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.

Unopposed Carrboro Candidates Use Campaign Season to Promote Voter Turnout

Municipal races will be over in less than a month, and candidates in Carrboro are taking the opportunity to urge voters to make their voice heard.

While most eyes in local politics are focusing on the races for Chapel Hill Mayor and Town Council as well as the Chapel Hill – Carrboro City School Board, the candidates in Carrboro are focusing on voter involvement.

Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle and Board of Aldermen members Bethany Chaney, Michelle Johnson and Damon Seils are all running for re-election this year unopposed. But they are not resting on their laurels. They have taken it upon themselves to encourage residents to still exercise their civic duty of voting, according to Chaney.

“I know that I am particularly interested in just hearing from voters,” she says, “either affirming that what the Board of Aldermen is doing now is heading in the right direction or telling us that, ‘no, it’s not.’

“When people show up to the polls, they actually have a choice; they can vote for one of us, two of us, all of us, or write in somebody’s name. And I think it’s still worth it to show up at the polls, even in an uncontested race, so that you can do that.”

Seils says the candidates are taking up this voter-involvement initiative in the time they would have spent running a campaign.

“In terms of our own sort of individual campaigns,” he says, “we have elected instead to focus on this more general issue of getting people to the polls.

“I think, as Bethany said, not only are we interested in hearing from people, we are politicians after all we want to know how we’re doing and how people think we’re doing.”

Seils was also quick to point out there are races on the ballot where Carrboro residents can still make an impact.

“The Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools School Board is on the ballot,” he says. “It’s an incredibly important election this year. There are four seats up for election; two incumbents are not running for re-election.

“This is an opportunity for folks to really shape the future of the school system in this community, and it’s a rare opportunity.”

Chaney adds on to the importance of the school board vote because she says there are no Carrboro residents currently on the board.

“There’s an argument to be made that context is really important,” she says. “Where you live shapes your view of how things are going in the schools or shapes your opinion of how your child is doing in the schools.

“I think it’s something for Carrboro citizens to be thinking about.”

Lavelle says, while some residents choose not to vote in municipal elections, it is important to not get out of the routine of voting.

“Part of what we’re doing is reminding people about our election that’s coming up this fall,” she says. “But I think it’s extremely important for people to get in the habit of voting, because next fall it’s going to be so critical for the state of North Carolina for many reasons.”

The 2016 election will include races for the US Senate, Governor and County Commissioner, among other races.

Early voting for this year’s municipal races in Orange County starts on October 22nd and Election Day in November 3rd.

Carrboro Alderman Chaney Running For Re-Election

It’s official: all three Carrboro Aldermen whose seats are up for election this year will be running for re-election.

Incumbents Damon Seils and Michelle Johnson made their announcements earlier, and on Thursday they were joined by Bethany Chaney. Chaney will be running for her first full term on the board; she won her seat in a special election last year to replace Lydia Lavelle after Lavelle became mayor.

WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke Friday with Bethany Chaney.

The filing period begins on Monday for candidates running for office and runs until Friday, July 17.

Michelle Johnson Running For Re-Election

Carrboro Alderman Michelle Johnson made it official Tuesday on WCHL, announcing her intention to run for a second term on the Board.

Listen to Johnson’s conversation with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


First elected in 2011, Johnson is a clinical social worker and yoga instructor. Thus far, she says she’s proudest of her work with the Rogers Road Task Force to bring long-awaited remediation to the Rogers Road neighborhood – but she says there’s a lot more to do in the next few years.

“Affordable housing’s going to continue to be an issue,” she says, “(as well as) the ArtsCenter, (the) Arts and Innovation Center, the library and the Cat’s Cradle…

“And then one more issue is the police forums: in response to what’s going on in our country with police and institutional racism and cultural racism, we’re trying to be proactive with our police force and suggesting racial equity training and having some conversations with the community.”

(The next one of those conversations will be a public meeting this Monday, June 29, at 7 pm in Carrboro Town Hall.)

Johnson was elected to the Board in 2011 along with Dan Coleman and Lydia Lavelle. As it happens, she’s the only one of the three who’s still in that position: Coleman moved to Australia in early 2013 and Lavelle was elected mayor later that year. Damon Seils and Bethany Chaney now fill those seats – they won special elections in 2013 and 2014, respectively. (Neither Seils nor Chaney have announced their reelection plans publicly yet.)

Visit Johnson’s campaign page.

The filing period for local offices begins on Monday, July 6 and runs through Friday, July 17.

BOA Resumes Hearings on South Greensboro Development Plan

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen will continue to hear public comments about a proposed six-acre commercial development at 501 S. Greensboro St.

Chapel Hill developer Woodhill NC, LLC is asking the town to rezone the former Rogers-Triem site from light manufacturing to special manufacturing-conditional use.

The developer plans to put restaurant and retail there, in three or four buildings.

Tuesday’s public hearing at Town Hall will be the third on that agenda item. Other items include updates on municipal greenhouse gas emissions; and the progress of the Rogers Road Sewer Project.

The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m.

Carrboro’s Town Hall is located at 301 West Main Street.