Orange County Firearms Safety Committee Recommends Draft Ordinance to County Commissioners

After six meetings, the Orange County Firearm Safety Committee has finalized a recommendation for a draft firearms ordinance.

The issue was raised at a County Commissioner meeting in February when residents utilized the public comment period to berate a proposed ordinance that they said infringed on their second-amendment rights. The board agreed the proposal would put burdens on recreational shooting and unanimously voted against the ordinance.

The board also then established the Orange County Firearms Safety Committee, which was tasked with advising the board on possible firearm regulations. Eight community members were named to the committee in May and the group held six meetings from June through October 25.

At its final meeting the committee agreed to recommend a draft ordinance to the county commissioners.

The draft would make it unlawful to discharge a firearm “except into a natural or constructed backstop adequate to stop the projectile.” That regulation would not apply to “trapshooting, skeet shooting and sporting clays when such activities are undertaken through use of a shotgun.”

The draft also would make it unlawful for any person to “discharge a firearm carelessly or heedlessly in disregard for the safety of others” or to discharge a firearm after consuming alcohol or any other impairing substance, as defined by state law.

It would also be unlawful for a person to discharge a firearm “in any manner that causes the projectile to leave the property on which it is discharged.” The draft does contain an exception if the person discharging the firearm has written consent from the adjacent property owner.

The draft also clarifies that the ordinance should not be “construed as prohibiting the discharge of a firearm” under lawful hunting conditions or when in defense of person or property.

The violation of the ordinance would be punishable as a Class III misdemeanor containing a fine of up to $500. The violation may also be subject to a civil penalty of up to $500.

The recommended draft ordinance will go before the full Board of County Commissioners at a later date.

You can see the full draft ordinance below:

Section. 24-3.-Regulating the Discharge of Firearms. (a) This Section is enacted pursuant to the authority of N.C.G.S. 153A-129. This Section shall be interpreted in accordance with any sections of the North Carolina General Statutes which, by their terms, limit the authority of the County to regulate the discharge of firearms. (b) Firearm as referenced herein shall mean any handgun, shotgun, or rifle which expels a projectile by the ignition of gunpowder or by other explosive reaction. (c) It is unlawful for any person to discharge a firearm except into a natural or constructed backstop adequate to stop the projectile. This subsection shall not apply to trapshooting, skeet shooting, and sporting clays when such activities are undertaken through use of a shotgun. (d) It is unlawful for any person to discharge a firearm carelessly or heedlessly in disregard for the safety of others. (e) It is unlawful for any person to discharge a firearm in any manner that causes the projectile to leave the property on which it is discharged. This subsection shall not apply when the person discharging the firearm has written permission for such activity from the person on whose property the projectile comes to rest. The document demonstrating written permission must be immediately available at the time of the discharge and shall be provided to any investigating officer. (f) It is unlawful for any person to discharge a firearm after that person has consumed alcohol or any other impairing substance. As used in this paragraph, an impairing substance is defined in N.C. Gen. Stat. §20-4.01. A conforming alcohol screening device may be used to detect the presence of alcohol. A conforming alcohol screening device is any device listed in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Conforming Products List of Evidential Breath Alcohol Measurement Devices as published in the Federal Register and as that list may be amended from time to time. An investigating officer may ascertain the consumption of an impairing substance or any level of impairment in any lawful manner. (g) Nothing in this Section shall be construed as prohibiting the discharge of a firearm: (1) When used for lawful hunting activities pursuant to Chapter 113, Subchapter IV; or (2)When used in defense of person or property; or (3) When used pursuant to lawful directions of law-enforcement officers. (h) A violator this Section shall be guilty of a Class III misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to five hundred dollars ($500.00). A violation of this Section may subject the violator to a civil penalty of up to five hundred dollars ($500.00). All assessed penalties may be recovered in any manner authorized by law and, if not paid within thirty (30) days, may be recovered in the nature of debt.

Police, Community Members Hold Forum to Discuss Race and Policing

Race and policing are topics that have often been discussed together in the past five years regarding inconsistencies in arrests, searches and traffic stops.

Law enforcement in Orange County are already beginning a pilot program that police say is meant to push towards the end of racial profiling. But they also held a forum on “Policing, Race and Community” public to any who wanted to be there.

“This is something that’s been going on for a long time,” said Orange Chatham District Attorney Jim Woodall in his remarks opening the forum. “It’s not anything new. Maybe it’s boiled to the surface a little more in the last couple of years, but it’s something that’s been around for a long time and these are issues we need to confront.”

Woodall said that if Orange County sets an example of police relations with the community, it could make it easier for the rest of the state, then country, to follow suit.

“This isn’t just about Chapel Hill and Carrboro,” he said. “This area, Chatham County, Siler City, Pittsboro, Hillsborough, Chapel Hill-Carrboro, if there’s anywhere in the state that can address these issues and show leadership, where better than here?”

