Town Council Approves Building AC Hotel On Rosemary Street

The Chapel Hill Town Council unanimously approved a special use permit, which allows construction to begin on the AC Hotel by Marriott, which  will be located on the corner of Church and Rosemary Street.

“We feel like this project is a good fit for where the Town of Chapel Hill envisions itself going,” said Dennis Mitchell of OTO Development. “It’s a walkable to location to the Town of Chapel Hill.”

The hotel will be four stories, with 123 rooms and nearly 70,000 square feet of space. It will include an underground parking lot, which will be able to hold 111 vehicles.

“As a next-door neighbor, if you have to live with a four-story development, this is a good fit for us as we imagine what West Rosemary St. might be,” said Fran Gualtieri, owner of La Residence.

Mitchell said the hotel will also be beneficial residents, even if they do not stay at the hotel.

“The lobby is open and accessible to the public,” he said. “It has a small bar and a small tapas-style F and B program. We encourage the public to come in, but it’s not meant to be a full meal or a full bar.”

Construction of the hotel is supposed to begin before 2017.

5 to 4 Votes Are Healthy For Chapel Hill

Raleigh Mann

Raleigh Mann

Before moving to Chapel Hill 38 years ago, I was a newspaper reporter in south Florida.

Have you driven there lately?

The weather is still great, but the beauty is harder to find.  Over-development squashed it years ago.

But, I learned a lot as a covered the deliberations of those city leaders who struggled to deal with developers who saw dollar signs on every empty lot.

“I’d never want to be in their shoes,” I told myself.

It’s a thankless job.

We all owe a large debt of thanks to those who have served Chapel Hill for years, but who lost their seats in this past election.

It is a tough job.

Why do people run for public office?

Well, many reasons.  But, if we read the campaign websites of those who recently got elected to Chapel Hill’s Town Council, it’s clear why our local election turned out as it did.

Chapel Hill residents desperately want their voices heard.  Some of us have the quaint idea that council members who represent us should actually listen to and consider our concerns.

Mayor-elect Pam Hemminger said that too often the mayor and council dismissed residents with legitimate concerns as anti-development or afraid of change.  Thoughtful input for task forces and advisory boards is ignored.

New council member Jessica Anderson wants to promote smart development by listening to residents and advisory boards and prioritizing the interest of local residents over those of developers and investors.

Nancy Oates wants to restore trust and accountability.  And I quote her, “So all of us who care about Chapel Hill can live our lives without having to worry about what council members are doing to our town.”

Michael Parker says that he wants to insure that our town government works for and is responsive to the needs of all its residents.

Donna Bell, the only incumbent voters returned to the council. is proud of her work to develop more affordable housing in Chapel Hill.

Don’t expect these new council members to take over the castle exactly, but you can bet that their voices, and maybe ours too, will be heard.

We’ll see more 5 to 4 votes and that’s healthy.


Raleigh Mann

In 2015 Election, Chapel Hill Goes “Beyond Unitary Democracy”

Oh what a difference two years makes.

Back in 2013, municipal elections were nice. Candidates spoke to each other, supported each other, considered each other’s views. The tone was friendly. You’d see the candidates smiling and laughing with each other at the polling sites, even as they competed for the same votes. (Here’s the photographic proof, with Loren Hintz and George Cianciolo.) The niceness was everywhere. Just before Election Day I even posted this piece on Chapelboro, challenging the local candidates to stop being so sweet to each other and start playing some friggin’ hardball.

But I was being sarcastic, y’all. I was being sarcastic!

Fast forward to 2015, and…well, things were a little different. It got petty. It got snippy. There was actual bitterness. How bad did it get? Depends who you ask. Some candidates were nonchalant about it, but I saw others who were just about ready to be done with politics altogether. I heard some people say this was pretty tame in the grand scheme of things, but I heard others say they hadn’t seen anything like this anywhere. Either way, though, Chapel Hill hasn’t seen a local election this nasty in a long, long time.

What the hell happened?

Now, folks who’ve been around a while say this isn’t the first time we’ve seen an election like this in Chapel Hill. In fact it happens pretty regularly, every 10 or 15 years or so.

