Carrboro Aldermen Consider Drug Store Drive-Throughs

CARRBORO – The Town of Carrboro is asking for public input about whether drive-thoughs should be allowed at future pharmacies.

There are very few existing drive-through lanes at downtown businesses in Carrboro. They’re at a handful of banks and fast-food restaurants, including Wendy’s, Arby’s and Burger King.

Those have been around for a while. The Carrboro Board of Aldermen is not eager to add more.

“What is Carrboro supposed to look like in 20, 30, 50 years?” said Alderperson Damon Seils. “When I think about Carrboro in that time span, I don’t think of a community where drive-throughs are a reasonable land use.”

Town Staff and the Board of Aldermen are concerned about the environmental impact of vehicles idling in drive-through lanes.

They want to promote the concept of walkability. In their view, getting out of cars encourages people to pop into more downtown businesses while running errands.

But the drive-through issue won’t go away. The Board received some applications for drive-throughs as a feature of development last year.

Aldermen responded by directing Town staff to draft an amendment that took drive-throughs completely off the table for all future developments.

The discussion at Tuesday night’s Alderman meeting did not end with a final vote on that. It was just a check-in from Town staff, which is still in the process of researching the topic.

When it was time for Aldermen to offer comments, Alderperson Randee Haven-O’Donnell said she’s been asking Carrboro residents what kind of drive-through they would consider essential to their daily lives.

Here’s what one person told her:

“One mother explained how hard it was to bundle the children up, the sick child, take them to the pharmacy, and walk them into the pharmacy, with them being ill, and how nightmarish that was.”

Haven-O’Donnell added that it’s an issue for some seniors, too.

The idea of making an exception for pharmacies got some initial pushback.

Alderperson Damon Seils pointed out that Carrboro Family Pharmacy offers delivery to some customers, and that seemed to him to be the more sensible solution.

Alderperson Michelle Johnson said she understood how important the issue is to seniors. But she’s skeptical about drive-throughs.

“I have a parent who can’t walk, so I understand that it’s a need, and access is really important, she said, but added: “I want to encourage us to think about other mechanisms.”

Alderperson Sammy Slade said that the Town could perhaps reach out to local pharmacies about adding or expanding delivery services to those in need.

At the end of the discussion, Aldermen voted to direct Town staff to draft the ordinance prohibiting any more drive-throughs.

But this time, they left open the possibility of considering pharmacy drive-through requests in the future, pending more study.

And Alderperson Haven-O’Donnell had this request for Carrboro citizens:

“Chime in. You know, when we don’t hear from you, there’s this tacit assumption that you either don’t care, or you don’t have the need.”

Carrboro Cyclists Win Battle to Share the Road

CARRBORO- The Carrboro bicycling community was out in force at Tuesday night’s Board of Aldermen meeting, and those in attendance got what they came for: The same rights of the road enjoyed by drivers of all other roadway vehicles.

“Carrboro is a bicycling destination,” said John Rees, president of the Carolina Tarwheels bicycle club. “And having legislation or ordinances, such as this, is discouraging to that.”

Rees, along with members of the Carrboro Bicycle Coalition, spoke Tuesday night to Aldermen about striking what they called discriminatory language in the town code, regarding the rules of the road.

They wanted the local rules to be consistent with state laws that say nothing about bicyclists being restricted to the farthest right of the lane.

But a subsection of a Carrboro ordinance did mandate that, along with a subsection that prohibited cyclists from riding more than two abreast.

Bicycle Coalition Chair Charlie Hileman spoke at length about unfairness.

“What we’re trying to say is, overall, to not enact any laws that specifically target cyclists over other users of public roadways,” he said.

Hileman pointed out that there were no mentions in the Carrboro law regarding lane position of trucks, tractors and mopeds, even though they, too, may be traveling slower than other traffic at times.

He said the Carrboro rules made cyclists legally vulnerable in the case of an accident. And because the boundaries between Chapel Hill and Carrboro are blurry in the minds of many people, cyclists were often unaware they were breaking any law.

There was sympathetic talk among aldermen about the hazards of riding a bike downhill on some of Carrboro’s narrow streets.

But there were also concerns about the ramifications of change. Alderman Randee Haven-O’Donnell asked cycling representatives to educate others about the possible dangers of riding two-or-three abreast.

“If cyclists are riding two abreast, and they’re on the far side of that curve on the blind side, it could be really dangerous,” she said.

