ballot for the November 3, 2015, Elections. The filing period begins at 8:00 a.m. on Monday, July 6, and closes at noon on Friday, July 17.

The notice of candidacy must be filed with the Board of Elections office in which the voter is a resident and registered to vote. Notice of candidacy forms, along with the appropriate filing fee for Orange County residents must be received at the Orange County Board of Elections office no later than 12:00 p.m. on Friday, July 17.

The Orange County Board of Elections office is located at 208 S. Cameron Street, in downtown Hillsborough. The offices up for election and filing fees are as follows:

Town of Carrboro: Mayor – (1) Seat, Filing fee – $15;
Town Alderman – (3) Seats, Filing fee – $10
Town of Chapel Hill: Mayor – (1) Seat, Filing fee – $5;
Town Council – (4) Seats, Filing fee – $5
Town of Hillsborough: Mayor – (1) Seat, Filing fee – $10;
Town Commissioners – (3) Seats, Filing fee – $10
City of Mebane – Mayor – (1) Seat, Filing fee – $6;
City Council – (2) Seats, Filing fee – $6
Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education – (4) Seats, Filing fee $5

For more information or to obtain the filing forms and the daily posting of candidate filings, please visit or call the Orange County Board of Elections at 919.245.2350.

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Response to Sally Greene’s “Why I voted for Obey Creek”

Julie McClintock sent this open letter to the Chapel Hill Newspaper which was printed July 5 in response to Council Member Sally Greene’s “Why I voted for Obey Creek”.

An open letter to Town Council member Sally Greene,

Thank you Sally Greene for your response about why you voted for Obey Creek. While I know you strongly believe that the council has done something good for the town, its approval of Obey Creek will stress our town’s road capacity irreparably and harm the character of our college town.

I will address only three of your assertions: that the Obey Creek project is sustainable, that traffic will be manageable, and the benefits outweigh the costs.

Sustainability. Let’s not forget that this greenfield site was intended to be the environmental offset for the density in Southern Village. The fact is no land is protected from development by building 1.6 M square feet with 95 percent impervious surface on the outskirts of town unless the town had a system of credits such as Davis, California, where land is conserved when urban densities are increased. Fully half of the “preserve” is in the flood plain, and when the ridge on higher ground is full of buildings, as much as 75 percent more rainwater will travel downward to Wilson and Morgan Creeks increasing flooding in downstream neighborhoods.

Urban planners forget dense development increases air pollution by adding thousands of points of combustion to a localized area. The biggest source of air pollution will be the 8,000 autos entering and exiting, raising ozone and particulate matter levels and making it more unpleasant and unhealthy to breathe outside air. Finally, tall buildings are not good candidates for renewable energy.

Traffic and Comprehensive Planning. The size and scale of this project will overwhelm our road system because there are only two entrances on a busy highway. While the pedestrian bridge could serve walkers, the council has failed to perform due diligence to address the predicted traffic problems. We expect our elected officials to make the tough decisions but not to do harm. “Not that much more traffic” is not a responsible stance, given the impacts of this development.

This council planned to increase development densities all along, but neglected to assess the cumulative impacts of traffic throughout town. An additional 16,800 trips per day near the James Taylor Bridge is not an insignificant additional burden to the traffic in southern Chapel Hill.

To say that Obey Creek can be solved by a modest developer cash contribution, and by restriping some lanes is ludicrous. Worst of all, the process itself made the developer the “expert” on transit matters. Our own town staff was drowned out by Roger Perry’s superior negotiating ability.

Furthermore, Obey Creek is not a transit-friendly development by any stretch of the imagination. To make it one, the town would have limited on-site parking to force people out of their automobiles and committed to real transit capacity and frequency (i.e. more buses, more hours). But the reality is that our bus system will limp along at present service levels.

The council resolution passed along with the development agreement “to work on the traffic problems in southern Chapel Hill” is yet another paper exercise. What happened to the 2013 Central West Small Plan Resolution to commission a town wide traffic study to measure cumulative impacts of planned growth?

A council decades ago planned the bypass expansion to four lanes with great care, installing a grassy median with trees and putting over $1 million (in old dollars) into plantings and trees. It is a beautiful road because the sitting elected leaders cared deeply about the ambience and beauty of our town.

For Obey Creek, this council left those types of decisions up to NCDOT and the developer. How do eight lane roadways and intersections or another superstreet align with your long-term vision of Chapel Hill?

I weep …

Julie McClintock is a former member of the Chapel Hill Town Council. She can be reached at

Julie McClintock

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“Chagrin and Bear It”

Terri Buckner wrote this commentary printed in the Chapel Hill News June 28th.

On June 15, the Chapel Hill Town Council followed their collective dream and approved the creation of Obey Creek, a 1.6 million square foot mixed-use development with another 800,000 square feet of parking. Despite the overwhelming objections to the scale of the project by local residents, council members have defined this project as a win for the community.