But Carrboro Alderwoman and panelist Michelle Johnson said it will take a lot of work. She said her car was pulled over about a month and a half ago, a week after two black men were killed.

“I got stopped because my registration sticker wasn’t on my car, but it was in my glove compartment,” she said. “And I went to reach for my glove compartment and I froze; because I was afraid of what would happen if I moved too quickly.”

Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue was also a panelist. He said police, as part of the pilot program in Chapel Hill, will begin monitoring the racial disparities at traffic stops. But he said communication and getting to know town residents personally can help solve misconceptions about one another. He said the police department will also be looking into options other than arrest for minor offenses.

“The more we contact each other, the more we know each other, the more perceptions can be addressed, the more misperceptions can be dispelled,” Blue said. “And I think one of the things we really need to focus on is finding ways to have interactions with each other across the community, across all kinds of systems that are not at the point of having to make law enforcement decisions. Find ways to know each other before you get to that point.”

Orange County Sheriff and panelist Charles Blackwood said miscommunication is much of what causes arguments between police and community members. He said things as simple as the voice tone taken with people police pull over can dramatically change the entire conversation.

“I’ve seen some horrible arguments on the side of the road starting from an officer very snappingly saying, ‘You know why I stopped you? Do you have a driver’s license?’” Blackwood said. “Worst fights ever. Over a stop sign? So it is training that we are ongoing with and I think it’s proven to be very fruitful.”

But EmPOWERment, Inc. Executive Director Delores Bailey says it’s one thing to talk about changing the conversation. But it’s another to enforce it.

“Reality is, what’s going to be different when Delores Bailey gets in her car, and she gets stopped, am I going to be afraid?” She said. “And that man is going to walk up to me and he’s not going to do what Sheriff Blackwood would do. He’s not going to say, ‘Delores, shouldn’t have run that stop sign.’ That’s what Sheriff Blackwood would have said. That officer is going to approach me and say to me, “You know what you did wrong?” That’s where he’s going to come from.”

Blackwood closed his remarks to the forum by agreeing. He said no matter what, things need to change within law enforcement in order to overcome these biases.

“We’ve got to do something different than what we’ve been doing,” he said. “The fast path of doing things the way they’ve been done just because that’s the way they’ve been done ain’t working no more. So let’s not snicker about this. It’s serious stuff. And we want to make a difference.”

Orange County is beginning to work on changes in policing, as CHPD begins its pilot program in the next few weeks. Officers will be required to wear body cameras, provide written documentation for vehicle searches in which an officer requests to search but doesn’t have probable cause, and address enforcement for minor offenses. Police Officers will also be required to attend racial equity training.

Don’t Forget to Vote on November 8th

Photo via Orange County Bonds

Photo via Orange County Bonds

Paid for by Orange County Bonds

On Election Day, Tuesday, November 8, Orange County registered voters will have the opportunity to vote for or against two bond referenda: $120 million to fund the repair and renovation of safety and security features, as well as infrastructure in schools, and $5 million to create 1,000 affordable housing units for rental and ownership throughout the county.

The proposed bond referendum of $120 million for schools repair and improvement is primarily designed to increase capacity, improve safety and security, and renovate and repair the district’s ten oldest schools. Chapel Hill High School will be reconstructed in phases, to address critical maintenance issues. Lincoln Center renovations will centralize most Pre-K classrooms, freeing up currently used classroom space in elementary schools, increasing seating across the district by 189 seats and relieving the immediate need for a new elementary school. The renovations will also more than double the capacity of the Phoenix Academy High School, the district’s alternative school. Cedar Ridge High School will gain a new classroom wing, increasing capacity by 500 students. Other schools, including Orange High School, will receive much-needed infrastructure replacements (roof and antiquated and failing mechanical systems), as well as necessary safety and security repairs and updates. Bond funds will also be used to build a greener, more sustainable student transportation/maintenance center to service buses for both school districts.


With the proposed $5 million Low and Moderate Income Housing bond, Orange County will help create 1,000 affordable housing units to assist low-income individuals and households and special needs populations, including residents with disabilities, older adults/seniors, residents experiencing or at risk of homelessness and victims of domestic violence. Some of the affordable homes will be for households in the 50 to 80 percent of median income bracket, which may include teachers, law enforcement, firefighters and public workers.

Based on current projections, property owners will see an increase in county property tax to pay for the bonds.

From 1988 to 2001, Orange County voters have approved four General Obligation referenda, for schools, parks, community centers, public works and affordable housing.

Orange County Commissioner Renee Price discussed the bond referenda with Aaron Keck on WCHL.