Bicycle Coalition board member Ginger Guidry had an answer for that.

“It’s the responsibility of the car driving on the road, to not encroach on the vehicle that they’re passing,” said Guidry. “In this case, perhaps a bicycle. And it’s their responsibility also to be driving at a safe speed.”

Plus, she argued, riding too far to the right can actually make a cyclist less visible to traffic coming up from behind.

In the end, Alderman Damon Seils moved to cut those two subsections from the ordinance entirely.

That motion passed unanimously, to applause. More then a dozen cycle enthusiasts then got up and left, some of them holding biking helmets.

3 Carrboro BoA Members Vow to Keep Supporting ‘Moral Mondays’

CARRBORO- Regardless of the outcome in a Wake County courtroom today, three Carrboro Aldermen that were arrested at a June 3 Moral Monday protest at the State Capitol say they’ll continue to push back against what Alderman Sammy Slade calls “extreme measures” of the North Carolina General Assembly.

“The reasons for why people are outraged and trying to express their grievances haven’t changed,” he says. “So why do anything other than ramping it up? Because that’s what they’re going to be doing.”

Slade calls the Moral Monday protests a “snowballing movement,” and predicts that Saturday’s gathering in Raleigh at the “HK on J” rally will be “huge.”

His fellow Moral Monday defendants in Carrboro’s Board of Aldermen expressed the same feelings, after last night’s Aldermen meeting.

Damon Seils urges constituents to march alongside Moral Monday protesters in Raleigh this weekend.

“One way for people to stay involved, or get involved for the first time is to march in the HK on J Rally in Raleigh on Saturday,” he says.

The Annual Historic Thousands on Jones Street march begins with a 9:30 a.m. gathering at Shaw University. Alderman Michelle Johnson, another one of the Moral Monday defendants, says she’ll be there.

“We’re folks who are still impacted by the policies made in Raleigh,” says Johnson, “and so are the people that we represent. So I’ll just keep supporting, and showing up to the Moral Mondays.”

Carrboro Aldermen To Update MLK Park Plan

CARRBORO- Carrboro leaders say its time to update plans for a town park that’s been in the works for more than a decade.

The Board of Aldermen approved the purchase of land at 1120 Hillsborough Road in 1999 and endorsed a master plan for the Martin Luther King Jr. Park back in 2004, but in all those years, there’s never been money available to make that plan a reality.

Anita Jones-McNair directs the town’s Recreation and Parks Department. She told the Aldermen on Tuesday so much time has passed that town needs have changed.

“Ten years is a pretty long time to sit on a plan,” said Jones-McNair. “We’ve had lots of different changes, lots of different requests for all kinds of space that at this time we don’t have any real development for.”

The current plan for the 10 acre park includes a playground, athletic fields, ping pong tables and a sculpture garden, but it does not include the community garden that’s been growing on the site since 2007.

Board members agreed it’s important to incorporate that into the revised park plan. Alderman Randee Haven-O’Donnell suggested it might also be a chance for the town to consider new recreational options.

“Many of our parks miss the opportunity to address the interests and needs of children older than eight years old, and that was one of the things I thought was really cool about the pump parks,” said Haven-O’Donnell.

Town staffers are looking to hire a consultant to revise the plan based on feedback from residents and elected officials. The Martin Luther King Jr. park is slated for development in 2016.

Rogers Road Remediation Plan Still Stalled

CHAPEL HILL- Despite heated debate at Thursday’s Assembly of Governments, elected officials are still at an impasse when it comes to the Rogers Road remediation plan.

Leaders from Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County met together to discuss how to move forward with a plan to bring sewer service and a community center to the Rogers Road neighborhood, which has lived with the landfill for forty years.

Chapel Hill Town Council member Matt Czajkowski pushed his peers to commit funding to the plan as soon as possible.

“Until we start talking about funding, all we’re doing is talking,” said Czajkowski. “And it is about time we stop talking.”

The Historic Rogers Road Task Force came up with a plan to provide sewer service to all 86 homes in the neighborhood at a cost of $5.8 million dollars. The plan has widespread support among local leaders, but the towns and county face two major obstacles, namely, a pending federal investigation into the county planning department, and no clear method for Chapel Hill to contribute its share of money.

The EPA announced this summer it was investigating claims filed by the Rogers Eubanks Neighborhood Association, or RENA, that the county discriminated against the largely African-American neighborhood by failing to apply for federal grant money to fund sewer service.