Over the six years the project was debated, developers and town staff claimed it would help solve the community’s affordability problem by increasing the town’s retail square footage, drawing shoppers from around the region.

Two years ago, the developer began hinting that it would finally bring southern Orange County its first big-box store, much to the chagrin of surrounding residents.

With dollar signs in their eyes the developers and town staff fought off the critics, building some degree of support for the project through promises of increased town revenues.

But sometime this past winter or spring, the announcement was made that there is no financing available for retail. But not to worry, instead of a big box store and associate sales tax revenues, the developer was voluntarily providing more than the required affordable housing.

Council members didn’t blink an eye at this change. In fact, Donna Bell and Maria Palmer proudly announced they would vote for the development months before the negotiations and public hearings had concluded.

Why? Because Chapel Hill desperately needs more affordable housing, especially affordable rentals. However, the development agreement doesn’t specify what percentage of the projected 700 residential units must be rental. And if all 700 are built for sale, under the current inclusionary zoning requirements only 105 of them would be designated as affordable. Certainly, 105 affordable units is better than nothing, but just barely.

The development agreement was touted as a process that would allow the Town Council to pursue a two-way dialogue with the community while in negotiations with the developer. In reality the community spoke, sharing ideas, pointing out flaws or omissions in the work of the consultants, and applying their creativity to help design a project they wanted to live with. All they asked was that the project be scaled down to a size more aligned with Southern Village. And while the council allowed the public to speak, they chose not to listen to the concerns. Instead they signed off on the proposed design without reviewing any of the smaller options.

Ethan Kent of the Project for Public Spaces recently wrote: “In creating self-sustaining places, Placemaking needs to be a community-based process, not just a strategy or solution that has been imposed and implemented by city leaders or planners. Further, community members must not only feel like they belong there, but that they can play an active part in its creation and continued success. When approached in this way, Placemaking can be an essential factor in building a community’s social capital as well as a sense of belonging amongst its residents.”

A collaborative placemaking process would have looked more like the Glen Lennox project. But instead we got a field of what many fear will be traffic nightmares. Let’s hope the final project is more widely embraced than East 54 has been.

Read more here:
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Another Response to Sally Greene’s “Why I Voted for Obey Creek”

David Schwartz submitted this response to Sally’s explanation of her vote to approve the Obey Creek development agreement.

All the reasons Sally Greene offers for approving the draft Obey Creek Development Agreement—that the proposal “honors” the Southern Small Area Plan and reflects an evolving community understanding of the benefits of density, that it supports retail and transit, that it provides some community amenities and affordable housing, that we have a responsibility to accept our “fair share” of regional growth and that the increased traffic is a small percentage of the total expected increased traffic—would apply equally well to a development proposal two or three times as large as the one she approved, as well as to one half the size.

Thus, these reasons provide no principled basis for choosing any particular development scenario. Could all of the same benefits have been achieved with a smaller project that imposed fewer environmental, fiscal, and traffic costs? A project that honored the community’s preference for a development of the Obey Creek land similar in scale to the Southern Village mixed use area? We’ll never know, because all the staff work was devoted to supporting the developer’s proposal rather than toward coming up with a plan for southern Chapel Hill as a whole that optimizes the benefit to the town.

These are some of the questions left unanswered:

  • What are the characteristics of a development proposal that, in Sally Greene’s judgment, would “not” honor the Southern Small Area Plan? Is anything short of siting a coal ash dump in the middle of Wilson Creek fair game?
  • How is the community’s current understanding of the benefits of density any different today than it was 30 years ago when the rural buffer was established to encourage compact, dense development?
  • How does one determine what constitutes Chapel Hill’s “fair share” of regional growth? Is it simply that each city’s rate of growth should match the average rate of growth for the region as a whole? Or should it be proportional to the amount of fiscal and environmental resources (e.g., commercial tax base and water supply) it can draw on to support local growth? If neighboring cities grow at an unsustainable rate, are we obligated to do likewise?
  • How much worse would the traffic impact need to be, or how meager would the affordable housing proffer need to be, in order for the author to decide a developer’s proposal is not a good deal for the town?
  • Why would town residents be willing in the future to devote their time and effort to helping craft comprehensive or area plans or to serve on advisory boards now that council members have repeatedly shown they are willing to toss aside such plans and advisory board recommendations in favor of council members’ own beliefs about what serves the town interest or in favor of whatever private landowners and developers want to do?
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CHALT Charges Betrayal of Citizen Interests

Press Release, Chapel Hill
June 18, 2015

Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town (CHALT) charged the Town Council with betraying the best interests of citizens after it approved the massive Obey Creek project south of Chapel Hill.

The council vote on the project, which allows construction of 1.6 million square feet of housing, office, retail and hotel space and 1 million square feet of parking garages across U.S. 15-501 from the Southern Village community, came despite numerous objections and questions from residents, who packed the council meeting chamber on Monday night.

