CHAPEL HILL – The Chapel Hill Town Council is cautiously moving forward with the proposed plan to partner with Orange County to provide weekly curbside recycling pick-up in town. Council members disagreed at a meeting Monday over how much leverage Chapel Hill would lose to the County if an inter-local agreement were entered into too quickly.
The Town is working on a June 30th deadline to renew or find another avenue for recycling services, which are currently provided by the County.
The County is on the fast track to award a contract outlining an independent firm to provide the recycling services for Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough.
“I think that it is not inappropriate for the Council to make a statement effectively which is we are not willing to just outright support what you [the County] are doing in the absence of any rule guidance on the inter-local agreement,” said Council Member Matt Czajkowski.
Czajkowski asked town staff to prepare a report of where the County stands on the tentative inter-local agreement. He said he desired more clarification on what administrative fees the County will be charging.
“And we still don’t have the information from the County about what that incremental cost will be,” he said. “Even though I presume that they will be a good partner as well, they haven’t really given us much indication that they are capable of being a good partner.”
Council member Jim Ward encouraged moving forward with support for the tentative partnership plan, given the County’s investment in roll-out carts to provide the recycling services.
“As we approach the 30th of June, our leverage actually increases. The county has already spent some version of $1 million dollars for these carts. They want this to work. As we move forward, they want these really to work. We need to be their partner,” Ward said.
Wendy Simmons, Solid Waste Services Manager for Chapel Hill, said that it is anticipated that County Commissioners will enter into a contract with an independent firm during a Board meeting on February 4.
Town staff recommended that the Council consider favoring a partnership with the County which stipulates that the Town has the ability to add provisions in the contract allowing the Council to change the frequency of recycling services as needed.
The firms that have submitted bids include Republic Services of North Carolina, TFC Recycling, Unity of the Carolinas, and Waste Industries.
The County’s recommendation was for a weekly collection, which conforms to current pick-up schedules, but will come at a higher cost.
The Town received a low bid of $3.68 monthly per unit for weekly pick-up, and a low bid of $2.44 for bi-weekly services. Town staff anticipated that the County will move forward with the lowest bid.
In comparison, the County’s current contract cost for weekly curbside recycling service is $3.73 per unit.
Council member Lee Storrow added that the Council could consider several options in the future, including a “pay as you throw” option.
“My recycling bin is full every time I put it out, so even having a bi-weekly can would be appealing, but starting out with weekly makes sense,” Storrow said.
Simmons said that the County is expected to opt for weekly collection service with roll carts which would be offered beginning in June.
When a firm is decided upon, she said the contract will most likely be for five-years, with an option for one additional five-year term.
Once the inter-local agreement is formulated, it would then be returned to the Council for a formal vote.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/ch-town-council-moves-forward-oc-recycling-partnership/
CHAPEL HILL- A plan for a new hotel on East Franklin Street met with opposition from residents and the Chapel Hill Town Council last week
Anthony Carey is the general manager at the Siena Hotel on the corner of East Franklin and Estes Drive. He told the Council he’s skeptical about a plan to build a new upscale hotel less than half a mile down the road.
“We currently do not have an urgent need for hotel rooms,” said Carey. “Between July 1 of last year and December 31, how many times was the Aloft, Siena, Sheraton, Franklin, Carolina Inn, Residence Inn and Courtyard sold out harmoniously? Zero.”
The concept was introduced to the Town Council at a public hearing last week. No formal plan has been submitted to the town, but developers heard an earful from neighbors critical of their proposal to build a five-story, 110-room hotel on less than two acres along East Franklin Street.
Dr. Terry Vance runs a psychotherapy practice across the street from the site. She said a new hotel would pose a threat to her business.
“The increased traffic and the noise of building a hotel would make our practice impossible,” said Vance. “We depend on listening, quiet and privacy.”
Residents in the nearby Coker Hills neighborhood also voiced concerns about noise, light pollution and traffic.
When the time came for the Council to offer feedback, members were similarly unimpressed. Lee Storrow told developers he was not excited about the plan.
“We have an approved hotel in the southern part of town that’s likely to break ground very soon, we have approved a rough concept that would, in the future, lead to a hotel across from Carolina North, and there’s discussions about ones in Ephesus-Fordham,” said Storrow. “So I don’t think this concept make sense at this space. I think we’re just moving around people who are in other hotels and I don’t think that has the benefit of expanding our market or tax base the way we want it to.”