But why? Forget for a second about the specific issues that divided people this year. More abstractly: why do these divisions occur in the first place? Why do they only bubble up every so often? And why does it seem to get so bitter when they do?

We were all nicey-nice in 2013. How did it get so contentious in just two years?

Here’s one answer: what if the two are connected? What if it got so heated this year not in spite of the fact that we’d been so nice before, but precisely because we’d been so nice before?

This is why…


When we think about democracy, more often than not, we think of it as a struggle between opposing sides. Parties and candidates compete against each other for votes, you vote for whichever side best represents your interests, and everything gets hashed out in the legislature as all the different groups fight for control. “Interest-group democracy,” it’s called, and we do it this way on purpose. It goes back to James Madison’s theory (in Federalist 10) of how to keep the government from turning tyrannical. The trick, he said, is to keep a single group (or “faction”) from taking over – and the way to do that is to build a diverse society with many factions, all of them constantly in competition, each of them checking the power of the others.

It’s ingenious. But it’s not enough. If we’re all just competing against each other, then what’s the point of sharing a government in the first place? You can’t sustain a community without something that unites people together, a common interest that everyone works toward. And for that, you need a government that’s built on something more than conflict. You also need government to be a place where people come together to work out the best way to reach their common goals. Government can’t just be “adversarial” – it has to be “consensual” too.

The political scientist Jane Mansbridge wrote about this in a book called “Beyond Adversary Democracy.” When we think about politics, she said, we typically think about institutions like Congress, where it’s all about the power struggle and there’s almost no effort to reach “genuine unanimity.” (There’s compromise, true, but that’s not the same thing as unanimity – that’s just different factions making deals with each other in order to maximize their own interests.)

But what if we go down a level? What if we look at small towns instead? Or local organizations? Or businesses where the workers make decisions collectively? There, Mansbridge said, you’ll find not “adversary” democracy, but “unitary” democracy. Rather than different factions competing with each other, you’ll find a single, un-divided group of people, united by their shared interests, coming together as a community to identify their goals and agree on the best course of action.

To illustrate this, Mansbridge visited a small town in Vermont. (She called it “Selby” in the book – not its real name.) Selby makes all its big decisions in one giant annual town meeting: everyone’s invited to gather together in a big room and talk, and talk, and talk, until they agree upon a course of action, one agenda item at a time.

The underlying assumption (says Mansbridge) is that all the folks in Selby share the same interest. There’s no need to make sure all the factions are represented, because everyone’s on the same side – all the town has to do is get people together and talk it out. Not everybody shows up to the meeting, of course, and some people are more influential than others – but that isn’t necessarily a problem, because everybody’s working toward the same goal regardless. (And in fact, Mansbridge says, the townsfolk actually become more likely to share interests in common because they start by assuming shared interests. It makes them more likely to emphathize with each other and to think first about “the good of the whole,” even if they have to sacrifice their individual interests to do it.)

It all sounds very idyllic.

But it’s not perfect either.

For one thing: even though it’s called a “consensual” democracy, Mansbridge says debates can actually get more heated and passionate than they do in an “adversarial” system. Which actually makes sense if you think about it. Adversarial systems are based on conflict, but the actual decisions get made pretty mathematically: add up everybody’s interest and divide by the whole, and there’s your compromise. It’s all very un-emotional. You’re not trying to persuade each other, because you’ve already agreed to disagree.

But in a consensual system, the goal is total agreement. Everyone supposedly shares the same interest, so if there’s disagreement, you don’t just split the difference – you talk it out until you agree.

We’ve all been in those conversations. How do they usually go?

Well, they get heated. They get emotional. People get angry at each other. Very angry.

And that’s what happens even in a Mayberry-esque town like Selby, where everyone is friends with everyone else. “(One man) acquires a splitting headache,” writes Mansbridge. “An older man claims he stopped going because he is afraid for his heart. A man in the next town tells how his hands shake for hours after the meeting. Altogether more than a quarter of the people I talked to suggested without prompting that the conflictual character of the town meeting in some way upset them.”