“Council members seemed disturbingly indifferent to citizen concerns about worsened traffic congestion and other negative impacts the construction of Obey Creek may have on their quality of life,” said David Schwartz, a spokesperson for CHALT. “If they had been willing to negotiate harder on behalf of the town residents’ own vision for Obey Creek, we might have ended up with a development agreement that better serves the public interest. Now we’ll never know.”

In advance of council discussion, citizens had raised critical questions about the plan, such as why it grew from 1.4 million square feet to 1.6 million square feet during the course of negotiations despite town staff analysis that showed smaller, alternative plans would have been more beneficial to the town.

Town staff estimated the project will add 16,800 vehicle trips a day and Schwartz observed that no provisions were made for changes if trip projections were wrong.

In another surprise, only over the weekend did the council learn the agreement would allow building heights of anywhere between 70 and 200 feet, a revelation that added to frustration over the project’s approval.

According to CHALT, the adopted agreement is at odds with the human more modest scale development called for in the town’s 2020 Comprehensive Plan and the Compass Committee Report, the latter prepared by a council-appointed committee that met for more than a year.

The town’s own Planning Commission recommended evaluating smaller-scale projects, and more than 600 Chapel Hill residents signed a petition urging this. All of this was ignored by the Town Council.

CHALT and numerous residents had called for a better, not bigger, Obey Creek and pointed out to the council that smaller versions of the project, such as a 900,000-square-foot plan, would have brought in the same amount of revenue to the town while requiring less town services and thus reducing the project’s tax burden and traffic congestion.

“It’s a shame that the mayor and council shot down all opportunities for public discussion of practical alternatives by never directing the staff to bring forward smaller proposals,” said Nancy Oates, who reports on Town Council actions for Chapel Hill Watch. “Council members could have fought for a plan that would have made everyone happy, but they instead chose to short-change town residents. Chapel Hill taxpayers will have to foot the bill for the council’s irresponsible action.”

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After the Obey Creek Vote

Tammy Grubb, Chapel Hill News, tells the outlines of the June 15 vote in favor of Obey Creek in this article. The self congratulatory, data-averse Town Council, voted to approve it,  7 – 1, with Council Member Ed Harrison as the lone dissenter. This lopsided outcome despite an outpouring of calls from the public  for a “Better not Bigger Obey Creek”.

Ed Harrison was the most level headed realistic council member in the bunch.  He cited uncertainty with transportation, and a desire to see both the final agreement and a “more robust analysis and discussion of different options for sizes.  I think the third reason is … even if I don’t agree with every point they made, someone here needs to represent the folks who had concerns about this that were not alleviated,” he said. “If it has to be me, I’m willing to do that.”

The Obey Creek Development Agreement will allow construction of 1.6 million square feet of housing, office, retail and hotel at Obey Creek, along with an additional 840,000 – 1 million square feet in parking garages.

At odds with citizen concerns. The adopted agreement is at odds with the 2020 Comprehensive Plan (which calls for much lower scale development), the Compass Committee Report, the Planning Commission recommendations to look at smaller scale projects, and the wishes of 600 petitioners to do the same.

Faith-based planning. During the discussion, Council members showed a remarkable ability to ignore established facts: the difficult access to the site, and the existing and future traffic congestion on 15-501 and nearby intersections {Projections will add 20,000 additional vehicles per day if the adjacent property is included}.  Instead, Donna Bell, Maria Palmer, Lee Storrow, George Cianciolo, Sally Greene, Jim Ward, and the Mayor by his vote expressed their faith that their bold decision to put a small city in a difficult location would bring prosperity and vitality to the Town — and somehow the traffic will just work itself out.

Faith-based transportation. Sally Greene said she had been worried about the traffic, but said she felt better because Roger was contributing $250,000 to minor mitigations, and after all, the traffic was not Obey Creek’s “fault,” as much as the future congestion would be caused by other projects.  She expressed the belief that someone will come forward to bail out the traffic nightmare — this despite the fact that the Town has zero funds to increase bus transit to this new enclave.

Faith- based economics. Jim Ward was the great disappointment of the evening.  He expressed total confidence in the agreement, and felt that by approving this project we would be making up for past lost opportunities for retail and commercial tax revenues that had escaped to Durham County. This, despite the fact that he expressed doubt growth would pay for itself after attending a talk a few weeks ago by economist Dave Shreve.  See info on talk. CHALT’s own analysis projects a loss for the Chapel Hill taxpayer with the kind of development mix just approved at Obey Creek. Orange County staff has found Chapel Hill’s projections for Ephesus Fordham too rosy for the County to support.

It will be sad but instructive to compare the reality of what gets built at Obey Creek to the unrealistic faith-based expectations expressed by council members on June 15, 2015.  We must hold them accountable for their decision.

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