Developers must now decide whether to formally apply for a rezoning and special use permit, or shelve the hotel plan in favor of a new idea.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/town-council-wary-east-franklin-hotel-plan/
CHAPEL HILL- Town planners call the chance to redevelop the Ephesus Church-Fordham Boulevard area a watershed moment in Chapel Hill’s history.
Members of the business and development community turned out Wednesday night to cheer on the Chapel Hill Town Council as the Council took the first steps of a process to rezone 190 acres in the Ephesus Church-Fordham Boulevard area.
“I rise in support of this plan, wholeheartedly,” said Jeremy Browner, who runs a law office on Legion Road. “I believe that it would bring much-needed private investment to encourage commercial redevelopment in Chapel Hill.”
The Ephesus-Fordham renewal plan is the result of nearly a decade of planning to redevelop an area currently known for vacant lots, twisted intersections and traffic snarls.
The plan calls for the Council to reconfigure the intersection of Ephesus Church Road and Fordham Boulevard, extend Elliot Road and create new mixed-use zones that allow three to seven stories of commercial and residential development.
It’s also an experiment in a new type of zoning for Chapel Hill called form-based code.
Using form-based code, the Council will set parameters for development including building height, setbacks and parking guidelines for each zone, but once these are in place, individual developers will not need to bring their projects before the council if they meet the established criteria.
Town Manager Roger Stancil said this will provide clarity for both developers and the Council.
“We have proposed a form-based code for this district that clarifies and streamlines the development process and improves predictability for the developer,” Stancil told the Council. “We are testing the assumption that if we are clear in what we want, we might get it.”
In addition to spurring redevelopment and expanding the town’s commercial tax base, Stancil said the plan will also address the long-standing traffic and flooding problems that have plagued the area for decades.
“The rezoning creates the opportunity for new tax revenues that allow us to solve problems the community has not been able to afford to resolve in the past,” said Stancil.
Town planners said individual redevelopment projects have been scuttled in the past due to the high cost of the required road and stormwater improvements.
Instead, the town will invest in the improvements upfront and be paid back incrementally as development within the district occurs.
The $10 million dollar investment in infrastructure will be financed using Chapel Hill Town Hall as collateral. Business Management Director Ken Pennoyer explained the money will also cover the recently-approved Town Hall renovations.
“Basically this is a strategy of using the collateral of one project to cover two projects, which is not all that uncommon in using installment financing,” said Pennoyer.
The majority of the 26 speakers at Wednesday’s public hearing lauded the plan as an exciting opportunity to change the way business is done in Chapel Hill. Others were more wary, worried that form-based code will remove public input from the development approval process. Critics also wanted more specifics on how and when stormwater and transit improvements would occur.
Some Council members also expressed doubts, as the form-based code model does not allow the Council to mandate affordable housing, green space or energy efficient design.
Still, most were optimistic about the plan.
“There are a lot of challenges moving forward and I think we’ve heard a lot of them from the public and the Council tonight,” said Lee Storrow. “But my God, that is a challenged area of town right now that has so much potential and, I think, a lot of excitement.”
The council voted unanimously to adopt a two-month timeline for approval of the plan. A public information session is scheduled for February 20; the council will likely take a vote on the Ephesus-Fordham rezoning March 24.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chtc-eyes-ephesus-fordham-renewal-plan/
CHAPEL HILL - A pro-firearms rights organization is threatening to sue the Town of Chapel Hill if laws regarding concealed weapons aren’t updated to comply with the State’s looser legislation passed last year.
In July of 2013, Governor Pat McCrory approved and signed House Bill 937 which limited the Town’s ability to prohibit people from carrying concealed handguns in Town owned buildings and the surrounding property, green ways, and recreational facilities, such as playgrounds, athletic fields, and swimming pools.
These changes, which counter the Town’s historical stance of restrictive legislation against concealed weapons, went into effect on October 1.
Andy Stevens of Grassroots North Carolina, a group which seeks to ensure that local municipalities adhere to the State’s new regulations, said that the Town’s revised statute was trying to “blanket” the fact that it will not be in compliance with State law.
Stevens said that the only time the Town can prohibit carrying concealed firearms on recreational fields is when the Town itself schedules the field for use.