How does a community deal with this? How do we ease tension, when we’re trying to work through a passionate difference of opinion?

Well, how do you do it?

We all have the same basic strategies. First we remind ourselves of our friendship, our common bonds. We refer to each other by our first names. Make it informal. We break the tension by joking with each other, especially when things get really intense. And worse comes to worst, we can just avoid having the conversation at all. That way at least we’re not arguing in public.

Sounds familiar, right?

That’s how it happens in Selby. In the meeting, they refer to each other by their first names. They crack jokes. And most importantly, the biggest decisions – the ones that are most likely to generate the biggest fights – are not made in public. Not really. Town leaders meet ahead of time, Mansbridge says, and work it out in advance – so while the official vote gets taken in the meeting, the consensus has already been reached in private. (When Selby had to appoint a selectman, for instance: several prominent people were nominated, but nearly all of them declined the nomination, and the final vote was almost unanimous. But the whole thing was a show: the ‘winner’ had been selected and the other ‘candidates’ had already agreed not to run before the meeting even started.)

These methods are important. They’re good. They ease tension. They keep the peace. And this consensual system has real advantages. It encourages everyone to get involved. It inspires people to think about the community and set their own interest to the side.


There’s an obvious downside too. If the goal is to preserve a spirit of consensus, then real differences of opinion can get suppressed. If the big decisions are made by elites, other people get shut out. “If you don’t say what they want to hear you’re not even acknowledged,” said one Selby resident. (Didn’t CHALT’s supporters say exactly the same thing?)

And there’s more: when real differences of interest arise, a consensual system doesn’t have a way to address it. Adversarial governments can just compromise, but when you don’t allow your government to act without total consensus, you often end up with “deadlock” – or worse, “social coercion.” (We know this from U.S. History class. Remember what we learned about the Articles of Confederation? They failed, because they required every single state to agree before the federal government could do anything at all. Total deadlock. And if it’s “social coercion” you want – go look up the history of how the U.S. Constitution got ratified. Fascinating stuff.)

Now, Mansbridge likes consensual democracy. Her ultimate point is that we’re too adversarial – that we ought to be making more decisions locally, in small communities with shared interests, in institutions that seek consensus around a common good. (Let’s be more like Chapel Hill than Washington, in other words.)

But she also said this, by way of warning:

“In a town meeting, each decision to resolve a matter beforehand to avoid hurt feelings becomes simultaneously a decision to withhold information from those who need it most…

“The final and major weakness of the consensual system is ‘people being bullied into consensus’ and ‘just kind of going along with it.'”

And even in the idyllic little New England town of Selby, that weakness eventually turns into open conflict, after years and years where everyone seems to be on the same page.


Okay, back to Chapel Hill.

Did the same thing happen here?

We pride ourselves on being a politically active, passionate town. We all know the line. “For every three people in Chapel Hill, there are four opinions!” Ha ha.

But for all our talk about valuing differences of opinion, we’ve put an awfully high value on consensus.

Look at our government structure, for instance. Many cities divide themselves into districts or wards and elect separate representatives from each. Not here. All our town council members are elected at large. Every member represents the whole community – the common interest. Our system makes no effort to guarantee that different interests are represented, because our system assumes that different interests do not exist. There is one shared interest, one common good for all. That’s it.

Better yet, look at “Chapel Hill 2020,” the massive town-wide project in 2011 and 2012 to develop a new comprehensive plan. Chapel Hill 2020 was conceived as a giant New England-style town meeting: invite literally everyone in town to come together and talk…and talk…and talk…until gradually we reach a consensus, a plan that everyone had a part in shaping and that everyone can get behind. And we did it! Thousands of people came together. Everybody had their say. And the Town Council approved it. Unanimously, of course.

