Chapel Hill residents enjoy our town’s vitality, diversity, good schools, natural beauty, college town character, and livable scale. It’s a good place to live, raise a family, and be in business. But Chapel Hill’s good qualities are threatened by new development that is not being managed to benefit the whole community.
In the last few years, the Town Council has approved 5000 new residential units. This will inevitably cause school over crowding and more frequent redistricting.
A myth persists that approving a lot of high density developments composed of residential units will help the town to charge lower taxes. Citizens have conducted their own cost benefit analyses and found that the costs greatly outweigh the revenues for all but commercial development. The town’s own analyses of Ephesus Fordham and Obey Creek left out key costs such as transit. However even taking into account these errors, building expensive apartments is a bankrupt strategy when the cost of building schools in added to the total costs.
Unless town government improves its guidance of development, we will be at risk for paralyzing traffic congestion, overcrowded schools, loss of affordable housing and shopping, and escalating taxes. We need a new direction to assure the livability of our town. CHALT invites you to work toward a better future for Chapel Hill as outlined bythis platform.
A key element of CHALT’s platform is to support the high quality of Chapel Hill schools, among the town’s most important assets. We must assure that growth does not outpace the availability of quality school buildings and teachers.
CHALT aims to protect and improve what we love about our town, and serve as an unbiased resource for information on issues of importance to our community. We advocate for policies and leadership that will sustain and enhance the qualities that make Chapel Hill a wonderful place to live.
Orange, Chapel Hill-Carrboro school districts discussed local funding issues with the Orange County Commissioners who fund the school system. Both Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools are reevaluating funding in light of the recently approved state budget. Both districts’ Boards of Education met late Tuesday with the Board of Orange County Commissioners to discuss several topics, including an update on how impacts on the local budget will vary from the original estimates. Continue reading →
A poll released Wednesday by Public Policy Polling found that more Chapel Hill voters disapprove of the job the Town Council has been doing than approve of the board’s actions.
And the poll had some very bad news for incumbents seeking re-election in the town’s Nov. 3 municipal elections – only one in four poll respondents said they intend to vote for the incumbents, a further indication that Chapel Hill residents are unhappy with the current council.
“It’s interesting but not surprising that the council’s approval rating is as low as 35%” said CHALT spokesperson Tom Henkel. “There are so many people who engaged in the big development proposals who left feeling frustrated and unheard after none of their suggestions were adopted by the current Council.”
The survey was conducted by telephone Sept. 17-20 and tallied the opinions of 245 registered voters.
PPP, based in Raleigh, found that 40 percent of respondents disapprove of the council’s job performance.
The poll also found that less than half of respondents felt that Chapel Hill was on the right track. Topping the list of reasons to fault the council was the current Town Council’s decision to approve Obey Creek, a 1.6 million square foot retail housing project planned for a site across Us 15-501 from Southern Village. Only ¼ of those surveyed felt that Obey Creek was the right choice for Chapel Hill.
“It’s no wonder that 40% say they’re more inclined to vote for the challengers than the council incumbents. If we can get our message that the nature and pace of development needs a course correction, then I think the voters will elect Pam Hemminger for Mayor, and Oates, Schwartz and Anderson for Council”, concluded Henkel.
The Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town held a press conference Monday September 21 at 1:30 pm to announce their endorsements for the Town Council. (The four empty seats at the front of the room symbolize the open seats of the council election.)
Tom Henkel made the announcement as an early organizer and member of the Coordinating Committee of the Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town (also known as C.H.A.L.T.).
He said, “Many of us had volunteered our time and expertise to take part in the Chapel Hill 2020 planning exercise and its offshoots. To our surprise, not only were we ignored by the mayor and his supporters on the council, we were portrayed as that noisy minority that complains about everything. We kept asking our friends and neighbors if they liked the way Chapel Hill was changing and nobody said yes. So we banded together and the rest is history – or at least, the history of unpaid hard work.”
“It’s appropriate that we are standing here across from the first project in the misguided and poorly conceived Form-Based Code zone passed last year. Tonight the Town Council is considering tweaks to the Code, including one that will clarify that the town’s Resource Conservation District rules will not apply. We think this zone needs an overhaul to realize our community values, and we need new leadership to accomplish this.”
C.H.A.L.T. held the first candidates’ forum last Tuesday evening and on Thursday the most active supporters gathered to vote on our endorsements. We noted the essential planks of our platform and went down the list: how did each of the candidates stack up against our goals for a livable town in what they said and advocated for during the Forum? These planks are:
Deal effectively with traffic and transit problems: Council has still not received from Staff a town-wide traffic study including the effects all approved projects.
Encourage local business, start-ups, and light industry to broaden our -tax base: Council’s building of residential instead of commercial development is costing us.
