CHAPEL HILL – With growth in your community concerning some residents, two candidates for Town Council are making the issue a large part of their campaigns.
Political campaign consultant and professor at UNC and NC State, Jonathan Riehl, says this is an issue in the forefront of many residents’ minds.
“While there has been a good amount of planning that has gone into developing, for example, the 2020 plan, I’m certainly hearing that there’s a lot of questions that remain from folks who’ve been here their entire lives about what the impact of this growth is going to be and how fast it’s going to happen,” Riehl says.
Community Design Commission and Central West Steering Committee member, Amy Ryan, says Chapel Hill has offered its citizens a lot over the years and the challenge is to maintain that in the wake of population and development growth.
“People expect a lot out of their town government here, so I think living up to that expectation is a challenge,” Ryan says. “We have fiscal challenges now. We’ve got state and federal funding cuts.”
Riehl says these fears about growth are compounded by concerns that storms and dangerous weather appear to be more frequent around the country and Chapel Hill is not exempt from that.
“The pace of development around town continues, and on the path it’s been going, we don’t know what kind of effects that’s going to have on things like these catastrophic environmental events, which are no longer what they used to call ‘100 year events,’” Riehl says.
While community members have been encouraged to get involved in Chapel Hill’s development planning, Ryan says the Town Council needs to include residents in the discussion when the actual developments start.
“I think it’s really important that we keep extending that community process forward as we talk about these important issues,” Ryan says.
Riehl has worked on federal-level political campaigns but says he has never tried running for office himself.
“Things seemed to line up right and I decided to try and take some of the professional experience I’ve had working in politics and try and put that into practice right here in our home,” Riehl says.
Ryan says her time on the different local boards, especially the steering committee, has given her long exposure to the same issues the town council would need to decide on in the future.
“Having that background in design and development issues helps me really understand those issues and the history behind them and helps Chapel Hill find a good way forward,” Ryan says.
There are four seats on the Chapel Hill Town Council available, with only two incumbents running in this election. Election Day is November 5.