Carrboro To Begin Construction On Homestead Road Greenway

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen approved a start to construction for the Homestead Road greenway in their meeting Tuesday night.

The project was opposed by members of the Chapel Hill High School cross country team, but after town staff met with coaches and representatives from the school system, it appears the two sides are coming closer to a compromise.

Alderman Damon Seils said the town has multiple options in front of them, but still may need approval from UNC or the state, depending on which option it chooses.

“One of them is to continue the exploration around alternative materials where there are intersections or co-locations of the two paths ,” he said. “The other is this potential idea that could be explored with the help of some attorneys in the community around a shift in the alignment.”

Construction will begin on the initial stages of the path while the board waits to get more details about which path works best and the feasibility of alternative surfaces at the intersections of the cross country course and the greenway.

But as the aldermen moved closer towards resolution with the school district, other residents raised concerns over possible flooding that could occur once the path is built.

“This portion of Bolin Creek is very, and I say very, I cannot emphasize that more, to extreme flooding,” said Carlos Garcia-Vales, who owns a house near the trail and Bolin Creek. “I am very concerned that an impervious surface path along this steep bank will further lead to erosion, runoff and increased flooding.”

He said flooding has eroded parts of his property and caused trees near the creek to fall.

“In my mind these issues have already been studied well,” Seils said. “They’re part of the permitting process for a project like this. There are multiple layers of permitting and design and engineering that go into a project that deal with exactly the concerns (Garcia-Vales) is addressing.”

Town attorneys said there was no guarantee the board would get answers to questions about which path they would use or alternative surfaces before the aldermen go on break in July.

Board member Bethany Chaney said the aldermen need to prepare for the possibility of an emergency session at some point this summer.

Carrboro Board of Aldermen Prepare For Busy Meeting Tuesday

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen will tackle both the town’s preliminary budget and the paved greenway near Chapel Hill High School that has angered members of the school’s cross county team.

The board received the town manager’s budget proposal at the beginning of the month and will take public comment on the budget Tuesday.

Carrboro is preparing to adopt the budget June 21.

The aldermen will also receive an update on the Homestead-Chapel Hill High School multi-use path that intersects the high school cross country course.

Cross country coaches expressed concern about the integrity of their course if pavement ran through parts of it, as well as safety concerns with bikers.

Aldermen requested more information from staff about the feasibility of adding a rubberized surface to the parts where the trail intersects the team course in their meeting last week.

Carrboro Aldermen Continue Discussion About Paved Greenway

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen chose not to vote on a resolution that would have made alterations to the planned greenway near Chapel Hill High School.

Board member Randee Haven-O’Donnell said she wanted to be able to answer the concerns of the cross county team before voting on anything.

“If we go forward with this, it doesn’t suggest to the folks that have been so mightily concerned that anything really in terms of action has changed,” she said. “Were we to give it the time at least to get these answers, they would know we’re sincere in the effort to try and make a change.”

Members of the Chapel Hill High School cross country team expressed concerns when they learned the greenway would intersect and pave three parts of their race course.

In an attempt to mitigate this issue, the town worked with the school district to come up with a compromise that included the team changing its course, a greater separation between the course and the new greenway and investigating the possibility of changing the path from concrete to another material.

“Let’s be honest,” assistant coach Dave Mabe said. “There’s no compromise here. You’re congratulating yourselves on how far you’ve bent for us and the compromise is ‘hey guys, you get to fix your trail.'”

Should the town decide to scrap the project, which no board members said they were in favor of, the town would lose the nearly $100,000  it has spent on the project this year.

It would also potentially have to pay back the federal government and private contractors. An attorney for the town said the potential exposure could be between $200,000 and $400,000.

The project is also heavily funded by the Department of Transportation, and he said certain changes in the trail could cause the town to lose the funding it has already secured.

“If we change the project, such as altering the path of the project, of the easement, they would de-obligate the funds for the project,” he said.

The town would have to start the approval process over again to get back the funding it had lost. It would also have to seek approval from UNC for the new path.

Town staff will try to get back to the board next week about whether changing the trail in certain parts from concrete to some thing more acceptable for the runners is feasible.

Construction is scheduled to begin Monday, but the aldermen will address the issue again in their meeting Tuesday.

