Vote For Hillsborough As “America’s Coolest Small Town”!

It’s time to head online and vote once again for Hillsborough in Budget Travel’s “America’s Coolest Small Town” contest!

Hillsborough was the nation’s top vote-getter in the first phase of the online vote – but now the scores have reset to zero as the top 15 vote-getters move into the semifinals. The top 10 will get a write-up in Budget Travel magazine – but the leading vote-getter this time will be crowned “America’s Coolest Small Town” for the year 2015.

Click here to vote.

You can vote online once a day, every day, from now through February 25 by visiting; it takes less than a minute to vote. Right now Hillsborough is running third, with Grand Marais, Minnesota in the lead. (It’s on Lake Superior, an hour south of the Canadian border.)

WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke with Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens, as the town starts working to get out the vote.


You can sign up for daily reminders to vote by visiting this page on the town’s website.

Photo via the Town of Hillsborough.

Photo via the Town of Hillsborough.

Hillsborough “Vision 2030″ Open House

Hillsborough Planning Director Margaret Hauth led an Open House, on Thursday evening at the Town Barn, to discuss the “Vision 2030” project.

The early stages of the project involved collecting Hillsborough-centric data.

“If you don’t know what the current situation is,” she says, “you don’t know whether you’ve made any progress.”

There are several lofty goals as part of the development project: town-wide wireless internet by 2025, increasing residential density without losing small-town charm, all while maintaining affordable housing options.

But one item grabbed community member’s attention on Thursday night, the construction of a train station to re-establish Amtrak service and be open to commuter rail. Hauth says they are in line to receive funding from the state Department of Transportation for construction of that train station in 2019.

“We are building the platform, the building, and access to the site so that Amtrak trains can stop,” she says. “Any other trains that are running on that line – that choose to stop – we will welcome.”

The Town of Hillsborough already owns 20 acres off of South Churton Street where the train station will be built.

This is the second time Hillsborough officials have developed a long-term planning document, and they have seen major solutions come during the process.

“In 1990, when we wrote the first Vision 2010 plan, we did not have a reservoir,” Hauth says. “We were at a point where really we couldn’t tie on new water customers for any kind of large-scale development.”

Hauth says that they will have annual reports to update the board, and residents, with progress being made on the “Vision 2030” project.

The public hearing for the development plan is scheduled for next Thursday, January 15.

“Vision 2030″ Public Information Session Thursday Night in Hillsborough

Hillsborough will hold a public information session, scheduled for Thursday night, concerning the vision town leaders have for Hillsborough in the year 2030.

Mayor Tom Stevens says they held the first meeting focused on “Vision 2030” more than a year ago. Now, town officials are ready to unveil a draft of their plan for Hillsborough and receive feedback from the community.

“We’re creating a guiding document that, in very broad strokes, talks about where we want to go as a community,” he says.

According to Mayor Stevens, this is an important step in the process because it allows Hillsborough residents to be involved in planning how the town grows.

“It’s a time where citizens can come in, they can talk to some planning staff, they can hear more details about what’s in that document, and they can ask questions,” he describes.

Stevens adds the vision being brought to residents through this project will focus on five major aspects.

“What’s our character of our town? How’s our community? What are we doing about our heritage? What about prosperity for everybody? And, what’s our overall vitality?” he lists.

Mayor Stevens adds they have recently updated the town’s Unified Development Ordinance, and the public was very involved voicing their opinion in that process. He adds this input is vital.

Stevens says the “Vision 2030” draft does have room to be flexible after input is brought in from the public, but he adds it is a key building block for managing growth going forward.

The Open House is scheduled to take place in the Hillsborough Town Barn, Thursday night from 5 to 7. Time is built in for discussion and questions. A public hearing is scheduled for next Thursday, January 15, regarding the project.

Common Themes Develop Among 2015 Priorities

Flipping the calendar to a new year can cause reflection over what happened over the previous 12 months. It can provide a clean slate for starting new. And it can present new challenges.