And look at the election of 2013. Nine candidates for Town Council, and they mostly agreed on everything. The mayor was running unopposed. The most obvious candidates to challenge him had all declined to run. The incumbents were all but guaranteed reelection. Loren Hintz and George Cianciolo knew they were fighting for one open seat on the Council – but there they are, smiling and joking with each other three days before the election. And why not? There was nothing at stake. Loren and George (first names, please!) had very similar visions for Chapel Hill. They had their differences, but they represented the same “common interest.” George won the election, as it turned out. But suppose it had been Loren. Would the Town Council have acted much differently in the last two years? Would it have prioritized different things, made different decisions? How often has George been the swing vote on a 5-4 Council decision? How often would Loren have gone the other way?

What this is, is democracy by consensus. It’s informal, it’s friendly, it’s participatory, and yes, it’s often unanimous. Chapel Hill has a terrific system of consensual democracy. (Look no further than “Chapel Hill 2020.”) And it works very well – assuming we all share a common interest. The system depends on that assumption.

What if the assumption is wrong?

Writing in 1980, Jane Mansbridge argued that consensus democracy is a fine thing and worth fighting for – but it doesn’t know how to handle real conflicts of interest. Sometimes it suppresses opinions in order to preserve the facade of unanimity. James Madison, writing in 1787, said the same thing. And both of them, especially Mansbridge, wrote that consensus becomes harder and harder to maintain as your community becomes larger. It’s a very real danger.

Suppose you represent a competing interest here in Chapel Hill, one that goes against the “consensus.” You’re probably going to be frustrated, right? Your town leaders all vote the same way, and gosh, they’re awfully friendly with each other. The big decisions all seem to get made behind closed doors. You’re invited to participate, but you represent conflict in a system that’s not really designed to handle it. You don’t get shut down or hushed up, not really, but it might feel that way. And Chapel Hill 2020 actually makes the feeling worse: the town goes out of its way to invite you to the table, then falls back on the same old consensus anyway. It probably felt like a betrayal.

What we saw in 2015 was a bubbling over: the inevitable downside of having a consensus-based democracy in a community with adversarial interests. “When real conflicts of interest arose,” Mansbridge wrote of Selby, “people held back their anger until they were about to explode.”

2015 was the explosion. And sooner or later it’ll probably happen again.

After all, it’s happened before. Every 10 or 15 years or so, they say, Chapel Hill has an election like this. Maybe not quite this bitter, but like this. Consensus, consensus, consensus for a decade or more, then a sudden upswell of discontent. It always seems to come out of nowhere. People get caught off guard. The election happens. There are surprises. Big changes. For a time. Then, gradually, the anger subsides. Things settle down. The consensus reasserts itself. It’s how the system works.

These heated elections we have every so often? This is the cost of consensual democracy.

Should we make changes? Jane Mansbridge would probably say so. “To maintain its legitimacy,” she wrote, “a democracy must have both a unitary and an adversary face.” In other words, rather than seeking only consensus and thinking of conflict as a bad thing to be avoided, we ought to recognize that there are conflicts of interest in our community and try to accommodate them in our government.

And there are things we could theoretically do. We could switch to a district system for Town Council representation, for instance. We could not invite the whole town to write our next comprehensive plan.

But that’d be giving up all hope of finding a common interest. And that’s an awfully pessimistic move. It’s the sort of move you only make when you admit your community isn’t a little village anymore.

And personally, hey, I like Chapel Hill the way it is. I like our consensual system. I like the friendliness. I like the fact that we believe in a common good, and I like the fact that our town government actually tries to identify it and realize it. It puts us way up on Raleigh and Washington.

But this is the price we pay for consensus. We should remember that. Our system isn’t perfect. There are downsides. People feel excluded. Eventually there is anger. The anger becomes a movement. Heated elections take place. Changes come.

Mansbridge says this sort of thing tends to happen wherever you have a “unitary” democracy. It happened in Selby. It happened in Chapel Hill. Carrboro, y’all are on notice.

Still, there’s nothing saying it has to get to that point. We can do better. This is a work in progress. It ought to be. We’re Chapel Hill. We love works in progress. We’re progress-ive.

Will we do better? Will 2015 be the last time Chapel Hill sees an election like this?

Nah. Probably not.

But it’s worth the effort, nonetheless.