Retain and promote affordable housing: High-end residential is pushing out affordable rentals.
Make sure all new development meets environmental standards: Example – tonight the town is proposing that the RDC does not apply to the E-F district.
Exert proper oversight over the town manager: The Manager seems to be managing this Council.
Prioritize keeping Chapel Hill leafy and livable: The Mayor and Council are doing the opposite
Support growth that reflects our history as a small, progressive, friendly college town: Many of us came to live in Chapel Hill to get away from the more dense conditions of large metropolitan areas.
Spend our tax money wisely and reprioritize how our tax money is spent: Direct it toward essential services, such as more Building Department inspectors, and away from public relations
For the incumbents, the process was easier to analyze as their voting records are on record and are generally contrary to the CHALT platform.
After a two-hour discussion, the group votes. It was unanimous in favor of Pam Hemminger for mayor, and Jessica Anderson, Nancy Oates, and David Schwartz for Council.
Tom closed by saying, “We think these are exceptionally strong candidates. All have demonstrated their commitment to the high ideals that Chapel Hill’s elected officials should embody. And they all possess what I call “inquiring minds”, which will enable them to make the tough decisions in the years ahead.”
“These candidates have run their own campaigns from day one. We are endorsing them today and will help then. We wish them the best of luck in the November election. Now please join me in welcoming our new Mayor and Town Council members!”
More information about the candidates follows:
Pam Hemminger for Mayor.
Hemminger, a former Orange County Commissioner and school board president, runs a small commercial real estate business in Chapel Hill and brings 30 years of volunteer service to this community. She will strengthen ties between Orange County and Chapel Hill, and be a strong voice for local business owners and start-ups, as well as for expanding our parks and greenway system. She will work toward smarter development and restoring integrity to local government.
Jessica Anderson for Town Council
Anderson, a parent, homeowner and education researcher/analyst, earned a master’s in public policy from Duke University. She currently serves as the principal investigator of North Carolina’s Read to Achieve program. A founder of the Chapel Hill/Carrboro Mother’s Club, Anderson will bring the invaluable perspective of a parents’ network to town council. She advocates smart development, more collaboration between the town and the county school system, social justice, and innovative downtown planning.
Nancy Oates for Town Council.
Oates, who raised two children in Chapel Hill, is a successful freelance journalist who founded the blog Chapel Hill Watch. She knows the strengths and weaknesses of our political system and the needs of our community. She has volunteered in our schools and shelters, and played a leadership role in her church. She will work to enforce affordable-housing mandates, environmental protections, regulatory reforms, and town/gown collaboration.
David Schwartz for Town Council.
Schwartz, a Chapel Hill native and UNC graduate with a Ph.D. in environmental psychology, was the driving force behind the Little Ridgefield Neighborhood Conservation District. He combines a scholarly understanding of growth and urban-planning issues with a practical ability to get things done. He will be a creative and effective advocate for neighborhoods, environmental safeguards, fiscal sustainability, and safer, more bikeable streets.
Last Tuesday evening (9/15) the Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town(CHALT) sponsored the first in a series of public forums for candidates running for Chapel Hill mayor and town council. Not surprisingly, given a groundswell of public concern about recent council decisions, the house was packed. More than 150 people crowded into the theater at the Seymour Senior Center on Homestead Road, and CHALT volunteers scrambled to bring in more chairs.
The two-part forum began with an invitation to all nine of the town council candidates to give short prepared statements on why they are running. (All appeared onstage except Paul Neebe, who was out of the country.) Moderator Theresa Raphael Grimm limited each speaker to a minute and a half. It was a challenging task for the incumbents struggling with an even more extreme version of the Council’s three-minute rule for public comment. Moderator Theresa Raphael Grimm led the candidates through a full agenda beginning with open ended statements about motivations for running to targeted questions for each candidate. See forum questions
The moderator followed up the candidates’ introductory comments with questions about some of CHALT’s key concerns, such as council decision-making, town fiscal management, and the need for commercial development. Each candidate had 90 seconds to reply. After that, the moderator read questions from index cards submitted by audience members. That session ended at roughly 8:30.
Everyone stayed through a two-minute break to hear the three mayoral candidates, who then took the stage: Pam Hemminger, a former Orange County commissioner and school board member; incumbent Mark Kleinschmidt; and Gary Kahn. Kahn ran unsuccessfully for town council two years ago.
Pam Hemminger, who supports many of CHALT’s positions, spoke about her wide ranging experience (positions in environmental groups, school board and the Orange County Commission.) and her collaborative skills of bringing people with different agendas together. It was a spirited exchange, punctuated by some moments of humor. Asked by the moderator to pose a question to his fellow candidates, Kleinschmidt got a big audience laugh by asking Pam Hemminger, “Why do you want my job?”
