Carrboro Considering More Chicken-Friendly Ordinance

If you live in Carrboro, and you’d like to keep your own chickens for non-commercial purposes, you can rest assured that the Board of Aldermen is considering ways to make that easier for you.

“I mean, a lot of people do not live on 10,000-square-foot lots in this town,” said Carrboro Alderperson Damon Seils at Tuesday night’s Board of Aldermen work session, “but can very humanely and safely keep chickens.”

For several years, 10.000 square feet has been the required lot size for keeping chickens within Carrboro town limits.

Recently, the Animal Control Board of Appeals considered two requests for keeping chickens on residential property.

The applicants learned that their lots are not big enough. So the Board of Appeals brought the matter to Town Hall Tuesday night.

One thing the Alderpersons and Mayor Lydia Lavelle seemed to agree on early in the discussion is that the 10,000-square-foot lot requirement seemed arbitrary, and Town Attorney Michael Brough later confirmed that.

So the question was: How to re-regulate the housing of chickens on residential lots.

“One of the concepts that’s used in other local governments is that there is actually some square-footage requirement per chicken, and that’s one of the things that the Animal Control Board of Appeals discussed,” said Carrboro Planning Director Trish McGuire.

Alderperson Sammy Slade said he’d done some research into the humane care and keeping of chickens, and found that 10 square feet per chicken for the run, and four square feet of space per chicken in the coop are considered reasonable.

Alderperson Michelle Johnson said that during a recent meeting on the subject, Police Chief Walter Horton had recommended a cap on the number of chickens allowed on a lot.

“I know Chapel Hill’s maximum is 10,” said Johnson, “but they don’t have a square footage requirement.”

Alderperson Jacquie Gist warned against possible unintended consequences for setting caps. She spoke up for a large local property that is home to many chickens. The owners, she said, even rescue fowl.

So Slade offered that a revised ordinance should simply ensure that each space is appropriate for the number of fowl a property owner wishes to keep.

Seils said he favors regulated setbacks over lot-size requirements. He added that he also liked the idea of only requiring permits for people who want to keep more than three-or-four chickens.

“I’m kind of for not having a lot of rules here,” he said.

While other alderpersons concurred, there were also concerns expressed about neighborhood chicken farming, Chickens could attract unwanted attention from predators – domestic outdoor cats, and, even worse, rabid foxes, or coyotes.

Alderperson Bethany Chaney said that it would probably be wise for the town to keep track of how many chickens were living in Carrboro. And she cracked herself up by the way she phrased that:

“I think we want to be able to gauge, you know – is there some kind of critical mass of chickens in town?”

Despite those concerns, the Board voted unanimously to direct town staff to draft a new version of the ordinance that would strike the requirement on lot size. Instead, they want to come up with a square-footage-per-chicken requirement. The Board will also seek advice from the Planning Department on setbacks.

An old requirement that eggs laid by chickens on a lot within town limits could only be consumed by people living on that lot will also be tweaked, to allow chicken owners to give away eggs for free, if they wish.

Carrboro Plans ‘Think Local’ Economic Campaign

Carrboro residents and visitors can expect to see a major campaign in the near future to “Think Local First” when it comes to doing business in the town.

“A lot of consumers don’t understand the magnitude of impact shopping locally has,” said Clay Schossow, a partner and media manager of New Media Campaigns, a web design, development and marketing agency in Carrboro.

On Tuesday night, Schossow gave a presentation about the work of the Think Local First Committee to an enthusiastic Carrboro Board of Aldermen, at its first meeting after a summer break.

Just before the Board adjourned for the summer, it appointed the committee, which met two hours every week from mid-July through late August.

Overseen by the Town of Carrboro’s Economic and Community Development Director Annette Stone, the committee started with eight local businesspeople, and grew to about 15.

The goal of the brainstorming sessions was to find ways promote a stronger local economy; to raise consumer awareness about the importance of that; and to get local businesses talking to each other too,

The committee looked BALLE for some guidance. BALLE, which stands for Business Alliance for Living Local Economies, is a nationwide network of more than 50,000 local community entrepreneurs. The organization promotes localism.

