CHTC To Vote In New Member On Wednesday

CHAPEL HILL- The Chapel Hill Town Council will likely vote on Wednesday to appoint a new member.

Eleven applicants hope to be chosen to fill the seat vacated by Penny Rich when she stepped down to serve on the Board of County Commissioners.

The wide-ranging group spans the gamut from a UNC Junior to a former council member, and includes some who are well-versed in town politics, as well as others looking to enter the arena for the first time.

When the applicants made their cases to the council last week, development, affordable housing and the implementation of the Chapel Hill 2020 plan were top concerns.

Now the eight sitting council members will vote to appoint the person they see most fit to tackle those problems. Whoever is appointed will serve out the remainder of Rich’s term, which ends in December of 2013.

Following that vote, the council will host a public hearing on a plan to build high density student housing on MLK Boulevard.

The proposed project would demolish a trio of two-story apartment buildings across from town hall. Developers want to replace that with four- to six-story buildings containing nearly 200 apartments.

The council meeting gets underway at 7 o’clock in Council Chambers at Town Hall.

Council Applicant Profiles: Jackson, Ryan, Greene

CHAPEL HILL- All this week WCHL has been profiling the eleven candidates vying to fill Penny Rich’s vacant seat on the Chapel Hill Town Council. Part 4 of our series wraps up with a look at David Jackson, Amy Ryan and Sally Greene.
Real estate broker David Jackson is a recent transplant from Colorado. He says he was motivated to apply for the council vacancy in part as a result of his participation in the Chapel Hill 2020 visioning process.

Though he says he fully supports implementation of the plan, he’s worried about how the town will pay for it.

“That’s my focus, to make sure that if urban infill is going to take place to support the revenue generation for increased services in 2020, then we need to make sure its done responsibly and that those revenues are allocated appropriately,” says Jackson.

Amy Ryan, a member of the Chapel Hill Planning Board, also participated in 2020 process. She wants to see large-scale community outreach continue as the plan moves forward.

“Now we’re in the implementation phase, so we have to figure out the ways to actually make those visions happen,” says Ryan. “The next year or two are going to be really important for planning in town, and in getting citizens involved from the ground up.”

Ryan says she wants to encourage the town take a more data-driven approach to decision making, a change she thinks will make the development review process more efficient.

With nearly a dozen residents from all walks of life in the running for the vacant seat, there’s no shortage of qualified candidates. But former council member Sally Greene may have a leg up on the competition, as she served on the council for eight years before deciding not to seek reelection in 2011.

After a year off she says she’s ready to step back into her leadership role.

“I think right now Chapel Hill really is in a serious and critical age of transition, so I hope [council members] will see my experience and track record as valuable qualities for helping them get through this transition,” says Greene.

Greene says she’ll focus on affordable housing, library funding and the need for an emergency shelter in Orange County.

The town council will hear from each of the eleven applicants at a special meeting on Monday night, and will likely vote to appoint a new member on January 23.

Whoever is appointed will face a host of tough issues, from a tight budget to the roll out of the 2020 plan. Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt says given those challenges, council members are looking for someone who can jump right in.

“I am anxious to have someone fill this role who can do so without really missing a beat, someone who can get to work quickly, and not have to worry about some enormous learning curve,” says Kleinschmidt.

The town council will convene at 6 o’clock on Monday in Council Chambers at Town Hall to hear presentations from the applicants.

Council Applicant Profiles: Schuler, Pedersen, Marsh

CHAPEL HILL – Later this month, Chapel Hill Town Council members will appoint one person to fill the seat left vacant by Penny Rich when she joined the Orange County Board of Commissioners. Eleven residents applied to be considered for that spot on the Council.

All week long, WCHL will be profiling each of those eleven applicants. We continue today in Part 3 of our series, with Carl Schuler, Bjorn Pedersen, and Jennifer Marsh.

Read Part 1, with Gary Kahn, Maria Palmer and Aaron Shah.

Read Part 2, with Loren Hintz and Paul Neebe.

See the full list of applicants here.

Carl Schuler is a registered nurse at UNC who broke onto the local political scene as a Town Council candidate in 2011; he currently serves on Chapel Hill’s Board of Adjustment.

