CHAPEL HILL- The advisory committee charged with evaluating a development proposal for the Obey Creek property across from Southern Village said Tuesday that plan is not ready to move forward to the Chapel Hill Town Council.
“There are just too many pieces that are not known to make a responsible decision for the town and the community,” said committee member Jeanne Brown.
The concept plan calls for 1.5 million square feet of retail, office space and housing along South 15-501. This past spring the Town Council appointed a 17-member committee to evaluate the plan and decide if elected officials should begin negotiating a development agreement with East West Partners to govern the design and build-out of the project.
The committee is due to report to the council in January, but the majority of members signaled they are not ready to approve the next phase unless major changes are made.
***Addition: The committee took a vote on whether to accept the plan, reject it, or change it. The vote made was to change it to go along with the set of principals that were adopted by the committee. (This information was shared with WCHL from Aaron Nelson who is a member of the committee)
***The committee also voted to extend the exploratory phase in the effort to accomplish:
1. Council review of scope and direction given to Technical Team
2. East West Partners provides a new concept plan that is aligned with Compass Committee principles
3. Economic cost/benefit and traffic analysis data are applied to the new plan
4. Inclusion of all or part of the Compass Committee in evaluating the new plan
A decision whether or not to move into phase two will be based on the outcome of those topics. (This information was shared with WCHL from Jeanne Brown who made the motion to to extend the exploratory phase)
Specifically, they want to see a new, smaller concept plan from East West Partners, one that incorporates the design principals the committee has outlined. Much of Tuesday’s three hour meeting focused on ways to keep the project “human-scaled” by limiting building heights, capping square footage, reducing block size and focusing on pedestrians and cyclists.
Members also say the council shouldn’t consider any next steps until studies of the traffic and economic impacts of the project are completed.
“I don’t think the Town Council has the information right now that will allow them to be able to specifically define the things that they want as an outcome from that negotiation,” said committee member and Southern Village resident Susana Dancy.
The committee meets again in two weeks to finalize its recommendations, but some want to ask the council for an extension to allow time to evaluate any new data or revised plans.
The council will hear from the committee and the developer on January 13.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/compass-committee-rejects-obey-creek-plan/
CHAPEL HILL-The Chapel Hill Town Council welcomed new and returning members on Monday, as well as honoring those who chose to step aside.
“I have never been more excited to be a part of this council,” said Mark Kleinschmidt, who was sworn in for his third term as Chapel Hill’s mayor. “After 12 years of service, I have never been so excited about tomorrow in Chapel Hill than I am today.”
Kleinschmidt took the oath of office along with returning council members Sally Greene and Ed Harrison, and newcomers Maria Palmer and George Cianciolo.
The newly-seated council voted unanimously to name Greene as Mayor Pro tem, and then took a moment to thank outgoing members Laurin Easthom and Gene Pease for their service to the town.
Easthom, who served on the council for eight years, recalled occasions when she cast the lone vote in opposition to the majority of the council.
“Differing opinions are not always attempts at political grandstanding,” said Easthom. “Differing opinions are not always trying to show someone else up, or trying to be better than the other person, or showing who is right in a competitive sense. Differing opinions are the beauty of what we do in Chapel Hill. We listen, we educate ourselves, we engage and we decide.”
Pease said he too has stood in the minority, and he thanked his peers for their thoughtful deliberations during his term in office.
“I want to thank all the council members for the last four years,” said Pease. “In many cases we didn’t agree on certain issues, but I thought we always had a fair and balanced- and to some degree unemotional- conversation. I think that’s all we can ask between different opinions.”
Looking ahead, Kleinschmidt acknowledged the council will face tough decisions in the future, but he urged the council and public to maintain civility in the face of opposing views.
“We need to be respectful with each other,” said Kleinschmidt. “We need to be civil. We need to understand that when we disagree it doesn’t mean we have stopped liking each other. It doesn’t mean we dismiss each others value. We’re all in this together.”
The council is on hiatus for the rest of the year. Regular meetings will resume in January.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chapel-hill-welcomes-new-town-council/
CHAPEL HILL – Former Chapel Hill Town Council member Laurin Easthom sat on her final council meeting last week. She chose not to seek a third term this year. Serving since 2005, Easthom said she is looking forward to spending more time with her husband and two daughters.
As for whether she would run again, she said she was keeping her options open.
“I’m young enough that I could do it again some day—hopefully, maybe if I ran again and I got re-elected, (though) I don’t presume that would (automatically) be the case,” Easthom said. ”At least I would have another chance at some point, so I’m lucky for that.”
Fellow council member Gene Pease did not seek re-election this year. Newcomers Maria Palmer and George Cianciolo, who will replace Easthom and Pease, will be sworn into office Monday evening.