Managing growth and fighting poverty are two ideas that would seem to counter each other. But, throughout our community, this juxtaposed theme continues to emerge. The message from many community leaders is that we must continue to strive for growth, while lending a helping hand to those in need.

In that vein, Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt says he is excited about the two zones in Orange County chosen by the Family Success Alliance, aimed at helping children from low-income families continue on to higher levels of education.

Kleinschmidt adds that Chapel Hill, specifically, has to focus on the “Design 2020” development project and work toward a public transit solution.

“We’re going to be exploring some new ways of financing bus purchases,” he says. “The earmarks that David Price, our congressman, used to bring to us to buy new buses are gone, and we have to find new ways to do that.”

Meanwhile, in neighboring Carrboro, Mayor Lydia Lavelle says they will be focusing on bringing more projects to the town.

“As the economy continues to do a little better, we’re hoping to see some more projects come forward over the next year,” she says, “including projects like the library.”

Kristen Smith, with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, says that she believes there will be a reenergized spirit to help those that are less fortunate.

“I think some people are renewing their focus on poverty,” she says, with the goal of finding “how we can come together and collaborate around that.”

Smith cites the UNC Global Research Institute, whose focus will be on “Feeding a Hungry World” for the 2015 – 2016 and 2016 – 2017 academic years.

Mayor Tom Stevens says the Town of Hillsborough will be focusing on ways to systematically build citizen engagement and leadership throughout the community. He adds that promoting tourism will be a key, along with managing growth.

“We’re going to have two new neighborhoods,” he says, “so we’re going to have a lot of new folks in town.”

Stevens adds that he believes Hillsborough can welcome new residents and hold on to its “small-town character.”

Riding the tourism wave, Laurie Paolicelli, with the Orange County Visitors’ Bureau, says that they are working to continue bringing in higher numbers of visitors to the area.

“We’re trying to work with our partners to figure out: Do we stay open a little later? Do we offer night lighting, more way-finding, more marketing of the area?” she says. “We have a lot of opportunity and a lot of smart leaders.”

Paiolicelli adds that it will be important to continue bringing in visitors to fill hotels that are targeting our community.

Hillsborough PD Investigating Dec 23 Shooting

An investigation is ongoing into a shooting that sent three victims to the hospital last week, in Hillsborough.

Hillsborough Police Lieutenant Davis Trimmer explains the shooting was reported around 2 o’clock Tuesday afternoon, December 23.

“We had a shooting incident that occurred on Torain Street,” Trimmer says. “Several shots were fired and three people were injured.”

Lt. Trimmer adds that all of the victims received medical attention at Duke University Medical Center.

“Two were slightly injured; they were treated and released from the hospital,” he says. “The third was treated at the hospital and released either the next day or the day after.”

Lt. Trimmer says law enforcement is still looking into the details of the shooting.

“We’re still trying to run down exactly what occurred,” he says. “The three that were injured – it’s possible that there was more than them involved – but at this point, we think that those were the only ones involved.”

The police department is still following several tips in the case, according to Lt. Trimmer.

“We have some leads that we’re exploring in this and some idea of who might have been involved,” he explains. “The investigation is definitely ongoing.”

If you have any information that would be helpful to the Hillsborough Police Department in their investigation into the shooting from the afternoon of December 23 that left three victims wounded, please contact law enforcement.

Improvements Coming to Downtown Hillsborough in 2015

2015 is shaping up to be a busy year in Hillsborough with major projects to improve the downtown area.

Mayor Tom Stevens says he’s confident that proposed renovations in downtown Hillsborough will have a positive impact on the area.

He says, “one year from now Downtown Hillsborough is going to be better than ever.”

Those improvement projects include a major renovation to the main parking lot in Hillsborough, known as the Bank of America lot.

“It’s a very odd lot,” he says, “but it is where people tend to gravitate immediately.”