“One of the reasons why we had to go to the legislature is because municipalities want to redefine words and make swimming pools into lakes and vice versa. The language is very specific, and your ordinance as written is not in compliance. Should you move to enact that into law, then Grassroots North Carolina will find it necessary to file a lawsuit,” Stevens said.
On the opposite side of the debate, several community members shared their frustration over the State’s regulations with the Council.
Kaaren Haldeman, the North Carolina Chapter Leader of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, shared that one child is shot every 30 minutes in the United States.
“Review of the last 20 years of literature concludes that more guns in more places mean more gun injury and more gun death,” Haldeman said.
Councilwoman Maria Palmer, who made a motion to approve the revised statute, said the Council needed to find ways to apply the law as narrowly as possible.
“I am all in favor of saying that we will direct our citizens to enforce our ordinances that we have in place,” Palmer said. “If certain citizens want to sue us, they can sue us, but we are going to protect our children until we figure out what is the least we need to do.”
Councilwoman Sally Greene said the Town’s regulations have not come into compliance and cautioned against acting prematurely.
“We really need to get a better handle of the legal parameters of what we can do here,” Greene said. “I would be hesitant to pass this resolution until we know more about what we will actually be doing.”
The council decided to delay a vote and asked Town Staff to review the compliance questions that were raised in the context of making the guns laws as narrow as legally possible.
Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, who participates in Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said the Council will provide ample notice to the community of when the item will appear again.
“If you accept my reasoning for delay, it is so we can make this stronger, and so that we can make sure that there is as narrow as possible application of this State statute. This is a community that has been struggling to enact reasonable gun regulations for decades,” Kleinschmidt said.
Another option Councilman Lee Storrow suggested was “creative signage” that could relay the community’s expectations on firearms while still reflecting the change in North Carolina Law.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/pro-firearms-group-threatens-sue-ch-wants-compliance-state-law/
CHAPEL HILL- The Chapel Hill Town Council voted Monday to move the Obey Creek development process forward, but with the addition of a new checkpoint along the way.
More than 100 people packed the Town Council’s first business meeting of 2014 to ask the Council to adopt the recommendations of the Obey Creek Compass Committee. Southern Chapel Hill resident Chris Bergstrom was one of 20 speakers to address the Council.
“Please show the citizens of this town that when you form a compass committee in the way that you did, that you actually pay attention to what they are recommending,” said Bergstrom. “Show us it is not just a fig leaf. Show us that you’re really listening.”
Concern centered on a 1.6 million square foot development plan put forward by developers at East West Partners for 124 acres along 15-501 South across from Southern Village.
Developers, consultants and the 17-member compass committee have spent the last six months exploring the Obey Creek proposal, but in the end the committee decided the current plan is too big and too dense. The group asked the Council to pause the process until a smaller plan was offered for consideration.
In addition, committee members and area residents worried the town was not ready to move into the next phase of the process without more information on traffic and the economic impact of the plan.
“I would ask the Council to not go to the next stage yet,” said Lee Nackman. “Make sure that the work is done to get the right information, get that information into the committee, and not put the cart before the horse, so we can have a considered understanding of what the proposal is in the context of real data before you take the next phase.”
However, town staffers and council members countered that data collection and analysis would be better suited to Phase Two of the process. Although the second phase of the development agreement process had been labeled the negotiation phase, council members including Jim Ward stressed they had not yet made up their minds about the outcome.
“If the impact in terms of the traffic volume this would generate is more than we’re willing to put up with, we can walk away from the table. I’m willing to walk away from the table,” said Ward. “So by moving to Phase Two doesn’t mean that we’re going to end up approving anything.”
Council members agreed with residents asking for more checkpoints along the way, but stopped short of seconding the committee’s call for a new concept plan.
The Council voted 8-1 to move into the second phase of the process, in which the technical team will work with developers and town staffers to revise the plan and study how it will impact the surrounding area. At the end of that phase, the council will review the plan and vote whether to enter into direct negotiations with developers at East West Partners.
The development agreement process is markedly different from the Council’s usual special use permit approval process. Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt told the crowd the Council adopted the development agreement process in hopes of fostering greater dialog and more transparency.
“This is a significant change in process for a reason and it is because the Council wants continued community feedback on this project,” said Kleinschmidt. “If we desired a black-box decision, we would have done it the old-fashioned way.”