Cross country head coach Joan Mabe said she was disappointed with the aldermen’s decision and hoped some kind of rubber surface or gravel path could be put in place for the parts of the trail that intersected the course.

Residents Ask Carrboro Board Of Aldermen To Reconsider Bolin Creek Greenway

Community members came out in full force to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday night to express their opposition to a paved greenway the town is planning near Chapel Hill High School.

Members of the Chapel Hill High cross county team were concerned about the effect the path would have on their training because the path intersects their course at three different locations .

“As a team we’ve run on enough pavement,” runner Lizzie Mabe said. “We have been trying for many years to get a rubber track to replace our old asphalt one. The irony here is clear. The very year we get to escape the pavement on our track, our cross country course and primary training loop could be destroyed by concrete.”

The project dates back to 2003 and a contract has been awarded to lay the pavement.

The trail in its entirety would run nearly 2,100 feet, with parts running parallel to Bolin Creek and near a tennis court used by Smith Middle School.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education chairman James Barrett said there were safety concerns with having the pavement intersect the course.

“Practice happens every day on this,” he said. “We’ve got runners coming out of the woods and going across the path. If there’s bikers going quickly on the pavement there that’s a concern.”

Carrboro mayor Lydia Lavelle said the Board of Aldermen was unaware the project would cross over the cross country course a total of three times until last week when the school was notified construction would soon begin.

“Our staff has been scouring and going over and reviewing all of the immense paperwork and time and energy and effort that’s gone in to putting together this section of our greenway system,” Lavelle said. “And try to figure out the precise problem there and find out if we can mitigate it or not.”

Construction is scheduled to begin May 16. Lavelle said for the time being the town is not going to delay construction, but that is still a possibility.

She said she has received alternatives from the cross county coaching staff and the town is trying to figure out what to do next.

“Part of what we’re doing is trying to sort out all of the legalese of it,” Lavelle said. “It’s really far along in the process and it’s really complicated in a way that we don’t really even understand yet, but we hope to get the information by Tuesday.”

The aldermen will meet again Tuesday and will get an update on project.

Town Of Carrboro Begins To Review New Budget

The recommended budget for the town of Carrboro has the town increasing its commitment to non-profit organizations and affordable housing.

To go along with money already allocated to organizations such as El Centro Hispano and the Community Home Trust, Carrboro is increasing its Human Services Grants from a total of $220,000  this year to $250,000 next year.

The money was divided between 52 non-profits for the 2015-2016 budget and mayor Lydia Lavelle said the increase in the grant budget is one of the things she is most proud of.

“Really I’m so proud of our commitment to increase it every year,” she said. “It’s almost like two dollars for every dollar because we’re giving it to groups that really know how to spend it.”

The town is also looking at investing more into affordable housing. The current Affordable Housing Fund has an estimated $176,000 in it.

There is also an additional $500,000 from the sale of an office condominium. Town manager David Andrews said the town is still trying to figure out how to fund the program in the future.

“We don’t have a long-term sustainable funding plan yet,” he said. “But we’ve got the equivalent of $500,000, which is the proceeds from the sale of the condo.”

Andrews said the town will most likely not use all of the money in the fund this year while they figure out a plan for the future.

“I’ve always said if you spend $200,000 a year, you’ve got a little over three years of supply in there,” he said. “We can figure out the long term funding source in the future as we move forward.”

The total budget for the town of Carrboro will be around $31.6 million.

The Board of Aldermen will have a work session on the budget May 10 and a public hearing May 17.

If needed, there will be a second work session May 24 before adoption June 21.

Carrboro Board of Aldermen Get Update on Parking Study

Despite concerns about the amount of parking in downtown Carrboro, a town commissioned study has found that only half of available spots are filled during the busiest hours during the week.

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen heard an update on April 5 from Timothy Tresohlavy, with VHB engineering, the firm conducting the parking study on downtown Carrboro.

The goal of the study is to measure how many spaces are available in downtown Carrboro and to help plan for future growth.

Tresohlavy said one of the next steps is to gauge parking on the weekend and during events like the Farmer’s Market.

There are about 4,000 parking spaces in downtown Carrboro; 82% percent are privately owned, 9 % are town owned and another 9% are spots leased by the town.