Outside the Council, Easthom is a dentist and has a master’s degree in education. She also served on Chapel Hill’s Transportation Advisory Board, the Horace Williams Citizens Committee and the Orange-Chatham Sierra Club.
In September, Eathom announced her intention to seek the North Carolina House seat in District 50, which was formerly held by now State Senator Valerie Foushee.
Easthom said that one of the accomplishments she was proudest of during her time in office was the cooperation reached between the Council and UNC to reach the Carolina North Development Agreement.
“When I first got on the Council, there was a Town/Gown tension unlike ever before. It took a lot of work to work toward common goals and get through some of that tension,” Easthom said. “The end result, after a lot of meetings and time spent, we were able to come up with an agreement that benefited not only the University but the Town.”
Easthom said she also proud of her part in improving the efficiency of the Town’s technologies. The fiber optic systems of traffic signals were upgraded to a fiber that the Town can use for future purposes such as municipal broadband internet services.
Her advice for Cianciolo and Palmer is to welcome the input of residents, as Easthom said it can be intimidating for citizens to speak during Council meetings.
“Listen—to make sure to listen. I know they [Cianciolo and Palmer] will because it is not an easy thing for people [to speak at Council meetings],” she said.
Easthom said she has no timeline for returning to town politics, if she were to do so. For now, she said she will spend time with her family and concentrate on her work.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/fmr-ch-council-member-laurin-easthom-political-plans/
CHAPEL HILL – Chapel Hill Town Council member Gene Pease sat on his last council meeting this week. Serving since 2009, he chose to not seek a second term this year.
Pease counts freezing taxes for three years during the recession as one of the accomplishments he is most proud of during his time on the council.
“We kept our level of town services at the same rate and found ways to pay for things we had trouble paying for,” Pease says.
Outside of the Council, Pease is president and CEO of Capital Analytics, Inc. The company works to link investments in human capital to business outcomes using predicative analytics.
In 2009, after thirteen years of community involvement, he felt serving on the council was the next step.
The Council has taken steps recently to re-organize the Town’s various advisory boards, a measure Pease believes was necessary.
“Ultimately, long-term that will be a really good thing for both town employees, gaining some clarity in their roles in the advisory board system, and for citizens, who work on the advisory boards and volunteer their time, to get much more aligned between what they are doing,” he says.
Pease says he is also proud of the work that went into developing the town’s comprehensive plan, which turned into Chapel Hill 2020. With the help of diverse committees, the Council is now working through six small area plans to formulate a vision for those sections of town.
“I think that is important because there is so much uncertainty the way our current processes work that we get into a lot of fights between developers and neighborhoods,” Pease says. “If we were working more collaboratively and had a plan for that area, I think it would be more collaborative versus adversarial. I feel really good about getting that started.”
The expanded Chapel Hill Public Library opened this spring, a project in which Pease was heavily involved. He served as a Chapel Hill Public Library Building Committee member from 2006 till 2007, and also as the president of the Chapel Hill Public Library Foundation for three years.
Ultimately, his decision to not run for re-election was due to a busy schedule, with time spread thin between managing his business, writing another book, and traveling regularly to the West Coast where his two children live.
As to whether he would run again, Peace says this: “I’m old enough to know I should say, ‘never say never.’ I have no plans at this moment. I have no plans at all.”
Fellow council member Laurin Easthom did not seek re-election this year. Newcomers Maria Palmer and George Cianciolo will be sworn into office on December 2.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/retiring-ch-town-council-member-gene-pease-reflects-past-four-years/
CHAPEL HILL – The Chapel Hill Town Council unanimously adopted the controversial Central West small area plan Tuesday night. During the ten months it took to draft the plan, members of the committee charged with the task disagreed at each step along the way.
But committee member Julie McClintock, who has been one of the most outspoken about her frustration over the process, said that she feels content with the decision because the Council agreed it would consider conducting wider studies on the impacts of traffic and growth to the Town.
The Central West Small area plan outlines future development near the intersection of Estes Dr. and Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. It calls for three- to five-story buildings with retail, office, and a mix of uses along Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and smaller residential development along Estes Dr.
“We need to know what’s going to be the impact of all the millions of square feet that are now going to be approved down on 15-501, or at Glenn Lennox. All of those cars aren’t going to stay in their little bubble. They are going to travel all over town,” McClintock said. “I was very pleased, and I thought the Council conducted an interesting, deep discussion on all these town-wide planning efforts. It is very needed, and I am very glad it occurred.”
Along with several members of the Central West Steering Committee and neighbors in the area, McClintock formulated what they called a lower-density “alternate plan,“ along with a 260-signature petition asking the council to study development impacts on traffic, storm water control, and the cost of town services.