“We have a lot on the agenda for 2013,” he says. “First (is) the prioritized budget that will be due for the next fiscal year; another issue is the implementation of the Chapel Hill 2020 plan; and the third issue is dealing with trash–and what Chapel Hill will do with (its) refuse as it’s shipped out of town limits to Durham.”

He says the future of Chapel Hill’s trash needs to be one of the top issues the Town Council tackles in the coming months: for now, the town will ship its waste to Durham after the county landfill closes in June, but Schuler says a better solution is needed.

“We need to look at some additional issues, including cost-saving measures–and really explore what alternatives we do have within the town of Chapel Hill and Orange County to dispose of refuse,” he says.

Also running is Bjorn Pedersen, a first-time candidate and the youngest of the eleven applicants: he’s a 22-year-old junior at UNC, majoring in physics.

This time around, he says he’s primarily running for the experience.

“I’ve been reading things about urbanism and city planning–and that interest has sort of peaked, especially recently, and then this came up,” he says. “I’ve lived here my whole life, and I just thought…filling something out and going to a council meeting or two would be a good way to dip my toes in the water and see what it’s like.”

But Pedersen is bringing a number of ideas to the floor as well—particularly when it comes to Chapel Hill’s existing zoning ordinance, which he says inhibits the town’s ability to achieve its stated goals.

“In the development that’s about to go up on West Franklin, the developer had to put in a few affordable living units–but at the same time, having the zoning ordinances we do really elevates the price of housing, for everyone,” he says. “(It) also decreases the density at which we can build, which means the buses have to run longer, people have to drive more–and I think that, especially as the town continues to grow, that’s going to become a much greater issue.”

Pedersen says he’d like to promote higher-density development to address some of the problems that result from Chapel Hill’s continued growth.

Like Pedersen, civil rights attorney Jennifer Marsh has spent her entire life in Chapel Hill. She’s a UNC graduate, a UNC Law School graduate, and she currently works as the Director of Research, Community Services and Student Programs at the UNC Center for Civil Rights.

“I think we need representation on the Council of natives to the area,” she says.

Affordable housing is also one of the items at the top of Marsh’s agenda. But she says it’s not enough just to talk about ‘housing’ in a vacuum without considering other key issues—issues that affect not only affordability, but also the town’s larger commitment to social justice.

“The other issues that I see are development, transportation, and solid waste–and those are all interconnected, and they directly impact each other,” she says. “So going forward, I’d like to see those three issues to be considered in a group, not individually.”

Marsh’s resume is among the longest of the eleven applicants: in addition to her role at the Center for Civil Rights, she’s also a member of Orange County’s Board of Equalization and Review, and in 2012 she served as deputy executive director of the North Carolina NAACP.

“We need to keep social justice issues in the forefront of our decision making,” she says. “The needs of, and the impact on, our low-income and minority neighbors need to be considered when decisions are made–and I feel like I can be that voice.”

Jennifer Marsh, Bjorn Pedersen, Carl Schuler, and the other eight applicants will have the opportunity to address the Council at a special meeting on Monday, January 14, at 6:00 p.m. in Town Hall. The Council will then meet on Wednesday, January 23, to consider making an appointment. Whoever is appointed to the seat will serve out the remainder of Penny Rich’s term, which expires in December.

WCHL and will continue profiling each of the eleven candidates throughout the rest of the week.

Council Applicant Profiles: Loren Hintz, Paul Neebe

CHAPEL HILL – Later this month, Chapel Hill Town Council members will appoint one person to fill the seat left vacant by Penny Rich when she joined the Orange County Board of Commissioners. Eleven residents applied to be considered for that spot on the Council.

All week long, WCHL will be profiling each of those eleven applicants. We continue today in Part 2 of our series, with Loren Hintz and Paul Neebe.

Read Part 1, with Gary Kahn, Maria Palmer and Aaron Shah.

Chapel Hill High School biology teacher Loren Hintz is a UNC grad who’s lived in Chapel Hill since 1992; this would be his first time on the Council, but he’s been involved in town government for years.

“I was chair of the Transportation Board and have served on the Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force,” he says, “and when this opening came up with Penny Rich (leaving), I thought it was a good time for me to serve.”

Hintz says he thinks Chapel Hill is moving in the right direction and he’s mostly content with the Council as is, but he’d like to see town officials become more proactive in identifying and solving problems—rather than only responding when citizens complain.