At the advice of the county attorney, commissioners have held off on endorsing the Rogers Road remediation plan until the investigation is complete. Commissioner Mark Dorosin said that’s a mistake.

“We’re at the point where we should move forward,” said Dorosin. “I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I think it is a disastrous idea to sit back and wait until the EPA makes its decision.”

Carrboro Alderman Damon Seils agreed, suggesting formal approval of the remediation plan could bring the investigation to an end. He said the solution may lie in recent correspondence between the county attorney and the attorney representing RENA.

“It’s right here before us. The county attorney says a commitment can be made if RENA agrees to withdraw the complaint and we now have a letter from RENA saying they will withdraw the complaint [if the plan is adopted],” said Seils. “We’ve got the solution right here in front of us, folks.”

But the question of what to do about the EPA investigation got sidetracked by finger-pointing between town officials about who pays what when.

The task force approved a cost-sharing plan based on the 1972 landfill agreement. According to that plan, Carrboro would pay 14 percent and Chapel Hill and Orange County would each contribute 43 percent of the nearly $6 million dollar sewer project.

To do that, Chapel Hill has to find a way to spend town money outside town boundaries. One solution is to absorb the neighborhood into the town’s Extraterritorial Jurisdiction, a process that’s already underway. Another option might be to create a sewer district that includes Rogers Road and extends into Chapel Hill.

While Chapel Hill is struggling to figure out how to contribute, Carrboro has designated $900,000 to cover its portion of the plan. Mayor Chilton lambasted Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt over the town council’s failure to commit to funding.

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Nonetheless, Council Member Lee Storrow urged the group to put their differences aside and accept the task force’s recommendation as the best solution.

“All of our governments have been at fault and all have done things that we’re not happy about regarding this neighborhood and there’s no perfect magic bullet funding formula that’s going to make everyone happy,” said Storrow. “Maybe the county’s number should be slightly higher, there are concerns about Carrboro and there are concerns about things Chapel Hill has done, but I think this funding formula best gets to the root concerns that we all have about the impact that we’ve have made on this neighborhood by dumping our trash for forty years.”

Town and county managers asked to be granted authority to start planning for the implementation of the sewer plan, if and when the towns and county commit funding. In response, the boards and council asked for the managers to return with a report next spring evaluating all the options.

Carrboro Aldermen To Pick Election or Appointment December 10

CARRBORO- Carrboro Aldermen voted unanimously on Tuesday to schedule a special session December 10 for the purpose of deciding how to fill the upcoming vacancy on the board.

When Lydia Lavelle is sworn in as mayor on December 3, she’ll leave an empty seat on the board. The Aldermen must choose to fill the vacancy by appointment or at a special election held during the May primary.

Although they also have the option to hold a separate town-wide special election before May, board members last week ruled that out as too expensive.

Carrboro’s special election this past March to fill Dan Coleman’s seat cost the Town approximately $18,000. Damon Seils was the sole candidate; he won with 232 votes.

Prior to that, the last vacancy filled on the board was that of Mark Chilton, who, like Lavelle, left a seat open when he was elected Mayor of Carrboro in 2005.

According to the town’s charter, the board must launch the replacement process at the first meeting after a seat becomes vacant.

Carrboro Aldermen Debate Downtown Parking

CARRBORO- The Board of Aldermen wants to hire a consultant to conduct a comprehensive study of the availability of residential and business parking around the downtown area, but board members differ on what should be the ultimate goal of the town’s parking plan.

Sammy Slade said he’d like to see reduced parking downtown to encourage public transit and limit vehicle emissions.

“We just had a typhoon in the Philippines, we’re likely to have disasters here, and we’re supposed to be a town that’s leading the way in mitigating climate change,” said Slade. “It is very frustrating to not be able to register this reality and move forward with a bold plan.”

Others, including Jacqueline Gist, disagreed, saying such a move could hurt downtown businesses.

“I cannot say ‘reduce the number of parking spaces and support our downtown businesses and keep downtown accessible,’” said Gist. “I think the study will give us some facts to do that, but I’m not going to support something, the premise of which is come up with a plan that reduces parking.”

Mayor Mark Chilton said while he sympathized with Slade, the request to lower the current number of spaces is not consistent with the town’s growth plans.