Challengers Sweep Chapel Hill Town Council

Challengers swept the Chapel Hill Town Council race Tuesday night, unseating two incumbents.

Jessica Anderson rose from political obscurity to become the newest town council member and higher vote-getter in Tuesday’s election. She took in 5,318 votes, just under 17 percent of the total cast.

Anderson spoke with WCHL following the election:


Incumbent Donna Bell came in second with 4,485 votes, or 14.3 percent. She was the only one of three incumbents re-elected as four-term council member Jim Ward and one-term member Lee Storrow lost to first time candidates Nancy Oates and Michael Parker.

Oates finished third with 4,449 votes, Parker fourth with 4,186, taking in 14.2 percent and 13.3 percent respectively.

More 2015 election results.

Anderson and Oates were endorsed by CHALT, the Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town, a group formed to protest recent development decisions approved by the outgoing council.

Parker and Bell received endorsements from a host of other organizations including the Sierra Club, The INDY Week and the Hank Anderson Breakfast Club.

Parker spoke with WCHL following the election:


Of the remaining candidates, Jim Ward finished fifth, David Schwartz sixth, Storrow seventh, Adam Jones eighth and Paul Neebe ninth.

Overall, it was a good night for challengers in Chapel Hill.  Pam Hemminger became the first challenger to defeat an incumbent mayor in Chapel Hill in at least five decades.  Like Anderson and Oates, Hemminger was endorsed by CHALT.

Five Things Chapel Hill’s Town Leaders are Finally Getting Done

It’s human nature to be most vocal when we don’t like something, especially when it comes to our local elected officials.  Freely expressing dissatisfaction about the decisions our leaders make is the bedrock of democracy.

As we express our disapproval of decisions we personally don’t like, however, it’s all too easy to sit back and remain silent about everything else town leaders do of which we approve.  As Election Day nears, here are five things Chapel Hill’s Mayor and town council members have accomplished in recent years that are worthy of our praise:

1) After years of talking about affordable housing, we finally put our money where our mouth is.  Chapel Hillians advocated allocating a penny of every dollar of revenue to affordable housing and the Town Council responded to our citizens’ call.  Additionally, Chapel Hill donated two million dollars’ worth of town-owned land on Legion Road where the non-profit group DHIC will build Greenfield Village, a community of quality permanent homes for working low income residents and seniors.

2) We finally got serious about our lack of office space so home grown businesses won’t have to leave town when they grow.  The town council has approved over 900,000 square feet of future office space for commercial tax-paying businesses, including at Carolina Square on Franklin Street and in the highly praised Glenn Lennox redevelopment plan.  Recruiting, growing and keeping commercial businesses in Chapel Hill is an essential component of reducing our dangerous dependency on homeowners’ property taxes and we can’t accomplish this goal without suitable office space for those businesses.

3) We’ve given students places they actually want to live.  For years, residents in many different neighborhoods throughout Chapel Hill have griped about groups of unrelated students stuffing themselves in rented houses intended for families.  The truth is, most students don’t want to live far away from campus out in subdivisions with us boring, middle aged married folks any more than long-time residents want their peace disturbed by students’ youthful lifestyles.  When students can live close to campus in apartments designed specifically for them, such as Lux and Shortbread Lofts, they won’t be forced to live in neighborhoods better suited for their parents.

4) We worked to end the digital divide for our schoolchildren. Thanks to a well-negotiated agreement with AT&T and a partnership with the Kramden Institute, public housing residents now have free high speed internet, a laptop computer and training to make sure their kids aren’t falling behind in today’s connected world.

5) We finally started making good on our promises to the Rogers Road neighborhood.  After forty years of dumping our trash there and skipping out on our end of the bargain, the Chapel Hill Town Council is finally working with Carrboro and Orange County to offer the water and sewer service and community amenities we promised decades ago. We’ve just getting started, but it’s been well past time for those old inexcusable excuses to stop.

Listen to Matt Bailey’s Commentary Here

Many of these issues have been goals in Chapel Hill for years, but it seems we never quite got around to acting on them until our current mayor and council members took charge.  We’ve heard plenty of platforms and platitudes from candidates seeking our votes this election season.  In the end, however, it’s what you actually do that matters.