Mayor Stevens adds that they will be tackling other major projects to improve foot traffic in downtown Hillsborough.

“[We’ll be] widening the sidewalks, putting in new crosswalks, and ultimately the DOT will also be repaving all the streets,” he says.

According to Mayor Stevens, they will also be adding in new landscaping to improve the overall aesthetics of the downtown area.

He says that the town arrived at this point after much public comment and extensive work from the town to manage growth in the best way possible.

“In 2010, we did a very comprehensive study mapping out every single spot,” he says. “We had people seeing what the use was. We had people who were surveying people when they were walking the sidewalks.”

Mayor Stevens says that they are expecting a slight net loss in parking but accessibility to the downtown will be increased. He also says he believes adding in loading zones will help alleviate any issues that arise out of lost parking spaces.

The proposed improvement project was given the green light at the final Hillsborough Board of Commissioners meeting earlier in December.

Hillsborough Police Investigating Shooting

Hillsborough Police are investigating a shooting from Tuesday afternoon in the Fairview neighborhood.

Below is the full statement from Hillsborough officials:

Hillsborough police are investigating a shooting that took place at about 2 p.m. today on Torain Street in the Fairview neighborhood.

Several shots were fired, and three people were injured — none with life-threatening injuries. The injured were transported to Duke University Medical Center, and two were treated and released. One person remains at the hospital and is being treated for a non-life-threatening injury.

The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information about the shooting should contact Hillsborough Investigator June Solomon at 919 732-9381 Ext. 34.

Hillsborough Police Seek Walmart Assault Suspect

Hillsborough Police are looking for a woman they say assaulted an elderly woman on Saturday.

The incident happened around 2 p.m. at the Walmart at Hampton Point Shopping Center

Police describe the suspect as a young black woman wearing a white sweater, black pants and black boots. She was seen leaving with a man in a light-colored sedan.

The woman, her companion and the vehicle were all captured on surveillance video.

Two Hillsborough Mills Granted Landmark Status

The Town of Hillsborough has adopted an ordinance that will grant local historic landmark status to two of the town’s mills.

The former Bellevue Manufacturing Company and Eno Cotton Mill buildings will enjoy the new designation after the ordinance passed the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners.

Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens says this decision will spur growth in the area.

“That will help in their redevelopment,” he says. “It will be great for economic development and provide a lot of new residencies and amenities in Hillsborough.”

Stevens adds they have proof of the potential ramifications because the Eno Mill has been used as a host for area small businesses for decades.

“Mystery Brewing has their facilities in there,” he says. “Weaver Street has their facility in there. It’s been a great incubator for a lot of small businesses, and some businesses have gotten to be pretty substantial.”

While the Eno Mill has served as that small business incubator, the Bellevue Mill can provide additional housing in Hillsborough. “The Bellevue Mill has been approved for the last five years for a little bit more than 100 apartments or condominiums,” Stevens says.

Stevens says that they are hopeful the 50% reduction in property taxes that come with the landmark status will enable the Bellevue Mill developer to move forward.

Mayor Stevens says he believes that the additional housing from the development of the Bellevue Mill – coupled with the entrepreneurship that is being developed at the Eno Mill – will provide a major economic boost to Hillsborough and the surrounding area.

Bill Of Rights Day Monday: Ring Your Bells In Hillsborough

This Monday, December 15, is National Bill of Rights Day, the 223rd anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights.

The town of Hillsborough will mark the occasion – as it’s done for the last two years – with a Community Bell Ringing event. At 1:00 pm on Monday, town bells and church bells will all ring simultaneously for 223 seconds – that’s 3 minutes and 43 seconds in all.

The idea for the event came from Scott Washington, Hillsborough’s town historian.

WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke with Washington last week.


That bell-ringing event begins at 1:00 pm on Monday and runs for 223 seconds – and everyone’s invited to bring out their own bells and ring them at the same time, anywhere in Hillsborough.

For more information, visit