“I think we feel fairly confident the council is committed to doing these town-wide studies and that they are going to do those before they go ahead and do rezoning. That makes a lot of sense,” McClintock said.
The Council didn’t adopt the alternative plan Tuesday but did decide that it should be included as an official document.
“I think the idea is in it. It [the Citizen’s Plan] did get utilized to some extent,” McClintock said. “There are, of course, some differences.”
Some area residents were ultimately displeased with the Committee’s plan, and stuck by their assertion that the development would bring too much traffic to the already congested roads.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/possible-traffic-impact-studies-calm-central-west-concerns/
CHAPEL HILL- Thirty meetings, ten months, seven community outreach sessions and $230,000 worth of consultant fees- that’s what it took for a 17-member committee to craft the Central West small area plan, which outlines future development near the intersection of Estes Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Susana Dancy was one of more than a dozen speakers on Tuesday who asked the Chapel Hill Town Council to support the committee’s plan.
“I believe the steering committee has produced a small area plan that is both forward-looking and realistic,” Dancy told the council. “It reveals significant compromises that defer to neighborhood concerns.”
The Central West plan calls for three- to five-story buildings with retail, office and a mix of uses along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard tapering to smaller residential development along Estes Drive.
Committee co-chair Amy Ryan said the group scaled down the plan following a community feedback session in September.
“We heard back loud and clear that this is too big and too dense,” said Ryan. “So when we came back and worked up the final Central West plan, you’ll see that our numbers have gone down considerably. We did hear that it was time to pull back.”
Still, some area residents were displeased with the committee’s final result, saying it will bring too much traffic to the already congested roads and threaten ecologically sensitive regions. David Tuttle served on the committee, but he said he said he could not support the committee’s plan.
“We strongly disagree with this picture that high density is needed to save our neighborhoods,” said Tuttle.
He and other neighbors offered what they dubbed a lower-density “alternate plan“, along with a 260-signature petition asking the council to study development impacts on traffic, stormwater control and the cost of town services.
Instead, the Council voted unanimously to adopt the committee’s plan, though they asked that the alternate plan be acknowledged in the official documents.
Although Council members said the Central West small area plan offered a balance between growth potential and neighborhood preservation, some worried it was too narrow in scope.
Early next year the Council will consider shifting the focus from planning small sections of town to wider studies of traffic and the economic impact of growth.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/council-unanimously-approves-central-west-plan/
CHAPEL HILL- The Chapel Hill Town Council voted Monday to move ahead with a plan to build affordable rental housing on town-owned land.
Town Council members say a project that will use low-income tax credits to build 170 affordable rentals on town property is a chance for Chapel Hill to help those being priced out of workforce housing.
“What I believe this is, is an investment in the character of Chapel Hill,” said Mayor Pro Tem Ed Harrison. “What it gives us is a step forward in diversity of housing that we really are at a loss to make otherwise.”
The council voted 7-1 last night to sell 8.5 acres of land next to the Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery to DHIC, Inc, a Raleigh-based developer specializing in affordable rentals.
DHIC President Gregg Warren said he’s been unable to build in Chapel Hill due in part to high land costs. To make the project feasible, the council agreed to sell the land for $100, despite the assessed value of $2 million. In return, DHIC will apply for state tax credits to subsidize housing for those making a range of incomes, including seniors, low-wage workers, the disabled and those transitioning from homelessness.
However not everyone was pleased with the deal.
Council member Matt Czajkowski said he couldn’t support a plan that gave away $2 million dollars worth of town assets outside of the annual budget process, especially as the town is looking to fund the Rogers Road sewer project later this spring.
“We have multiple other looming financial demands,” said Czajkowski. “Paramount among those demands is funding Rogers Road. In my view, and I guess the mayor and I disagree on this, this is what priority budgeting is all about.”
But Council member Sally Greene, who co-chaired the Mayor’s Committee on Affordable Rental Housing, urged her peers to take advantage of this new opportunity.
“There is really a high public purpose in this, and yes, it is nothing we’ve ever done before, but as we know we’re in a different climate than we were ten years ago, and we need to be thinking creatively,” said Greene. “We need to explore and if possible execute plans like this when they come available for us.”
The council was under a deadline to sign a letter of intent to commit to the project to allow DHIC to proceed with the application process for state tax credits. Warren said the process is competitive, as only one in four proposals is approved.
Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt reminded the council and audience that Monday’s vote is only the first step.
“This vote didn’t create that project- it just allows it to move forward,” said Kleinschmidt. “And we’ll all be anxious to see next August this application be approved, we hope.”
The council will review the project again next spring, as the land will need to be rezoned before May ahead of the project application deadline.
The council also voted 7-1 last night to allocate an additional $860,000 to renovate two-thirds of Town Hall.