At Tuesday night’s Town Hall meeting, Schossow noted that the snazzier new Town of Carrboro website is up-and-running, and that said he sees another opportunity there.

“The new logo, the slogan – everything really dovetailed really nicely to launch a local business campaign,” said Schossow.

He said the first goal is to get local businesses to support the campaign, and to to turn to each other to fulfill needs that could include promotional T-shirts, work in the trades, and catering.

Schossow told the Board of Aldermen that about 50 businesses have been contacted about the local business initiative, and he said that most are “extremely interested.”

Another goal, said Schossow, is to Increase consumer awareness about what local Carrboro has to offer that could save a consumer a trip all the way to Southpoint.

Schossow added that the Think Local campaign will reach beyond downtown.

“We wanted to make sure that we reached out to the periphery,” said Schossow, “and we had all of Carrboro thinking locally, and the same with businesses. We’re not jus talking about downtown businesses. We’re talking about everyone in Carrboro proper.”

He also talked about attracting tourists, as well as “daytrippers” from neighboring towns and cities who come to Carrboro for specific reasons – a show at the Cat’s Cradle, for instance, or a visit to the Farmers’ Market. He’d like to see more of them stick around for brunch, or some retail shopping.

The Think Local group plans to organize a series of events that gets local businesses working together, and doing business with each other.

The kickoff event for that effort will be a “Happy Hour” at Venable’s new B-Side Lounge at Carr Mill Mall on Oct. 2.

Schossow said that Annette Stone spent the summer building a list of about 400 viable local businesses in Carrboro.

Out of that, he said he hopes that 60-to-100 business people will show up to the first local event and just start talking to each other.

Other ideas that came out of the summer meeting include an email newsletter that keeps residents and visitors informed of upcoming events.

And Carrboro commuters may soon be seeing an ad on their bus route with the slogan: “Carrboro: Local Matters.”

Locals Reach Out To Aid Immigrant Children

With more than 1,000 unaccompanied children crossing the southern border into the United States each week, local residents are looking for a way to respond to what some are calling a “humanitarian crisis.”

Jacqueline Gist, longtime member of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, says she wants to reach out to help undocumented immigrant children being detained in shelters while awaiting deportation proceedings.

“Children who are far from home, coming out of very scary, dangerous, life-threatening situations- if we can’t find fit in our hearts to help those children, then I hate to think of who we’ve become,” says Gist.

More than 57,000 unaccompanied minors have sought to cross the U.S. – Mexico border in the past eight months, fleeing violence in Central America.

The Department of Health and Human Services operates approximately 100 shelters near the border that can house the children until they can be settled with families to await their hearings. Due to the recent influx, three more shelters have opened in California, Texas and Oklahoma.

As the children have been moved from one location to another, images of angry locals yelling at school buses have flooded the media in past weeks, prompting some, like Gist, to offer a rebuttal in the form of an invitation.

“My original thought had been that our community could welcome a busload of these children who are being treated with hatred in other places where they show up, and help them through their resettlement process that they’re going through,” says Gist.

But while Gist says the response from the local community has been in favor of offering temporary shelter, federal guidelines stand in the way.

“[The Department of Health and Human Services] is not interested in a one-time thing, they’re more looking for what they call permanent facilities, that would be at least thirty-six months and that would pretty much be open to a steady stream of children,” says Gist.

To be considered as a shelter, a facility must be licensed by the state and run by a group home care provider. The deadline to apply is early August.

“I don’t think we’re in a position to provide a facility for these children. I think it’s too big and the time frame is too short. The actions necessary to get there would take months and months and months.”

Still, she says concerned citizens in Chapel Hill and Carrboro can find a way to help.

“That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything that we can do, and I think what we need to do I find organizations in our region who are already helping or who are poised to help and see how we can support those.”