Early Voting runs Thursday, October 20 through Saturday, November 5. For specific days and times, contact the Orange County Board of Elections: (919) 245-2350 or visit To learn more about the school bond and the affordable housing bond referenda, visit or contact Travis Myren, Deputy County Manager,

Don’t forget to vote on November 8th!

Paid for by Orange County Bonds

Orange County Project Connect to Take Place Thursday

As of the last point-in-time count earlier this year, there were 80 people without homes in Orange County. And chances are, those people need the same types of services and resources that people with homes do.

That’s what coalition members with the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness were thinking when they created Project Connect. It’s a chance for those who are experiencing or are at risk for homelessness to stop by and get everything from a winter coat to legal advice to a haircut and makeover for job interviews.

“Our goal this year is to really have quite a festive atmosphere and a joyous atmosphere so of course there’s food… we’re no dummies,” said Corey Root. She’s the Homelessness Program Coordinator for Orange County.

She said the event is a chance for the whole community to work together.

“It’s super important to get services for folks” Root said. “But we also want to have a day where we are coming together as a community and feeling that, feeling that celebration and not that sort of dire, ‘Here are your services.’ But really quite a joyous event for the whole community.”

Thursday, October 27 will be the tenth Project Connect for Orange County. It will be held at the Hargraves Center on Roberson Street from 9:00 A.M. – 3:00 P.M. Root said OCPEH is looking for both volunteers and donations for the event.

“We’re asking folks if they’ve got winter clothing, coats in particular,” she said. “We’re also soliciting for gift cards for grocery stores so we can buy supplies… grocery stores or Walmart or Target or any store where we can buy supplies for the event.”

Root said it’s rewarding to be able to provide these services to those who need them. But she said it’s also rewarding that so many other Orange County residents have been so eager to help out at Project Connect in the past.

“It spoke to me a lot about the values of our community and how just what a great place Orange County is” Root said. “So it was just wonderful.”

OCPEH is looking for volunteers for the following:

  • Parking
  • Guest Intake
  • Recycling
  • Massage
  • Hair Styling
  • Clean-Up

Sign up for a shift between 8:15 A.M. and 5:30 P.M. here.

Orange County Early Voter Turn Out Up 43% Over 2012

It’s currently the fourth day of early voting in North Carolina, but through Saturday, 12% of all registered voters in Orange County had already voted.

Voter turnout is already expected to be high this year. According to a study by Pew Research Center, 80% of respondents said they’ve thought a lot about the election. This is the highest amount measured in the past quarter century. Also, from that same study, 60% of people say they are more interested in this election than they were four years ago.

While interest may be a reason for the spike in early voting so far, it could also be due to the fact that there are more voters. In 2012, North Carolina had a population of 9.7 million. But as of last year, that number climbed to over 10 million. The number of registered voters went up with it: in 2012 111,555 people were registered to vote. This year, so far 116,445 people have registered. That number continues to climb and Orange County Board of Elections director Tracy Reams said stops are seeing more one-stop voters than ever.

County Commissioners Show Unanimous Support For Wegmens

Following in the footsteps of the Chapel Hill Town Council, the Orange County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a $4 million incentive package to bring Wegmans Supermarket to Chapel Hill.

“When we first started talking about incentives years ago, a number of us said informally that we would never provide incentives for retail,” said commissioner Bernadette Pelissier. “Most of retail doesn’t provide well-paying jobs, doesn’t necessarily provide benefits and this is different. Wegmens is different.”

Wegmans is a high-end supermarket that will move into the space on 15-501 soon to be vacated by Performance Automall.

In the first five years after opening in Chapel Hill, the store expects to grow from $62 million in annual revenue to $83 million.

Director of Orange County economic development Steve Brantley said Wegmans would be the single largest financial generator to the county and to the town.

“This project is proposing the creation of 185 full-time jobs with healthcare and other benefits,” he said. “In addition there are 230 to 413 part-time jobs.”

The incentive will go on for five years after Wegmans opens.

Chapel Hill and Orange County will split the cost of the incentive, with each taking half of the $4 million annually.

The incentives are tied to the performance of Wegmans, meaning if the company fails to reach its expected goals, the financial incentives for Orange County would decrease proportionally.

“I do not thing we can repeat enough that this is performance based,” said commissioner Mia Burroughs. “This is revenue positive and it was built specifically to make sure that was the case, which is why I’m very comfortable supporting this.”

Wegmans will also make necessary road repairs and handle environmental concerns to get the site ready for its opening.

The company also has a history of getting involved with nonprofits in the area surrounding its stores. Brantley said this would be a major advantage for the community.

“When Orange County wins a project like this, we gain the relationship with that organization,” he said. “We can introduce nonprofits like PORCH, Empowerment and so forth.”

Performance Automall is not expected to vacate the premises until the summer of 2017. Wegmens is not expected to open until the fall of 2019.