The first floor was damaged during this summer’s flooding, but instead of rebuilding just the lower level, Town Manager Roger Stancil recommended reorganizing much of the building to help streamline the permitting process.
“It would be physical evidence of the kind of change that you have asked for in development review and customer focus over the last few years,” Stancil told the council.
Matt Czajkowski cast the lone vote against the project.
In addition, the council unanimously approved a plan to partner with Orange County for recycling pick-up services. The county has been forced by a recent court ruling to change its funding model for the program, leading some in Chapel Hill to consider separating the municipal and county programs.
However, council members said they’d be willing to continue the partnership provided town staffers have a greater role to play in the administration and oversight of the program. The town and county managers will hash out an agreement later this spring.
On Tuesday the council will meet again to consider adoption of the Central West small area plan detailing potential growth around the Martin Luther King Jr., and Estes Drive intersection.
The Central West planning process has drawn fire from some residents of the area, who say citizen input has not been adequately incorporated into the current plan.
Residents opposed to the committee’s plan are likely to present a lower-density plan they say will reduce traffic and preserve surrounding neighborhoods.
The council meets Tuesday at 6 o’clock at the Southern Human Service Center on Homestead Road.
You can read the full agenda here: http://chapelhillpublic.novusagenda.com/MeetingView.aspx?MeetingID=236&MinutesMeetingID=-1
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.
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.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/despite-debate-rogers-road-remediation-plan-still-stalled/
CHAPEL HILL- The Chapel Hill Town Council is cautiously optimistic about a plan to build a six-story apartment building behind the Franklin Hotel, but Council members say there are still questions to be answered before the project moves forward.
Jay and Anup Patel of Wintergreen Hospitality want to build 55 apartments on Mallette Street behind the Franklin Hotel. The apartments were originally billed as student housing, but John McAdams told the Council on Monday they are rethinking that concept.
“Franklin Student Housing is a concept name and we will be changing it because it is meant to appeal to more than just students,” said McAdams.
However, Council member Lee Storrow said it wasn’t clear how appealing that mix might be to non-student renters.
“It’s hard for me to imagine that some of our older residents who are low-wage workers, even if you are providing some affordable housing, are going to have the same interests to live in a project that sounds like it is going to be about 90 percent undergrads,” said Storrow.
The developers are proposing a five- and six-story building on just less than one acre of land currently used as a parking lot. They told the Council they need to add density above and beyond what the area is zoned for to make the project economically feasible. In return, they hope to designate 20 percent of the apartments as permanently affordable rentals.
Council member Sally Greene pressed for details about the affordable rental plan, but Jay Patel said that’s still up in the air.
“For us, the priority now is to figure out the strategy and what the intent should be, based on your feedback and the community’s feedback, and then the logistics of figuring out how to make that happen,” said Patel.
Council members also urged the developers to rethink the buffer between the buildings and the Cameron-McCauley Historic District adjacent to the property.
“I don’t know how you do that, I’ve got no clue,” said Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. “But right now it just seems too high, too close.”
Council member Donna Bell said this could become more of a problem in the future as new properties are developed downtown.
“We should work in coordination with the developer to think about how these bufferings should work and think of it as sort of a pilot program to figure out what we’re going to do long-term,” said Bell.
The Franklin Housing concept is still being developed and no formal plan has been submitted to the town.
A separate plan to redevelop Timber Hollow Apartments on Martin Luther King Boulevard was scheduled to come before the Council on Monday, but developer Ron Strom asked to delay deliberations until February.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chtc-mulls-mallette-street-apartment-concept/
CHAPEL HILL- Flooding on June 30 caused major damage to the first floor of Chapel Hill Town Hall, and repairs could keep much of the building closed until next summer.
But Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Town Manager Roger Stancil are encouraging the council to consider this as an opportunity instead of a crisis, asking them to rethink the layout of town offices, with an eye to expediting the permitting and review process.
The price to rebuild the flooded business offices and council chamber would be approximately $249,000, but Kleinschmidt says that for just $430,000 more, the town could create a user-friendly permitting center on the ground floor that would make it easier for developers and homeowners to get projects reviewed by town staffers.
The council has a long-term plan for $4.2 million dollars worth of renovations to Town Hall, but officials say that plan is unfunded and not high on the town’s list of priorities.
However, Business Management Director Ken Pennoyer says spending an extra $430,000 now could indefinitely delay the need for large-scale renovation. He says the money could come from the town’s fund balance or bonds issued next July.
Some on the council say they want more information before committing the extra money, especially as the remodeling plan does not currently include the cost of stormwater infrastructure improvements to make sure the flooding doesn’t happen again.
The council is waiting on a report from Public Works detailing the causes of the flooding before making any final decisions.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/council-considers-revamp-for-flood-damaged-town-hall/