Gist says the Church of Reconciliation is already accepting donations of toys and Spanish-language books to offer children in shelters, and she expects similar efforts to gain momentum in the coming weeks.

Carrboro Aldermen Compromise on Drive-Thru Ban

A proposal to broaden Carrboro’s 1998 ban on drive-throughs at downtown businesses to include other areas of town brought several citizens out to Tuesday night’s Board of Aldermen meeting.

Most of the citizens that spoke at the meeting were against the idea, and in the end, the Board came up with a compromise.

“Drive-thrus located in appropriate areas, and under specified guidelines, like those enacted in 1998, are amenities. By denying them, you jeopardize the commercial growth that might have followed. Lack of commercial growth threatens the broadening of our commercial tax base, thereby continuing to overburden the residential property owners.”

That’s Linda Lloyd, speaking at the summer’s final meeting of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen. Her husband, Gene Lloyd, is a member of the family that owned and operated Lloyd Electric Company on Main Street for more than 50 years.

The family also owns 40 acres across from Carrboro Plaza on NC 54. The property is currently under contract under the name Lloyd Farm Development.

Lloyd was one of several citizens, including Kristen Smith from the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, who came out to speak against a proposed ban on drive-thru features at all Carrboro developments, with the exception of pharmacies.

New drive-thrus were prohibited in the center of the downtown business area back in 1998 as part of Carrboro’s Land Use Ordinance. The Wendy’s drive-thru at the corner of Main and Greensboro Streets pre-dated that rule by about 15 years.

But the new resolution would ban drive-thrus from developments in other areas, such as Highway 54.
Lloyd’s arguments against prohibiting drive-thrus were similar to others that were presented during the public comments portion of the hearing. People said it would scare off businesses; that it discriminates against the elderly, the disabled, and parents with small and/or sick children.

They said it creates an inconvenience for commuters, and would cause consumers to spend money elsewhere.

But a couple of speakers expressed their support for the ban. Retired UNC academic adviser Barb Stenross lives on Carol Street, near the Lloyd Farm property.

“It’s right where I walk around,” said Stenross. “I’m a senior. I walk. I don’t feel comfortable on a bike. I wish I still did. But it’s very important for me to have a community that has trees, that has a good environment, that does not have traffic emissions.

“I’m fine with having a pharmacy drive-in, because I think that does serve families and the disabled. But I think this is a good ordinance.”

Carrboro Planning Board member Catherine Adamson reiterated that board’s recommendation – which was not unanimous, she added – to prohibit all drive-thrus, including pharmacies.

When it was time for alderpersons to speak, Damon Seils said that he’s received a lot of phone calls, emails, and personal visits about the issue recently, and it’s caused him to re-think the proposal.

“I have no doubt that there are negative environmental impacts of drive-thrus, and public health impacts of drive-thrus,” said Seils. “And that’s important to me. But as we know, there are also concerns about accessibility. And we’ve heard from several people both tonight, and in emails and elsewhere, about the importance of accessibility for people with limited mobility, and for their caregivers, which, I think, is another important point we’ve heard about recently.”

Seils made a motion to extend the ban to districts zoned for limited industrial use, as well as commercial uses that include wholesaling, storage, mail-order, auto-related businesses, offices and retail.

Areas include that part of Greensboro Street where Fitch Lumber is located; and the area along Jones Ferry Road near the Orange Water and Sewer Authority.

He added that drive-thrus in other areas should be a subject of future discussion.

Alderperson Michelle Johnson said that while she agreed with Seils’ motion more than the resolution before the board, she thought that everyone should be mindful that the environmental concerns of people like Barb Stenross, who live outside the downtown area, should not be dismissed.

“I can support what you’re saying, more than I could support a ban on all drive-thrus,” said Johnson, “because of the accessibility issues. And we’re all aging, too, so there’s going to be a point when we’re all rolling up to a drive-through, too, right?”

The Board of Aldermen passed Seils’ motion unanimously.

Alderpersons Randee Haven-O’Donnell and Jacquelyn Gist said they’d work together over the summer to plan some public forums in the fall regarding drive-thrus,to see what creative ideas may come out of that.