Total parking peaks in downtown Carrboro between 11 and 1, according to the study, but even during that period only half of the spots are taken.

“So there are a peak number of cars during lunchtime in the whole downtown parking study area it’s still only half full,” said Tresohlavy.

Certain lots, however, like the town owned one on Rosemary Street remain near capacity for most of the day.

The study has also collected 400 responses from the public through an online survey.

Responses included the need for proper signage describing the parking rules, which may explain why occupancy rates are low despite concerns about the amount of spaces available.

Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle noted another concern about employees of downtown businesses using public lots, opposed to where they work.

“I do think that employees use our public parking, in addition to students, teachers and so on, but I think out of [the study] it would be good if we had some sort of long term solution and way to deal with that need of employee parking,” said Lavelle.

The survey also asked about biking, walking and public transit habits so future infrastructure improvements can better serve the community.

Even if you don’t live in Carrboro you are invited to give your input. Another public meeting will be held in either June or July.

Carrboro Aldermen Discuss Possible Geothermal System in New Library

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen discussed the project timeline for the Southern Branch Library on Tuesday.

The proposed site for the library is 203 South Greensboro Street in downtown Carrboro.

It’s a project that has been in the works for several years and making it a reality is something Alderman Randee Haven-O’Donnell wants to see happen.

“To think that by 2019 we could be talking about going to the library in downtown is unbelievably exciting,” said Haven-O’Donnell.

The library will be built by the county and will replace the Carrboro Branch Library at McDougle Middle School and the Cybrary in the Carrboro Century Center.

Alderman Sammy Slade was interested in bringing a geothermal system to the new library. Orange County has already installed geothermal systems in public buildings in Hillsborough, like the detention center, the district attorney’s office and the courthouse.

A geothermal heating and cooling system uses the constant temperature of the earth to regulate the air conditioning system, opposed to the outside air temperature, which can vary greatly.

Geothermal systems are more expensive to install than regular air conditioning systems but according to, they are two to four times more efficient, allowing for savings over the long term.

Trish McGuire, Carrboro’s planning manager, said the county was planning on examining the ground at the site to see if it could accommodate a geothermal system.

“It is their intention to evaluate further the appropriateness of the site from a geological and soils perspective, with regard to geothermal, because of the cost savings they have experienced with the projects they have been using it for in Hillsborough, said McGuire.

The Board of Alderman also agreed to plan a work session to see how they could include affordable housing into the site at 203 South Greensboro Street.

The site is also being considered as a possible new location for Kidzu, a children’s museum or the Arts Center.

Construction of the library is planned to begin in September of 2017.

Aldermen Call For NC To Repeal House Bill 2

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen spoke out against NC House Bill 2 in an emergency meeting Saturday afternoon.

“We want to be out front as a municipality, as a county, with our outrage at House Bill 2,” said mayor Lydia Lavelle. “And lead the way for other counties and municipalities to follow.”

The aldermen unanimously approved condemning the governor and every member of the state legislature that voted for House Bill 2.

They also unanimously passed a resolution that among other things, called for the General Assembly to repeal the bill.

Alderman Sammy Slade called the bill “hate legislation.”

The North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill 2 Wednesday, which would prevent cities from passing laws allowing transgender people to use public restrooms for the gender they identify with.

“One of the most troubling parts of this legislation is the part that appears to make it impossible to bring civil action in North Carolina courts on the basis of racial discrimination,” alderman Damon Seils said. “And other categories, disability, age, sex, all of the ones we’re very familiar with.”

After passing both resolutions, the board opened the floor to public that wished to speak.

The crowd in the Carrboro Town Hall was brought to their feet when Amanda Ashley, a transgender woman and a former candidate for mayor of Carrboro, addressed the board.

“This Carrboro government is the best of us, it represents what North Carolina is and who we are,” she said. “As a person of color, as a U.S. veteran, as a trans-lesbian, I do not feel appreciated in this state. Much effort has gone into hate. Words, resolutions and votes are simply not enough.

A number of local politicians were also in attendance, including five members of the Chapel Hill Town Council, three members of the Board of County Commissioners, as well as state legislators Valerie Foushee, Mike Woodward and Graig Meyer.

