Category Archives: CHALT

Update on Proposed Municipal Service Center

Pictured is the stream determination map of wooded tract selected for Municipal Services Center.

The Town is planning to build new municipal buildings to serve as police headquarters, fire department administration, and parks and recreation offices, among other purposes. UNC offered this tract of land to Town officials located between the Elkin Hills neighborhood and Estes Drive Extension and will likely have two entrances/exits on Estes Drive Extension across from Carolina North. Elkin Hills, a Chapel Hill neighborhood, is located to the south and downhill from the project, and Ironwoods is located to the west.

The land is heavily wooded and has several streams. The Town and UNC have organized a facilitated process including the neighbors and all interested parties to participate in the design of the plan. If you want to be on the Town list for meeting notifications you can contact Aaron Frank at the Chapel Hill Planning Department. Town webpage here.

Given the challenges of building on a rolling and stream laced wooded site, it will be essential that the the final agreement contain standards to prevent downstream flooding. Limiting impervious surface is essential because the amount of impervious square feet is directly proportional to the amount of runoff and potential flooding of the homes located downhill. The Town Council will consider an update at their regularly scheduled meeting on January 31st.

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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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Wishing you Happy Holidays and Looking Back at 2016

                                             Carolina Inn – Chapel Hill’s Christmas Centerpiece

Happy Holidays to our family of supporters and all those who want to make Chapel Hill an even better place to live.  This Our Town website is chock full of interesting local news, articles, and opinion about our home town, Chapel Hill.   Learn about the goals of Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town (CHALT) by reading our past newsletters, blog posts, or by attending our educational events.

CHALT advocates for a livable Chapel Hill by educating and promoting a future that will honor and protect Chapel Hill’s small town character, and our longstanding values of inclusion, environmental stewardship and education. Detailed mission and goals can be found here.

  A Look Back at 2016……

The New Mayor and Council

The election of Pam Hemminger as Mayor of Chapel Hill has brought practical economic policies and a kinder gentler tone to Town governance.  Many citizens feel more welcome at Council meetings.  Petitions are now handled expeditiously instead of lost in an abyss, and upcoming public hearings are listed on a town webpage. The Mayor initiated a Food for the Summer progam that was an enormous success. Her energy and boundless interest in all aspects of the Town are astounding.

The election of CHALT – endorsed Council members Jessica Andersen and Nancy Oates has meant that citizens whose views were not previously represented on the Council, now have a voice.  Nancy and Jessica’s  presence has sharpened the Council’s oversight role of the management of the town by their insightful questioning of Council direction and town policies. We appreciate their service!

American Legion Sale: a Big Win for the Town! 

We celebrate the Town Council’s new support for a more enlightened use of the American Legion property, rather than the unimaginative and fiscally draining luxury apartments previously proposed. The sale of this land to the town means the Town will add an additional park with other opportunities that will benefit everyone.  Kudos to the entire Town Council and especially to Mayor Hemminger for leading the negotiations!  We look forward to having public participation in the strategic planning process to create our newest park.

Sancar Turkish Cultural Center

On November 21, The Town Council unanimously approved a local Nobel laureate’s plan to create a Turkish cultural center on East Franklin Street. The Council approved a special use permit for 1609 E. Franklin St, formerly the site of a contentious hotel proposal that was not approved.

Named for UNC scientists Aziz and Gwen Sancar, the center will feature net-zero energy buildings, which means that the roof-mounted solar energy systems will produce sufficient energy to offset any energy taken from the electrical grid to run the buildings’ energy systems.  This building design will set the standard for future sustainable development in Chapel Hill.

Transportation Planning Upgrades

After years of thinking and talking about it, it appears the Town is finally on track to improve transportation planning by implementing a traffic model for Ephesus Fordham that can be utilized for the entire town. In addition, CHALT’s Fred Lampe petitioned the Transit Partners to evaluate electric buses who requested that Chapel Hill Transit hire a consultant to study how much an electric bus costs over the useful lifetime of the vehicle.