Carrboro Board of Aldermen to Vote on Drive-Thrus

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen will vote tonight on whether to ban drive-through windows at all Carrboro businesses, with the exception of pharmacies.

Drive-throughs are banned downtown already, but a resolution being considered tonight would ban them in other areas such as Highway 54.

This has been a subject of lively discussion recently, both among the alderpersons and members of the public weighing in on social media.

Opponents of the ban say that it would hurt parents of young children, people with disabilities, and businesses.

Public comments will be received before a vote is taken.

The meeting takes place at 7:30 at Carrboro Town Hall, located at 301 West Main Street in Carrboro.

Carrboro Board of Aldermen to Vote on $21.3 Million Budget

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen has a busy agenda at its Town Hall meeting Tuesday – and one of items is a resolution to adopt the $21.3 million budget for fiscal year 2014-15.

As part of that package, there will be a vote to approve bonuses of either $500, $1,000 or $1,500 for town employees, based on annual performance reviews.

The resolution states that “the Board of Aldermen desires to provide all Town employees an annual salary at or above the local Minimum Housing Wage.”

The Board will also vote on whether to approve a two-percent cost-of-living salary increase for all full-time and part-time town employees, as well as appointed employees and elected officials.

The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall, located at 301 West Main Street in Carrboro.

It’s ‘Jaguars Men’s Tennis Day’ in Carrboro

It’s officially Jaguars Men’s Tennis Day in the Town of Carrboro.

At the beginning of Tuesday night’s Board of Aldermen meeting, Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle performed a duty that she called “a lot of fun,” and she’s already done it twice during the five months she’s held the office.

That is, she’s twice had the honor of writing a proclamation recognizing a local high school sports team for winning a state championship.

“Now therefore, be it resolved that I, Lydia Lavelle, Mayor of Carrboro, North Carolina, do hereby proclaim Wednesday, May 28th as Carrboro Jaguars Men’s Tennis Day; and urge all residents of the Town of Carrboro to take every opportunity to congratulate these players and their coaches for their remarkable achievement, this the 27th day of May, 2014.”

Lavelle said that one of the fun parts was doing the research on the State Champion Carrboro High School Jaguars Men’s Tennis Team – and two months ago, she did the same for the State 3A Champion Chapel Hill Lady Tigers basketball team.

Here’s how Jaguars Day came to be proclaimed in Carrboro today:

“On May 17, 2014, the Jaguars captured their first state tennis title; a resounding 5-0 victory over the Brevard Blue Devils, and won the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2A State Dual Championship,” Lavelle said.

As Lavelle pointed out, the team had a two-year streak of runner-up finishes before finding that the third time is, indeed, the charm.

The mayor called all the players up front, one-by-one, to stand for a group photo.

While doing so, she singled out the accomplishments of Carrboro High junior Max Fritsch, who was selected as the State Championship’s Most Valuable Player, as well as Conference Player of the Year.

Fritsch is also the team’s most valuable player, as well as a state doubles champion, along with teammate Jacob Zinn.

The mayor also noted freshman Jason Wykoff, who received the State Championship Outstanding Sportsmanship Award, and is the team’s Freshman of the Year.

Jaguars Coach Jon Noyes was there with his team at Town Hall. He got up behind the podium to list the numerous honors that his team members racked up this year.

And then he said this:

“You guys did a fantastic job this year, and I’m really proud of you.”

So if you see a Jaguar from the Men’s Tennis team around Carrboro today, tell him you are, too.

Carrboro Aldermen to Vote on $75K Grant for Recycling Carts

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen will vote Tuesday on whether to accept a $75,000 grant for curbside recycling carts.

Stemming from an inter-local agreement between Orange County and The Towns of Hillsborough, Chapel Hill and Carrboro that was approved by all parties in February, nearly $168,000 from Orange County would be added to Carrboro’s $75,000 grant from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, for a total of nearly $243,000.