And especially in the wake of Chapel Hill 2020, he says he’d like to see the Council do a better job implementing the recommendations of the town’s various boards and task forces.

“I was on the Fordham Boulevard Task Force,” he says, “and most of the things we requested be implemented eventually were, but it took a long time…

“People put a lot of time into those efforts, and I think it’s important that the Town Council try to implement them as quickly as possible.”

Hintz has applied for vacant Council seats twice before, most recently in 2008. He says he brings a great deal to the table: a background in science, an understanding of the needs of local students and parents—and more than three years’ experience serving in the Peace Corps in Central America.

Also running for the open seat is Paul Neebe: a real estate broker, a university instructor, and a Juilliard-trained, internationally recognized classical trumpeter. He’s lived in Chapel Hill for thirty years and currently serves on the town’s Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Board.

With that varied background, he says he’s ready to bring numerous ideas to the table.

“The tax increases have been out of proportion compared to the other counties, we seem to be having more and more (of a) lack of low-income housing…we should have more bikeways and greenways in Chapel Hill, I’m really for that…and of course the town is growing, (but) you still want to keep the small-town atmosphere,” he says.

Like Loren Hintz, Neebe says he’d like to see more effective communication between the Council and the town’s advisory boards. Beyond that, he says he wants Chapel Hill to commit itself to being more of a bike-friendly town than it already is.

And he also says he wants to promote affordable housing, partly by promoting commercial development and shifting the tax burden away from property owners.

“And then hopefully that would make things more affordable for people to buy, because (right now) the taxes are so high it makes houses more expensive,” he says. “Also for people renting: if it’s going to cost less for someone to buy a house and rent it out, then (renting) is going to be more affordable.”

Whoever is appointed to the seat will serve out the remainder of Penny Rich’s term, which expires in December—but Neebe says he’s also interested in running for another term as well.

Paul Neebe, Loren Hintz, and the other nine applicants will have the opportunity to address the Council at a special meeting on Monday, January 14, at 6:00 p.m. in Town Hall. The Council will then meet on Wednesday, January 23, to consider making an appointment.

WCHL will continue profiling each of the eleven candidates throughout the rest of this week.

Council Applicant Profiles: Kahn, Palmer and Shah

CHAPEL HILL- Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt announced the Chapel Hill Town Council vacancy in early December, after Penny Rich stepped down to serve on the Orange County Board of Commissioners. Since then, eleven residents have applied to fill that seat.Just days after the vacancy was announced, Southern Village resident Gary Kahn became the first to put his name forward in a three page hand-written application.

Kahn’s been ardently following local government since he moved to Chapel Hill in 2011. He says with months of council meetings under his belt, he’s up to speed on all the major issues facing the town.

“My experience attending all the town council meetings from the cell phone ban up until the ads on the buses I think qualifies me to serve on the council because I’m probably the most well-informed person that they’re looking for,” says Kahn.

He says development and transportation issues loom largest on the horizon, with the proposed Obey Creek project front and center.

Kahn hopes to be a voice for residents in the southern end of town, and if he’s not appointed, he says he plans to run for office in November.

Education consultant Maria Palmer announced her intention to apply early on and she made it official in mid-December. She says she’s concerned that Chapel Hill is losing touch with minority residents.

“A big issue for me is equity and fairness, and the opportunity for every resident’s voice to be heard,” says Palmer. “I think we can do better, and I know that our council is concerned and wants to do better. I think I can help.”

Palmer has served in a variety of leadership roles, from co-chair of the transportation theme group in the Chapel Hill 2020 process, to a member of the State Board of Education.

Aaron Shah was the last to file in 2012, submitting a scant 20 word application just after Christmas. As both an IT technician with the university and a member of the town’s Sustainability Committee, Shah says he’s particularly concerned about the lack of affordable housing in Chapel Hill.

“I think the door should be open to all citizens, but mostly and more importantly to the people who serve this town,” says Shah. “Town employees, fire department, police department, hospital and university employees: these people make our town go and make our town function. To be able to provide this opportunity so that they can get back and forth to work with more simplicity would be great.”

Shah also submitted his name the last time the council made an appointment to fill Bill Strom’s vacant seat back in 2009, but he says as a single parent of three children, he doesn’t see himself running for office anytime soon.