An Open Letter to Sierra Club Members:
Managing development in a sustainable manner is a major goal of the Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town (CHALT). From our platform: “Protect and enhance the quality of our streams, natural landscapes, parks, recreational trails and wildlife habitats.”
Because of our strong shared interest in protecting the health and beauty of Chapel Hill’s environment, we encourage our fellow Sierra Club members to cast their votes for the candidates that C.H.A.L.T. has endorsed.
The candidates’ background and environmental qualifications follow:
Mayor candidate Pam Hemminger has demonstrated long experience in the environmental field through her long service to the Sierra Club and the Triangle Land Conservancy. Most recently, Orange County appointed Hemminger to the Upper Neuse River Basin Association (UNRBA) where she serves as Board Chair of an organization consisting of 5 municipalities, 6 counties, and local Soil and Water Conservation Districts. The watershed board’s mission is to preserve the water quality of the river basin and to provide an ongoing forum for cooperation on water quality protection and water resource planning and management within the 770-square-mile watershed. Hemminger’s job is to establish the policies with her board members that will guide the technical work. She has skillfully brought together the differing interests of each city and jurisdiction involved in this effort. Read more about Pam’s work here.
Council candidate Jessica Anderson has demonstrated her commitment to the environment by advocating for density bonuses tied energy efficiency and other incentives that allow our town to meet the American Institute of Architects’ challenge for all new buildings, developments and renovations to be carbon neutral by 2030; promising to push for Chapel Hill to be declared a solar community and encouraging homeowners, businesses and UNC to begin to utilize solar energy systems on their buildings; working toward expanding sensible public transit options for those who live and those who work in Chapel Hill; and looking at ways our town can support more environmentally-friendly forms of transportation, such as charging stations for electric buses and cars.
Council candidate Nancy Oates has repeatedly urged council to manage growth so it doesn’t flood out existing neighborhoods and drive out local businesses. She understands that having some accessible “green” in our lives is essential to a good quality of life and a reason many of us stay in Chapel Hill rather than move to more affordable cities.
Council candidate David Schwartz holds a Master’s degree in Natural Resource Policy and an PhD in Environmental Psychology. He has long-standing interests in identifying ways to manage our environmental impacts so as to protect landscape values and promote human health and well-being. In addition to conducting research and teaching at both Duke and UNC, he lectures at the NC Botanical Garden and the Sarah P Duke Gardens on how access to urban green space promotes human health. His home in Chapel Hill abuts the lower Booker Creek floodplain, so he is understands well the Town’s stormwater management challenges. David will be a forceful advocate for protecting woodland, streams, and other natural landscapes within the Town’s boundaries and the agricultural and low-density landscapes that compose the rural buffer.
Fortunately our endorsed council candidates do not have a poor environmental record to deny. Their strong stance on holistic planning that stresses action on stormwater and flooding, smart growth that balances vertical density with green space, and most importantly, their advocacy for sustainable green building methods make them the preferred environmental candidates.
Incumbents Mayor Kleinschmidt, Donna Bell, Lee Storrow, and Jim Ward do not have a progressive record of votes. Jim Ward is the only one of your endorsees who has an interest in making environmental and sustainable decisions which he demonstrated in forcefully opposing the Ephesus Fordham redistricting and pressing for a high level of stormwater management for Obey Creek. Under the incumbents’ tenure they made policy and/or adopted in formal votes the following measures harmful to our environment:
The Town Council:
- Directed town staff to prepare text language to reduce stream buffers to 50 feet.
- Approved over 4 million square feet (net) in additional impervious surface.
- Approved over 15,000 new parking spaces associated with development.
- Voted to allow paving up to 50% for a single family lot.
- Approved Charterwood located at the headwaters of Booker Creek with the result that Lake Ellen and Eastwood Lake are again filling with sediment.
- Wasted thousands of dollars on worthless engineering studies on Ephesus Fordham; studies commissioned by the Town’s economic development officer who lacked stormwater training and experience.
- Voted for a new road to be built at taxpayer expense through a flood way in Ephesus Fordham.
- Gave away its planning authority to the Town Manager who approved a building footprint on top of an existing greenway resulting in rebuilding the greenway closer to Booker Creek.
- Upzoned nearly 200 acres at the bottom of a watershed without upstream volume controls in place to reduce flooding, after approving 2.8 million square feet impervious surface upstream.
- Actively considered allowing the Edge developer to build a hotel on top of a stream (currently pending).
We’ve reached out to your leadership on several occasions to inform them of the decline of the care of the environment in Chapel Hill. It is distressing that the above facts were overlooked in your endorsements.
Former Air Quality Professional, US EPA
Former Town Council member (3 terms)
Former Chair OWASA Board
Chapel Hill, NC 27514