“There are other aspects of where our planning is headed for the downtown area that call for additional businesses and additional residences to come into the downtown area,” said Chilton. “It seems to me it is not very realistic to think of continued growth without having some continued growth in the amount of parking.”

Chilton suggested that changing the parking ratio for future developments might be a workable alternative.

The town collaborated with UNC students in 2008 to conduct a parking survey, but Randee Haven-O’Donnell said it’s time to update the plan as conditions downtown are rapidly changing.

“You know the data that’s in there is based on the lots that existed or were in use at the time, but things are changing, and I think it’s important for us to look at what’s really on the ground now and what’s going to change in the next year or two,” said Haven-O’Donnell.

The comprehensive parking plan outlined by town staffers would not only include a survey of available business and residential parking, it would also lay out a policy for managing the town’s parking supply.

Although board members agreed on the need for such a plan, the potential $100,000 consultant fee gave some pause.

“Obviously one of the issues here is the cost of undertaking a project like this. It has pretty big implications for a budget the size of ours,” said Damon Seils. “There will need to be some discussion about that.”

The board directed staffers to refine the proposal and said they want to gather public feedback to clarify the goal of the parking plan. Funding for the project will likely be discussed at the board’s planning retreat scheduled for early next year.

Aldermen Push For Action On Rogers Road Plan

CHAPEL HILL- Carrboro Aldermen on Thursday pushed Orange County Commissioners to move forward on a plan to bring sewer service to the Rogers Road community, despite an on-going EPA investigation that has dragged the process to a halt.

Alderman Michelle Johnson said she’d like to see commissioners take a stance on the issue, even if the board is hesitant to take action.

“I hope the county will get some clarity from their attorney, I hope you all will discuss it soon, and discussing is different from voting,” said Johnson.

A task force of elected officials and neighborhood representatives has recommended that Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Orange County share the $5.8 million dollar cost to extend sewer service to the area, as part of a remediation plan for the community that’s lived with the landfill for four decades.

But this summer, just as the three local governments were poised to sign off on a funding plan, the EPA launched an investigation into claims that the county discriminated against the largely African-American community by not applying for federal grant money to fund infrastructure improvements.

Since then, the county attorney advised commissioners not to take any action on the plan until the investigation is complete, but after three months and no word from the EPA, county officials sent a letter asking the agency to either speed up the process or drop the complaint.

Orange County Board Chair Barry Jacobs summed it up: “We haven’t heard anything in three months from the EPA, how about just letting us move forward and accepting that we have reached an agreement?”

Commissioner Mark Dorosin sided with the Aldermen, urging his fellow board members to discuss the two possible funding scenarios laid out by the task force and make their intentions more clearly known to federal investigators.

“I think if we could provide some more specifics to the EPA as to what our intentions would be, were this complaint resolved, that might go much more expeditiously than saying ‘dismiss the complaint, we generally assure you that we’re going to possibly implement the task force recommendations,’” said Dorosin.

Although some commissioners signaled they’d be open to more discussion, Jacobs reiterated the board won’t likely be taking action on the plan any time soon.

“It bothers all of us that the EPA complaint is delaying taking any action,” said Jacobs, “We’re not doing this happily, readily or even willingly. We’re doing it because this is the advice of our attorney.”

In the meantime, both boards are waiting to see if the Chapel Hill Town Council will extend its extraterritorial jurisdiction to Rogers Road, in order to fund the town’s portion of the sewer project.

The town council will hold a public hearing on the ETJ plan on Monday.

BoCC Looks At Brewer Lane For Branch Library

CHAPEL HILL- As Orange County officials continue the search for a site to build the southwest branch of the Orange County library, commissioners say they want to explore the possibility of putting the library in a yet-to-be-built mixed-use development at 120 Brewer Lane in Carrboro.

Board Chair Barry Jacobs said the collaboration could have economic advantages for the town and county.

“If we bring people to Brewer Lane, it will enhance the economic development in downtown Carrboro, which benefits Orange County,” said Jacobs. “It’s a destination site. They will go there, park their car or get off the bus, and they will walk around.”

County staffers said the Brewer Lane site was preferable to other downtown Carrboro locations suggested by the Board of Aldermen, because a town-owned parking lot at 203 South Greensboro would likely pose access and parking challenges, while space in the 300 East Main development would be too expensive.

A suggestion from the aldermen that the county look into buying the property at 201 North Greensboro currently owned by CVS was quickly shot down.