That money would go toward ensuring that every household in Carrboro is equipped with a curbside recycling roll cart.

Under the inter-local agreement, the Town is required to pay Orange County an amount equal to any grant it receives for the project.

That’s just one of the items on a busy agenda for Tuesday night’s Aldermen meeting, which takes place at 7:30 at Town Hall, located at 301 West Main Street in Carrboro.

Chaney Joins Aldermen

The newest member of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen was sworn in Tuesday night at Town Hall, and then she got right down to business.

Carrboro Planning Board Chair Bethany Chaney took her seat next to Mayor Lydia Lavelle – who moved from that seat, back when she was elected Mayor – at Tuesday night’s Aldermen meeting.

The swearing in was performed by Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour, and was preceded by a reception with food, friends, and lots of supporters.

After Baddour made it official, Chaney stepped behind the speakers’ podium and thanked a lot of people – including her new colleagues on the Board of Aldermen.

Chaney won the seat in a three-way race with Talal Asad and Theresa Watson on May 6, and on Tuesday night she credited the Alderpersons for treating all three candidates equally.

She said that helped make the special election a real race.

“Talal and Theresa and I all appreciated your mutual support,” said Chaney, “and the opportunity to meet each other and learn about each other, and compete with each other on the campaign trail.”

When it was time for the Mayor and Alderpersons to speak – including a vacationing Michelle Johnson, who sent a video – there were praises for Chaney’s work with the Planning Board, as well as in the areas of affordable housing and climate change.

“I’m just looking forward to learning from you,” said Alderperson Damon Seils, “because one of the experiences that I’ve had that’s been special to me about getting to know you on the Planning Board, and since that time, is that I do learn from you.

“And I think that’s what a lot of us have the ability to do up here. That’s the best part of this job — I think it’s when we’re able to learn from each other and learn from people in the community about how to do things better.”

Afterward, the Board unanimously appointed Chaney to join Seils as the Board of Aldermen’s second representative to the Transit Partners Committee.

Chaney joins the Board of Aldermen just as they are working on the budget for Fiscal Year 2014-2015.

Only four members of the public stepped up to speak about the recommended $29.5 million budget on Tuesday night. Most of them were there to thank the Board for various actions.

Mary Jean Seyda from the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness asked the town of Carrboro to create a dedicated funding source for affordable housing – a request the Partnership is making to all local municipalities.

Alderperson Sammy Slade replied that the Affordable Housing Task Force is currently making that a priority.

Some of the votes Chaney participated in on that first night included the unanimous approval of a walkup ATM at Carrboro Plaza; and the unanimous conditional approval for a text amendment to change the designation from affordable homes in the Legends subdivision, to benefit current owners struggling with HOA dues and other costs. They want to be able to sell the homes at market values.

Chaney also nominated Carrboro community organizer Quinton Harper to a seat on the Board of Directors of Orange Water and Sewer Authority. That also passed by a unanimous vote.

Alderman Hopefuls Meet In WCHL Candidates Forum: AUDIO

With early voting currently underway for the May 6 primary, WCHL hosted a forum Monday featuring the three candidates for the open seat on the Carrboro Board of Aldermen.

The three candidates are Talal Asad, Bethany Chaney, and Theresa Watson. They’re running in a special election to finish the term of Lydia Lavelle, who left her seat on the Board when she became mayor in December.

Aaron Keck hosted the informal forum during Monday’s afternoon newscast. During the hour, the candidates talked about topics ranging from building heights to affordability to parking and bike safety.

Listen to Part 1 of the forum, in which the candidates talk economic development, budget and tax issues, and how to retain existing businesses while attracting new ones.

Listen to Part 2 of the forum, in which the candidates discuss how to make Carrboro a more affordable community, how to manage transportation, how to promote environmental sustainability, and (to borrow a slogan from Austin) how to “keep Carrboro weird.”

The forum will re-air on WCHL on Tuesday evening at 6:00 p.m. Early voting is underway through Saturday at five locations across Orange County; primary election day is next Tuesday, May 6.