To hear the answer to that question, Chapelboro readers are encouraged to watch a full video of the event by clicking the links posted above.
The election is November 3, 2015, and early voting at selected locations begins October 22, 2015.
All members of the public are invited to attend a Community Forum on Tuesday, September 15, at the Seymour Senior Center, 2551 Homestead Road in Chapel Hill, from 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Theresa Raphael Grimm, Ph.D. will serve as moderator. The candidates for Chapel Hill mayor and town council will explain why they are running and what they hope to accomplish if elected. The moderator and audience members will then pose additional questions.
As the first major forum of the campaign season, the CHALT Forum provides an opportunity to hear and learn about the views of both incumbents and challengers running in the election on November 3, 2015. The Forum will focus on the fiscal and development issues that face Chapel Hill, a university town of 60,000, and how the management of our continuing growth can influence positive and negative changes in the livability of our town.
C.H.A.L.T. has organized a number of educational events this year featuring aspects of a “livable town” ranging from green building to affordable housing, to the healthy benefits of providing safe biking facilities. In one presentation David Shreve, University of Virginia, brought compelling evidence about why residential growth typically costs more in town services then the revenue it brings in. See events page.
The Community Forum will give prospective voters the information they need, at this critical juncture in the town’s history, to make an informed choice on November 3, 2015. Join us!
The event is sponsored by CHALT in partnership with the Orange County Council on Aging.
In the heat of mid summer, Chapel Hill staff drafted changes to the LUMO or the land use ordinances that set the rules for the town. Find out more information at townofchapelhill.org/lumo. The staff is asking for public comment on revisions on the following topics.
There is a public information session next Monday, August 31 at 6 pm about the overlay district for neighborhood characteristics. Click here for more information. The Council has identified 5 areas for regulation changes:
B&Bs – updates designed to create new regulations that would allow B&Bs
Signage– updates designed to improved overall clarity with graphics, illustrations; greater flexibility with regard to shape, content; additional options for illuminated signs; clarify prohibited signs (e.g., inflatable)
Parking lot landscaping – updates allow multifunctional landscaping for stormwater mitigation, simplify tree canopy calculations, improve screening and reinforce ADA accessibility requirements
Water quality– updates align Watershed Protection District to match State requirements and exemptions, redundant stream buffer text removed, clarified development options, dimensional matrix modified to reflect Town-wide standards based on 2013 Council action, steep slopes ordinance easier to read and use
Neighborhood characteristics overlay – updates originally designed to create a zoning overlay to preserve neighborhood character for those 50 years and older; NOW being proposed only as a supplement to historic districts to help assess compatibility of new homes/additions and as an option for neighborhoods interested in additional standards to preserve character
Click on the bold topic links above to see the proposed changes for each topic.
On Tuesday, September 1 the Planning Commission will review:
Bed & Breakfasts
On Tuesday, Sept 15, the Commission will review:
Neighborhood Character Standards
Water quality standards
The scheduled Council meetings for Phase 1 of the LUMO Update are as follows:
· September 28 (Public Hearing)
· October 26 (Business Meeting)
· November 23 (Business Meeting, as needed)
Good news. Chapel Hill has announced this public information session about the extension of the Bolin Creek Greenway from MLK to Pritchard. This is a great opportunity to ask questions about your concerns about building the greenway very close to a creek. Friends of Bolin Creek has an alert page to record activity here.
Press release: Town of Chapel Hill: Learn more about the construction techniques, their impacts on the environment, and the potential effects of flooding on the trail corridor.
Residents interested in the Bolin Creek Trail expansion project – which includes a trail under Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and two bridges over Bolin Creek – are invited to walk the construction site with the Town of Chapel Hill’s project team to learn more.
The group will meet at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3, at Umstead Park, 399 Umstead Drive.
The trail project addresses the Town’s goal of providing a continuous paved trail from the Chapel Hill Community Center to the Northside neighborhood near downtown. This will be accomplished by joining the Bolin Creek and Tanyard Branch trails. Currently, construction activities are taking place in the section between Umstead Drive and Pritchard Avenue Extension. The project is expected to be completed by summer 2016.
“We have long noted that this section of greenway will probably be one of the most challenging that the Town ever undertakes,” said Parks and Recreation Planning and Development Manager Bill Webster.
The walk will be led by Grayson Baur of the Town’s design firm Surface 678, who will discuss design issues, especially in relation to the challenges encountered in this stretch of the Bolin Creek corridor; Chris Jenson of the Town’s Stormwater Division, who will discuss stormwater impacts, permitting, and erosion control measures; and Bill Webster, who has information on the overall Greenways Master Plan and the specific concept plan for this section of Bolin Creek.