“The main issue here for us is, number one, the property is not for sale, and number two, we believe the cost to procure the property will be extreme,” Planner Michael Harvey told the board. “Quite honestly we believe the money could be better spent in other forms and fashions.”

In addition to the Brewer Lane location, the board also expressed interest in a site on Hillsborough Road adjacent to the Martin Luther King Jr Park, and a site on Fidelity Street next to the Westwood Cemetery.

All three locations would need to be vetted by planners, engineers and technical consultants. The in-depth analysis could cost as much as $15,000 per site.

The board agreed that if technical analysis ruled out one of the three, county staffers should reconsider the parking lot at 203 South Greensboro as an alternate site.

No matter where the branch ends up, commissioners say they want to be clear that it won’t be a duplicate of the Chapel Hill Public Library or the Main Library in Hillsborough.

“Because the Chapel Hill library already exists so close, we want to be clear we’re not going to duplicate services,” said Jacobs. “We’re not doing a 20,000 square foot library. We’re doing a library that serves the southwestern part of the county.”

Officials say the public will have a chance to weigh in after the analysis of each site has been completed.

10 Candidates File As 2013 Election Season Gears Up

HILLSBOROUGH- The filing period for the 2013 municipal elections opened at noon on Friday, but already some familiar faces have come forward to run for office.

Mark Kleinschmidt is seeking his third term as mayor of Chapel Hill. He says he’s seen the town change for the better since the economic crisis of 2008.

“I think during the last few years we were able to come through those times successfully with minimal disruption to services,” says Kleinschmidt. “We’ve come out on the other side now with a much more healthy fiscal perspective and a much more clearly defined set of goals and ambitions for our community.”

Now that the first phase of the town’s new comprehensive plan is complete, Kleinschmidt hopes to focus on the implementation of the community’s vision as detailed in the Chapel Hill 2020 process.

“Its time to now focus in on the needs of smaller segments of our community and what they’re going to be moving forward,” says Kleinschmidt. “Not every block or street in Chapel Hill will require the same kind of treatment.”

Town Council member Sally Greene has also filed to run for re-election. Greene served two terms as a council member before stepping away from public office for a year. In January she returned to the council when she was appointed to fill Penny Rich’s vacant seat.

Educator Maria Palmer and Southern Village resident Gary Kahn also applied for that vacancy. They’re each making another bid for office by putting their names in the hat to run for a council seat.

Kahn says he’s concerned about a number of pending development plans, as well as the town’s budget crunch.

“Basically I think the issues are affordable housing, development, where our budget is going to go in terms of taxes and things,” says Kahn. “I think those are the major concerns right now.”

In Carrboro, Alderwoman Lydia Lavelle has filed to run for mayor. She made her plans known after current mayor Mark Chilton announced he would not be seeking another term.

Lavelle says Carrboro faces the challenge of integrating new development into an already busy downtown.

“Development is always a challenge,” says Lavelle. “It’s a good thing, but it always brings with it accompanying concerns like traffic and parking and the pros and cons of commercial versus residential versus mixed use.”

Looking ahead, Lavelle wants to focus on the question of how to provide affordable housing. A recently convened taskforce has developed a series of recommendations for the board to consider in the future.

“We’re looking at ways to examine our land use ordinance in a way we’re not thinking about that may be able to help up increase our housing stock,” says Lavelle. “Beyond what we do with the Community Home Trust, which is wonderful, maybe looking at other ways we can increase our housing stock.”

Alderwomen Randee Haven-O’Donnell and Jacquelyn Gist also signed on to run for re-election. Haven-O’Donnell was first elected in 2005, while Gist has served on the board since 1989.

James Barrett is the first Chapel Hill-Carrboro City school board member to file to run. He was elected to a two-year term in 2011.

Barrett says he’s excited about helping Superintendent Tom Forcella implement his plan for improving the school system.

“It touches on a lot of areas that I think we need to do a better job at; great instruction in every single classroom, better use of technology, better use of data in looking at student growth in particular,” says Barrett. “These are all things that I want to see through to being implemented very well.”

In Hillsborough, Tom Stevens has filed to run for his fifth term as mayor, while newcomer Jenn Weaver is the first to file for a seat on the town board.

The filing period runs through July 19, and many more candidates are expected to enter the race. With a slew of incumbents in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough and on the school board who have announced they will not seek re-election, there will be new faces on each board come November.