Our mayor and current town council members deserve our gratitude for these five accomplishments.   Their track record proves they have what it takes to turn campaign promises into positive progress for Chapel Hill.

It’s important you make your voice heard when you don’t approve of town leaders’ actions.  However, we should all be equally vocal when we do approve of their actions.  After all, no matter who gets our votes on November 3rd, we can’t expect town leaders to have the courage to take action on the biggest issues Chapel Hill faces if the only voices they ever hear are the angry ones.


— Matt Bailey

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.

Not enough parking spaces, and why didn’t the Town Council listen?

Today’s Commentator is Ken Larsen

FBC or Form Based Code is a tool that Chapel Hill leaders have adopted to expedite the development approval process.  I’m all for expediting that process, but in their haste to approve FBC, serious errors were made.  One lies with parking.  They introduced a formula that lowballs the number of parking spaces that developers are required to provide.

The Chapel Hill FBC specifies that a developer be required to provide only 1 parking space per one bedroom apartment and only 1.25 spaces for a two bedroom apartment.  To me, that’s too low and will result in fights over parking.  Like it or not, people own cars, and apartments will often be shared by multiple car-owning people.

This and other FBC issues were presented to the Town Council in 2014, but they chose to ignore such feedback.

Unfortunately, the results of a flawed decision are not immediately apparent.  If you permit a developer to skimp on parking spaces, it may be several years before a development is built, gets fully occupied, and parking problems surface.  This is all the more reason to proceed with caution.

Problems such as this FBC parking issue can be avoided if a Town Council actively listens to citizen and planning board feedback.  However, that hasn’t been happening.  The hubris of the current Town Council has resulted in many flawed decisions.  If they could put their egos aside and place serious value on citizen feedback, problems can be avoided.

Please vote in the November 3rd election.

— Ken Larsen.

CHTC Weighs Pros And Cons of B&Bs

The Town Council is pondering how bed and breakfasts might change the character of Chapel Hill’s historic neighborhoods.

In some tourist towns like Asheville, bed and breakfasts have been hailed as a way to revitalize historic neighborhoods, but Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said he’s not convinced that’s needed in Chapel Hill.

“Somebody earlier tonight said, ‘What problem is this solving?’, and I think for many of our neighborhoods it’s not solving any problem. It’s just potentially creating them,” said Kleinschmidt.

The council heard from residents on the issue Monday night. Many, including Boundary Street homeowner Sally Sather, were opposed to the concept.

“No one I have talked to in my neighborhood is in favor of allowing bed and breakfasts to start buying up our houses,” said Sather. “Allowing this kind of creeping commercialism would be a terrible precedent for this council to set.”

Town planners told the council they don’t recommend wide-spread permitting of B&Bs either, but the council could consider allowing some neighborhoods to opt in.

One example might be the Cameron-McCauley Historic District, where long-time residents say student rentals have taken over, destabilizing the neighborhood. Kurt Ribisl is the president of the Westside Neighborhood Association. He told the council new bed and breakfasts sound better than more of what his neighbors call “student-stuffers.”

“Between having a rental property or a B&B, people would think that a B&B would be a more desirable option in our neighborhood,” said Ribisl.

Laurie Paolicelli, head of the Orange County Community Relations and Tourism Department, warned the council the growth of short-term rentals like Airbnb means Chapel Hill leaders may have missed the opportunity to oversee the process.

“If you look at Airbnb and you google 27514 or 27516, there are so many options that I fear we’re already in the B&B business, but not regulated and not in a healthy way and that really concerns me,” said Paolicelli.

The question of whether to allow bed and breakfasts in Chapel Hill has been debated off and on since 1984. The B&B debate will continue October 26.

Poll Shows Tight Race Ahead for Chapel Hill Municipal Election

Undecided voters will likely determine the Chapel Hill Town Council and Mayoral leadership this November, according to new polling numbers.

