CHAPEL HILL – Chapel Hill’s Mark Kleinschmidt, Hillsborough’s Tom Stevens, and Carrboro’s Lydia Lavelle–all running unopposed for mayor of their respective towns– agree that change will come to our area due to population growth in Orange County. The three leaders say that it will be essential to manage that change rather than letting it happen simply happen.
On the eve of Election Day, Kleinschmidt, Stevens and Lavelle joined WCHL’s Aaron Keck for a special conversation about the future of the three towns in the next two years and beyond.
Current Board of Aldermen member Lavelle said that years ago it would have been hard to imagine a hotel coming to downtown Carrboro. She said the 300 East Main development was built in a way that fit the landscape of Downtown. Other changes will be coming to Downtown as part of 300 East Main, Lavelle explained, and she believed those changes would be a part of a necessary evolution of main street.
“Our particular challenge, I think, is being such a small geographically speaking municipality. One of the smallest, if not the most dense, towns in North Carolina, approximately six square miles, is where we will have to accommodate people, how we will grow and accommodate them in our community,” Lavelle said.
Incumbents Kleinschmidt and Stevens agreed that the municipalities should be viewing growth through a regional perspective. Hillsborough is approximately equidistant from Durham as it is from Chapel Hill, Stevens observed.
“The reason that [growth] is the big issue is what is the impact on the quality of life? What is the impact on the lifestyle? The character of our community? I think that is why growth becomes such a touchstone issue,” Stevens said.
Kleinschmidt said the community should not get caught up in absolutes in regard to proposed aesthetic aspects in development plans; for example, building heights. Rather he said the Town should concentrate on creating spaces that will provide people the experience they want from a certain area of Chapel Hill.
“I think there are opportunities for change within our 20 square miles. The catalyst for that change will be the growth that will come to us,” Kleinschmidt said. “A good example of that is the Fordham/ Ephesus Church area. Others are right along the edges, along 86, along 40, along the southern part of town. I think there will be a lot of change, and I think the growth will help us create it.”
The candidates agreed that with growth comes the challenge of managing change without losing the character of each town.
As to what development Stevens would like to see in Hillsborough, he offered this, “We are chomping at the bit for a hotel. Just looking at the success that Carrboro had with getting the Hampton Inn there, I’d love to see something like that happen in Hillsborough. That is a piece that is missing.”
Lavelle said she would like to see Carrboro create an arts district, similar to the Golden Belt space in Durham.
“What I’d like to see somewhere in Carrboro is some kind of a similar type space,” Lavelle said. “I’m not sure where that would fit or how that would happen, but I think that is a natural fit for our community.”
Kleinchmidt would like to see Ephesus Church Road/Fordham Boulevard Focus Area plans receive the council’s approval. Since 2006, he said Town leaders have been discussing their vision for the area, and he said he is ready for change to happen.
“[We need to] write a code that reflects it and then get out of the way,” Kleinschmidt said. “I am confident that we have some folks that own property [there] and have shovels in their hands and are ready to go if we can just get moving on this.”