Ephesus Fordham District (E-F)

We know that many Town Council members agree with us that the Form Based Code (FBC) that governs the Ephesus Fordham District needs to be fixed.  The zone encompasses nearly 200 acres and was intended as an initiative to spur more vibrant and interesting growth. Most agree that the FBC did not achieve these intentions and that progress toward repairing this new zone has been too slow. In June 2016, the Town Council made an amendment requiring  a designed break or pass through in the otherwise monolithic building form, but until the remaining problems with the FBC are fixed, developers are free to propose buildings that meet but few restrictions.

Consultants hired. In addition to making modest design changes to the FBC, the Council directed the Town Manager to hire a number of consultants to address “walkability”, transportation and design guideline elements that were not included in the original FBC approved in May of 2014. See town webpage of scheduled code improvements.

New zone replaces Town ordinances.  It is worth remembering that in approving the FBC, the Town Council abandoned some of the finest aspects of our Land Use Management Ordinance, specifically height restrictions, setbacks, and buffers, as well as requirements for affordable housing, and stormwater management.  The resulting projects so far, show what happens when public hearings are removed from the review process. Few people appreciate the monstrous new high rise luxury apartments on South Elliott Road that have eliminated the large trees we previously enjoyed along the road and those along the greenway bordering Booker Creek. The one story buildings in Rams Plaza are not objectionable (they could have been 2- 3 stories)  but the FBC failed to solve the entry and exit problems. And there is general concern about building large new buildings in what was formerly the Resource Conservation District in the flood plain.

Touted transportation improvements. The jury is out as to whether the highly touted Ephesus Rd – 15-501 intersection improvements or the planned extension of Elliott Rd will actually relieve traffic congestion and be worth the taxpayer contribution.

Current E-F strategy may not be working.  Everyone is concerned about the RAM proposal for large new monolithic buildings to be built in the Resource Conservation District and the flood plain from Elliott along Fordham Blvd which could be approved 45 days after the application is submitted. That proposal conflicts with the Town’s own proposal to build a stormwater storage pond there that would also create needed green space and park space. As is the case for all potential projects in the Ephesus Fordham District, the Town Manager has exclusive decision-making authority, since the FBC requires no public hearings.  The only other oversight allowed by the FBC is comment by the Community Design Commission on building facades.

The Consultants’ work is not yet complete but progress is not encouraging.  The walkability recommendations recently presented to the Council ignored the public pleas for green spaces, and safe biking and walking, and instead promoted changes the land owners preferred.

Perhaps more worrisome, while the Town Council professes commitment to fixing the FBC, they do not appear in a hurry to do so before more bad projects are approved.  See Chapel Hill news story about more apartments on 15-501 and Elliott built in a low lying flood zone. We are losing faith that the FBC can be fixed and wonder whether moving back to the previous rules for approving proposals would not be a better approach.

Light Rail Price Tag Out of Sight 

Orange County’s transportation plan includes a robust bus service to outlying areas, bus rapid transit, and light rail.  The immediate funding problem will come to a head in April when the County Commissioners will be asked to pay the extra costs for the light rail price tag which has gone through the roof due to the diminishing chances of state funding. GoTriangle is looking to the local counties (Durham ad Orange Counties) to make up the difference to the tune of 250 million dollars and more.

CHALT is concerned that the price will preclude the development of the more flexible portions of the plan as well as impact County responsibilities for schools and social services.  We believe that the extraordinary costs of the light rail proposed plan makes this a good time for Orange County Commissioners to reevaluate the County’s participation in a plan that does not appear to benefit anyone but UNC Health Care.

Support our Educational Efforts

Finally, please support our excellent Speakers Series by making a donation today.  Press the Donate Button to the right and support our work.

Thank you for your interest and support!