With a heated campaign season well underway, Public Policy Polling commissioned a Chapel Hill-specific survey and exclusively shared the results with WCHL-Chapelboro.

PPP Director Tom Jensen says, with more than a month to go before Election Day, a lot could change between now and November 3. But as it stands, incumbent Mark Kleinschmidt is leading the Mayoral candidates with 37 percent of respondents favoring a fourth term for Kleinschmidt. Challenger Pam Hemminger checked in with 25 percent of respondents and Gary Kahn is polling at five percent. Kleinschmidt also boasts a 48/27 approval rating. Jensen says it would be “pretty unusual” to lose when a candidate’s numbers are “that solid,” but 33 percent of those surveyed say they are still undecided on who they will vote for in the ballot box in the coming weeks.

Listen to Tom Jensen’s full interview with WCHL’s Aaron Keck below:


Meanwhile, 42 percent of respondents say they are undecided on their first choice for Town Council and 52 percent say they have no clear second choice. 22 percent of those surveyed say they support challenger Nancy Oates as their first or second choice among CHTC candidates, followed by incumbents Jim Ward, 19 percent, Donna Bell, 18 percent, and Lee Storrow, 13 percent. Challengers David Schwartz, 11 percent, Jessica Anderson, nine percent, Michael Parker, eight percent, Adam Jones, five percent, and Paul Neebe, three percent, round out the crowded field.

Jensen says another way to look at the numbers shows incumbents – Bell, Storrow and Ward – totaling 50 percent of the support, and CHALT-backed candidates – Oates, Schwartz and Anderson – receiving 42 percent of the support. Hemminger has been endorsed by CHALT in the race for Mayor.

There is one open seat on the Town Council after Matt Czajkowski resigned to work for a non-profit in Rwanda earlier this year.

Jensen points out endorsements in the next month from the Sierra Club and the Indy Week have the potential to greatly shuffle the deck of hopefuls.

The polling shows that Chapel Hillians are as divided on issues in the town as they are the candidates hoping to make decisions on those issues in the future; 43 percent of voters think the town is headed in the right direction, while 39 percent think it’s on the wrong track; 50 percent of voters think the town is growing at the right pace, 33 percent think it’s growing too fast and eight percent answered Chapel Hill is growing too slow.

One area that received more support was the Orange-Durham Light Rail project, with 69 percent of those surveyed supporting the plan.

66 percent of voters say they’re inclined to support proposed bonds.

Meanwhile, 27 percent of voters support the Obey Creek project with 44 percent saying they are opposed to the development.

Jensen says the poll was commissioned because of interest, not because of a candidate had requested or paid for it. He cites the fact that he lives in Chapel Hill helped decide to go forward with the survey.

You can read over the entire results here, ChapelHillPoll2015

Chapel Hill Town Council and Mayoral Forum on WCHL Thursday Night

Candidates in the races for Chapel Hill Mayor and the Town Council will face off Thursday night in a two hour debate hosted by WCHL, the Sierra Club, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, the  Greater Chapel Hill Association of REALTORS® and the Home Builders Association of Durham, Orange & Chatham Counties.

Nine people are vying for four seats on the Chapel Hill Town Council this November. The three incumbents, Jim Ward, Donna Bell and Lee Storrow, face Adam Jones, David Schwartz, Jessica Anderson, Nancy Oates, Paul Neebe and Michael Parker.

There’s also one open seat on the council that’s been vacant since Matt Czajkowski resigned in March.

Incumbent Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt faces two challengers, Pam Hemminger and Gary Kahn.

Kleinschmidt has served as mayor since 2009, and two terms on the council prior to that. Hemminger previously served on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board and the Orange County Board of Commissioners. Gary Kahn has run for office twice in the past, both times unsuccessfully.

Aaron Keck will moderate the discussion, exploring issues of development, growth, affordability and more. Bring your questions for candidates or submit them to us using Facebook or Twitter.

You can join us live in the Council Chamber at Chapel Hill Town Hall, or tune in on the radio at 7 o’clock. The forum will be simultaneously broadcast on Chapel Hill Gov-TV and streamed on the Town’s website as well as