“This is not about bathrooms,” Chapel Hill councilwoman Jessica Anderson said. “But if we are using bathrooms as a metaphor for this, I will go with you. I know there are other straight white folks who will go with you and as a soon-to-be mother of two, I’m very comfortable with my children being in the bathroom with anybody, except anybody who voted for this bill.”

Commissioner Penny Rich also said the county would be working to provide more inclusive spaces for residents.

“Before this all started (the commissioners) started looking into having gender-neutral bathrooms in all of the county buildings,” Rich said. “I know this is not about bathrooms but that’s where it started so we’re going to fix that.”

She said only two buildings in the county would need to be retrofitted to accommodate these changes.

The Chapel Hill Town Council will be meeting on Monday to pass a similar resolution.

Rich said the county would be joining in any lawsuit filed against House Bill 2.

Carrboro Aldermen Approve New Hotel

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen unanimously approved a modification to a conditional use permit that would allow a 5-story Hilton hotel to be built in downtown Carrboro in their meeting last week.

“I think this is a really good opportunity for us to capture some jobs, for us to capture some income, for us to capture some foot traffic,” said board member Bethany Chaney.

In 2008 the developer was given a conditional use permit to build a mixed-use development, but Main Street Properties was looking to change the permit to allow the hotel.

Laura Van Sant from Main Street Properties said the developers had some pressure to get the project approved.

“There are some groups with deeper pockets than us that are trying to get the rights to a Hilton Garden in this market,” she said. “I can assure you that hotel would not be in Carrboro.”

When the board spoke with Van Sant in a meeting February 23, one of the major concerns was parking.

The town currently has a lease to use 150 daytime and 250 nighttime spots in the parking deck next to the Hampton Inn.

The deck will be expanded as part of the change in the CUP, but the lease will expire in 2018 and town employees were concerned about what would happen to those public spaces once a new hotel is built.

The two sides are currently discussing the issue and a town official talked about the possibility of giving the town the option to renew the lease for three years.

“The exercising of the option is not relevant until August, 2018,” he said. “This is an agreement that we will have that option. Whether or not we exercise it is a 2018 decision.”

Town officials want to give the town sole discretion over whether or not to extend the lease, but the developers will have to agree before that happens.

Carrboro Board Of Aldermen Considering Main Street Hotel

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen are exploring the possibility of allowing Hilton to build a hotel in downtown Carrboro.

In their meeting Tuesday night, the aldermen unanimously agreed to continue the discussion over whether or not to allow Hilton to build a five story hotel on 300 Main Street.

A number of local businesses, including the owners of Fleet Feet and Bella’s showed their support for the hotel.

Bridget Pemberton-Smith from Cameron’s said the Hampton Inn helps her generate revenue for her business and others around town.

“We make sure (guests) know about all the great restaurants in town,” she said. “The hotel brings a lot to Carrboro in terms of business and I think having a second hotel would just amplify that.”

An original conditional use permit was given in 2008 for the purpose of building a five-story mixed-use development.

Laura Van Sant from Main Street Properties said the hotel would employ around 50 people and will provide meeting and event space.

“We think this is a better project for downtown Carrboro,” she said. “More tax revenues, more people with money in their pockets going out and spending at local businesses.

One major issue that still needs to be resolved is parking.

Part of the original CUP allows the company to build an expansion on the current parking deck in 300 Main Street.

Van Sant asked the town to allow deck to be built after the construction of the hotel.

“We have to go to the bank and finance this project,” she said. “If we go to the bank and say ‘well the town really wants us to build a $3 million parking deck expansion’ and we don’t need it, that’s not going to go.”

Van Sant said she was in favor of building the parking deck expansion at the same time as the hotel, but there were issues with the bank that prevented that.”

“The problem is, it could kill the deal,” she said. “We can’t finance the deck.”

In the meantime, there is scheduled to be 39 parking spaces underneath the hotel. The expansion would add another 118 spaces.

Board member Jacque Gist said she wanted the expansion to continue with the rest of the project. She said the community helped during the construction of the first hotel and that should be reciprocated as this one is built.

“I don’t think we can afford to turn away from additional parking,” she said. “It might not hurt your businesses, but it would hurt surrounding businesses, whose tax dollars were necessary for your businesses to accomplish what they’ve done.”

The board will talk about this issue again on March 8.