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Downtown Chapel Hill Needs Good Design

Ned Crankshaw Event

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CHALT High Technology Forum

Click on link for Hurdles, Strategies for Growing High-Tech Business Chapel Hill the Chapel Hill News article by Tammy Grubb.

biotech9On June 7, CHALT sponsored a public forum entitled “Nurturing High Technology Businesses in Chapel Hill’. The forum explored whether the Town of Chapel Hill should more actively support the growth of local information technology and biotechnology businesses and how the Town might support them effectively. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill generates many small high technology companies. As the successful ones grow and mature, however, they tend to leave Chapel Hill for other nearby or out-of-state locations. In contrast, other university towns, such as Boulder, Co and Ann Arbor, MI, have retained more of their homegrown high tech businesses.

Three invited speakers and two CHALT members made presentations. The invited speakers included Michelle Bolas representing UNC’s Vice Chancellor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and two scientist-entrepreneurs. Natalia Mitin, Ph.D is President of Healthspan Dx, a UNC ‘spin-off’ company that left Chapel Hill for premises in RTP. Jude Samulski, Ph.D. is the co-founder of Bamboo Therapeutics, a Chapel Hill-based biotech company. Fred Lampe and David Schwartz of CHALT presented information on high tech development in Ann Arbor, MI and Boulder, CO, respectively.

Approximately 50 people attended the forum, including Mayor Hemminger and several members of the Chapel Hill Town Council. Representatives of the local media and several local entrepreneurs, both active and retired, also attended. A discussion period followed the presentations.  CHALT member Rudy Juliano, Ph.D., moderated the forum, where these themes emerged.

  1. High tech businesses provide both good jobs and net positive tax revenues;
  2. Tech entrepreneurs prefer to locate their operations close to the university;
  3. Quality of life issues are important to high tech companies;
  4. Biotech and info-tech companies have very different space and facilities requirements;
  5. Compared to other college towns, such as Ann Arbor, Chapel Hill has done little to recruit or retain high tech businesses;
  6. Impediments to high tech business growth in Chapel Hill include lack of suitable rental space, especially for biotech companies, and lack of convenient parking. For example, Ms. Bolas noted that UNC-related startups need around 200,000 square feet of work space, but only 26,000 square feet are available on campus;
  7. These impediments cause companies that would prefer to remain in Chapel Hill for access and quality of life reasons to look elsewhere.

Rosalin Franklin Opening 151012

CHALT members are currently studying in detail the issues raised at the forum, and we look forward to working with the Town on ways to more effectively nurture and retain our homegrown high tech businesses.

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150 Gather in Carrboro for Orlando Vigil

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Nurturing Technology in Chapel Hill

We’ve all wondered what kind of economic development would really grow Chapel Hill’s net revenues — we’ve learned that expensive apartments buildings grow our tax base but won’t help our bottom line (more money going out in service costs than is brought in by revenues.)

Is high tech the solution? Join us on Tuesday, June 7th for a discussion by experts: “Nurturing High Technology Businesses in Chapel Hill”.  This free event will be held at Extraordinary Ventures, at Elliott Road,  from 6:00 – 8:00 pm.

Microsoft Word - CHALTForumAnnouncementFlier.docx

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American Legion Property Summary

Tonight:  Jan 13th 6:00 – 8:00 pm public meeting  about potential development of the American Legion property.

On January 13 at 6pm at the Legion Hall on Legion Road where the possible developers of the American Legion parcel, Woodfield LLC, will be describing their plans for the property (if they acquire it).  The public is invited. Here is a simple list of what has happened.

1.  The American Legion Post 6, owner of this 36.2-acre parcel on Legion Road, has decided for various reasons that they need to sell this property.  They have every right to do so.

2.  In 2005, the Legion and the Town (through manager Cal Horton) had agreed that, whenever that unique parcel of fields and woodlands were sold, the Town would be given the right of first refusal to buy the land.

3.  In the Spring of 2015, the Legion advised the Town of their plans to sell.  The Town then appraised the parcel and, as it stands today — with its current zoning — it was appraised at $2.4 million.