Town staffers estimate it could take up to a year to move through the development agreement process.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chtc-moves-forward-obey-creek-plan/
CHAPEL HILL- After six months of debate, the 17-member committee charged with evaluating the Obey Creek development plan for the 124 acres across from Southern Village says the project needs more study.
Monday, the Chapel Hill Town Council will review the Obey Creek Compass Committee’s report, along with recommendations from developers at East West Partners and the technical consulting team hired by the town.
All this is preparation for a vote to determine if the town should negotiate a development agreement with East West Partners to govern the long-term build-out of a mixed-use project that’s estimated to be the same size as Southpoint Mall.
Committee members argue the plans are too big and will draw traffic to an already congested thoroughfare. Although they did not suggest stopping the negotiation process altogether, they say the town should request an all-new plan that is smaller in scope and impact.
The town planning board agrees with the Compass Committee, but East West Partners and the team of consultants want the current plan to move forward instead. They say many of the concerns raised by the committee can be resolved in phase two, in which developers negotiate directly with the Council and town staff.
If the Council decides to proceed into the second phase of the negotiation process, staffers estimate it could take up to one year to draft a development agreement.
On Monday the Council will also consider amending the town’s gun laws to match new state regulations approved last July.
Under the new rules, municipalities cannot prohibit gun owners with concealed carry permits from bringing firearms to parks, playgrounds, recreational facilities or on town buses.
The proposed changes have spurred a slew of emails from concerned residents who want the current bans to stay in place, but legal advisers warn that Chapel Hill could be targeted for lawsuits if town leaders don’t comply with the new regulations.
In addition, the Council will take public comment on a proposal to extend the town’s extra-territorial jurisdiction to include the Rogers Road neighborhood. If approved, this would enable the town to contribute funding for sewer service extension as part of the Rogers Road Remediation plan.
The Town Council meets at 7 o’clock at the Southern Human Services Center on Homestead Road. Click here for the full agenda.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/gun-control-obey-creek-top-chtc-agenda/
CHAPEL HILL- As the Chapel Hill Town Council looks ahead to this year’s budget battles, members say they want to revamp the priority budgeting process.
When the Town Council introduced priority-based budgeting last January it was heralded as a new tool to help match the town’s spending with community values. But a year later, most council members say they weren’t impressed with the results. Speaking at a work session Monday night, Council member Jim Ward called the process frustrating.
“It’s been a huge commitment from the town staff to get us somewhere. I don’t see the progress,” said Ward. “I don’t see it impacting our decision-making process.”
Last year’s efforts to rank the town’s goals and programs led to dissatisfaction among some on the council, as high-profile programs like the public library appeared low on the priority list, due to confusion about terminology and the ranking procedure.
And though the Chapel Hill 2020 process helped define resident’s goals for the town, Council member George Cianciolo pointed out it offers little in the way of direction on how to pay for that vision or balance competing priorities.
“What is lacked was the discussion of consequences,” said Cianciolo. “It did say, ‘I want more affordable housing, I want more transit,’ but it didn’t weigh those balances, and I think that is the difficulty we’re faced with.”
Council members have been meeting with Margaret Henderson of the UNC School of Government to identify ways to improve the process. They say they want greater consistency and more transparency in the ranking process.
“I think the big failure of the process so far has been the real lack of understanding about how we got from one place to another,” said Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. “I don’t think any of us could clearly explain to anyone how that happened and we’ve got to fix that.”
Town Manager Roger Stancil said he and his staff have heard the Council’s frustrations loud and clear.
“It’s clear to us that the system we tried to create is not satisfying your interests,” said Stancil. “Part of it is simplifying and aligning the words we use so we’re not talking about things using different words. It’s got to be a process that you own and buy into or it is not worth the time.”
The Council will revisit the priority-based budgeting process at its planning retreat later this month.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chtc-revamp-priority-budgeting-process/
CHAPEL HILL- The Chapel Hill Town Council is getting an early start to the New Year with a work session on Monday.
Town staffers will first host an orientation meeting for new members then the council will convene to receive updates on changes to the development review process and library services. Council members will also revisit the priority budgeting process to kick off the spring budget negotiation season.
This is the first council meeting of the year, and the first for newly-seated members George Cianciolo and Maria Palmer.
The new-member orientation starts at 5 o’clock, and the work session starts at 6 o’clock. Both take place at the Chapel Hill Public Library.
You can find the full agenda here.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chtc-review-priority-budgeting-library-services/
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/