Participants should wear footwear suitable for rough conditions. An optional part of the walk will lead people to the Bolin Creek culvert under Martin L. King Jr. Blvd. Those who participate in this optional part of the hike may want to wear sturdy pants and shirts to protect from heavy brush. At this time the walk is planned for rain or shine.
For more information, contact Parks and Recreation Planning and Development Manager Bill Webster at 919-968-2819 firstname.lastname@example.org. Residents are able to track the progress of construction via an interactive story map available athttp://arcg.is/1FYDI7E. The story map provides a project overview and environmental protection, planting and traffic control plans.
Judy Johnson, Town of Chapel Hill Planning staff member, wrote a letter August 18 to senior Town staff last week informing them that a developer seeking to build a seven-story hotel at 1609 East Franklin Street had withdrawn their rezoning application. (see letter below.)
Does this mean that the neighboring businesses and homeowners, who have raised concerns about the proposed hotel, can breathe a sigh of relief?
Not so fast. Concerned citizens submitted a protest petition to the Town a few months ago, exercising a long-standing right that has served the citizens of Chapel Hill well for decades. Our State Legislature, however, in one of many recent changes that promote the interests of developers over that of the broader citizenry, have eliminated the right to file protest petitions for applications initiated on or after August 1, 2015.
Of significant note is what constitutes a publication of first hearing notice because the Town’s website lists a “Town Council Public Hearing”scheduled for 9/16/15. This clever developer has figured out that by withdrawing the zoning application before publication of the first public hearing notice, they can immediately resubmit and evade the protest petition. A simple majority on the Council will be able to approve the rezoning for the hotel.
The developer’s behavior, though legal, suggests a lack of respect for the concerns of neighboring property owners, and should not be rewarded with a rezoning approval.
Further the Town staff did not inform citizens of change in status until a week later. We expect our Town staff to be transparent and convey full information to citizens, as is required by law. Council members, who the citizens entrust to safeguard their interests, should look with disfavor on such maneuverings and should advise the developer to come up with a new plan for the property that works for all stakeholders.
If you look at the enclosed schedule, the public hearing appears on the schedule http://www.townofchapelhill.org/town-hall/departments-services/planning-and-sustainability/development/development-activity-report/1609-east-franklin-street
From: Judy Johnson Sent: Tuesday, August 18, 2015 12:16 PM To: Mary Jane Nirdlinger; Gene Poveromo; Ralph Karpinos; Roger Stancil; Flo Miller; Dwight Bassett Subject: 1609 East Franklin Street Zoning Atlas Amendment
I have received correspondence from the applicant for 1609 East Franklin Street Hotel Zoning Atlas Amendment application that they are withdrawing their zoning application at this time. With the recent changes to the state legislation regarding protest petitions, applications initiated on or after August 1, 2015 are no longer subject to protest petitions.
According to the Land Use Management Ordinance, only when withdrawal of a zoning application is withdrawn after publication of the first public hearing notice is there a twelve month waiting period. We have not submitted the publication of the first public hearing notice.
The applicant is intending to revise and resubmit a Zoning Atlas Amendment within a very short period of time. If the applicant submits a new Zoning Atlas Amendment application, it would not be subject to a protest petition.
If you have any questions, please let me know.
Judy Johnson, Principal Planner Current Development | Planning and Sustainability 405 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. | Chapel Hill NC 27514
Town of Chapel Hill | www.townofchapelhill.org<http://www.townofchapelhill.org/> t: 919-969-5078 | email@example.com<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>
Chapel Hill deserves leaders who represent the values of the community, and CHALT aims to help the town get them. This year’s election for mayor and council seats is extremely important to the future of Chapel Hill. As candidates communicate their positions, CHALT and its many supporters will be listening closely.
Candidate forums are a tradition in Chapel Hill. We will be posting the dates of all of them as soon as they are scheduled. Following the forums, CHALT will communicate with active citizens from all over town and endorse the candidates we believe will best serve our citizens.
Of course, every voter makes their own endorsement when they cast their ballot, either during early voting early (schedule here) or on election day. Wouldn’t it be great if participation in this year’s election doubled the anemic 12% turnout we saw in 2013?
In recent years, we have been disappointed to discover that candidates who espoused certain popular views while campaigning ended up promoting very different things once in office. The incumbents seeking re-election this year—Kleinschmidt, Bell, Storrow, and Ward—are a case in point. Each of them on one or more occasions disregarded citizen concerns when casting votes in favor of major land use changes, such as Charterwood, Ephesus-Fordham, and Obey Creek. Columnist Terri Buckner thus encourages us to vote for candidates who “will listen to you and your neighbors after the election.” Fortunately, this time around, several such candidates have come forward and offered to serve.
On September 15th, 7 – 8:30 pm, CHALT will host a candidates’ forum at the Seymour Senior Center, for the Chapel Hill candidates. Audience participation will be a part of the format. Save the date!