4.  The Legion then solicited offers from private developers.  Woodfield responded with a bid of $9 million if the Town allows them to build a 400-unit upscale apartment complex on the land, and $10 million if the Town allows 600 apartments.  (Since about 5,500 upscale apartments have already been approved in other locations — Ephesus Fordham, Obey Creek, and many others — which is probably enough to satisfy demand for a couple decades, one might legitimately ask how the Town would benefit from another 600.)

5.  Woodfield’s offer to the Legion is contingent upon several Town concessions.  First, the Town must re-zone the parcel to enable them to build 400 or 600 apartments on the property.  (That would not be allowed under current zoning.)  Second, the Town must give the developer access to adjoining Town property so that the developer could build trails and a road from the Legion property to Ephesus Road, immediately beside Ephesus School and the tennis courts/park beside the school.  This road (and a bike trail) is promoted as a “public amenity” donated to the Town by the developer, although the only beneficiary would be the developer.  Many think these “concessions” are inadequate compensation for the additional traffic and service costs to the town caused by a high density development.

6.  In other words, it would be concessions from the Town that would increase the value of the parcel from its current $2.4 million to as much as $10 million.  At a price of $9 to $10 million, the Town feels that it could not afford to buy the parcel (e.g., for a park) — despite the Parks and Rec bond that was passed in November — and accordingly, Council voted (in closed session in November 2015) to forego its right of first refusal.

7.  The next step would be for the developer to approach the Town and Council requesting the required re-zoning of the parcel and the necessary access to build the road on Town property, probably as part of a Special Use Permit process.  Council hearings on this process would be open to the public.  If the Town refused these things, Woodfield’s offer would be voided, and the $9- to $10 million deal would be off.

The meeting at the Legion Hall tonight will be the public’s first opportunity to learn first-hand the envisioned details regarding this proposed development.  If you are concerned about this proposed project, you would benefit by attending this meeting, becoming educated about the project, and perhaps offering comments that could influence the developer’s design.

Among the concerns that we might want to explore are the traffic impacts of 600 new apartments on Legion and Ephesus Roads, and on Fordham.  Also, is there any potential that the Legion property — which abuts Colony Woods — would have a connecting road to CW that would send traffic through that neighborhood?

Your primary opportunity for input on a an actual application will come later, when this project comes before Council for review.  But the time to start learning about what’s been happening behind closed doors is now.

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John Quinterno Debunks Myth that Chapel Hill is Slow Growth

In a fascinating free talk sponsored by C.H.A.L.T. on October 12, John Quinterno of South by North Strategies Ltd., a local consulting firm specializing in economic and social policy, debunked the popular myth that Chapel Hill is a town that doesn’t grow. Both the town’s population and its housing stock grew by almost 50 percent from 1990 to 2010, and both are projected to keep growing. By any objective measure, Chapel Hill has grown tremendously, but the town’s growth has occurred in a more deliberate manner than in many other parts of the Triangle.

Understanding the reality of past growth in Chapel Hill is essential for understanding the context of the upcoming municipal elections. Many incumbent council members believe that Chapel Hill needs to grow at a much faster rate to make up for lost time and to keep pace with neighboring communities. To that end, the council has championed a trajectory of faster growth led by high-end, high-rise residential construction. While this new trajectory may be more financially lucrative for certain vested interests, it can impose significant costs on current residents and businesses in such forms as higher future taxes, congestion, environmental degradation, household and business displacement, and neighborhood destabilization.

“By any objective standard, Chapel Hill has grown rapidly, if more deliberately than other parts of the Triangle,” said Quinterno. “The decision to change course, then, is a political one that has little to do with growth and everything to do with power: the power to govern, the power to decide whose interests matter, the power to spend public dollars, and the power to require the public to subsidize the profits of favored private interests.”

The Daily Tarheel live tweeted the event, and the Storify collection is here.

Attached are John Quinterno’s slides from the event.

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Lots of Interest in First Candidate Forum

Town Council Forum Video:
Mayoral Forum Video:

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.


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