OCRCC Taking Steps to End Bullying, Harassment

Bullying can appear in many ways and in many places ranging from school to the home. But bullying also often shows itself in the form of interpersonal or sexual violence.

“Several researchers who look into sexual violence prevention have proposed the theory that sexual harassment in middle school is a building block behavior that if unchecked, eventually leads to more severe forms of sexual violence later on,” said Rachel Valentine, Community Education Director for the Orange County Rape Crisis Center.

She says the center has a program they teach in elementary and middle schools called SafeTouch. And they have one for high schools called Start Strong.

“We start to shift from talking about how your body belongs to you,” Valentine said. “So no one should be touching you or treating you in a way that you don’t like, to how that applies to other people.”

Rachel Valentine spoke with Aaron Keck this week on WCHL.


After starting conversations like this in elementary and middle school, they switch to discussing ideas of consent and harassment in high schools. Valentine says most bullying in today’s day and age is actually considered identity-based harassment, or expressed violence towards someone based on his or her race, sexual orientation, gender, socioeconomic status and other factors.

“I think we would be better prepared to actually prevent bullying if we stop to really think about what leads children to do this,” she said.

Valentine said having programs in schools and teaching children at an early age about interpersonal and sexual violence, the more students are to be active bystanders, willing to protect others against that violence. They’re also more likely to seek verbal consent in their sexual relationships.

“We’re not in the business of teaching a generation of kids how to protect themselves from harm,” she said. “We’re in the business of teaching a generation of kids how to engage with one another without causing harm.”

Valentine said this can be achieved by activities that encourage school connectedness. She says students who are connected to their schools are more likely to be the ones to step in and prevent violence wherever they can. She also says the first step to preventing all types of relationship violence is to recognize and listen to victims.

“If someone is coming forward to say that they have experienced this type of harm, we need to start by believing,” she said. “And then go from there in terms of what the educative response can be for the person who’s done it to them.”

Even though October is National Bullying Prevention month, OCRCC has informational prevention programs for students, families and community members all year long. More information can be found here.

Arrest Made in Orange County Church Vandalism Case

An arrest has been made in connection with vandalism at two Orange County churches last week.

Orange County Sheriff’s Office investigators have charged Brayden Tyler Swain with “numerous felonies stemming from the vandalism of the Little River Presbyterian Church and the New Bethel United Methodist Church” last Thursday.

Swain, of Person County, has been charged with offenses including breaking or entering a place of worship, injury to real property, injury to personal property and safe cracking.

Law enforcement originally said the damage to the two churches was estimated to be $20,000. Officials said nothing appeared to have been stolen. Instead, officials say “it appears that the suspect(s) only intent was to damage and destroy property at the churches.”

Swain is being held at the Orange County Detention Facility under a $5,000 bond. Swain is set to make his first appearance in District Court on Tuesday afternoon.

While Swain is in custody, authorities are asking for anyone with additional information to contact investigator Jason Nazworth at (919) 245-2925 or investigator Keith Goodwin at (919) 245-2918. Tips can also be e-mailed to

Events Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Chapel Hill

Localities in our community are celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Monday.

Chapel Hill and Carrboro adopted resolutions in 2015 recognizing the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The recognition has been growing in recent years as a counterpoint to Columbus Day, which is listed as a federal holiday.

Events are being sponsored by the Town of Chapel Hill, the UNC American Indian Center and the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation throughout the day on Monday.

Johnny “Blackfeather” Jeffries is scheduled to lead a program on the creation and demonstration of primitive tools and weapons beginning at four o’clock Monday afternoon at the Hargraves Softball Field at 216 N Roberson Street.

A Talking Circle is also scheduled for Monday evening with members of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation, Sappony and Lumbee tribes facilitated by the UNC American Indian Center. The panel will discuss the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The panel is set to begin at six o’clock Monday evening in Meeting Room B of the Chapel Hill Public Library.

The documentary Survival of the Circle is also scheduled to be shown at six o’clock Monday evening in the gymnasium at the Chapel Hill Community Center at 120 S Estes Drive.

Controversial Wedding Venue Going Back Before Orange County Board of Adjustment Monday Night

A controversial Orange County project will go back before the county’s Board of Adjustment on Monday night.

Community members near Morrow Mill Road have been concerned for nearly an entire year about a proposal that would bring a wedding venue to the area.

The Barn of Chapel Hill is billed as a wedding venue by the owners but those who opposed the project prefer the term “party barn.” The proposal first went before the planning board last year in a meeting that was attended by many residents voicing opposition.

The owner’s of the 22-acre property applied for a Special Use Permit for the project. That application was denied by the county Board of Adjustment. But the barn owners do not need the permit approval to move forward because the property is classified as a “bona-fide” farm.

A local organization, Preserve Rural Orange, has been leading the fight against the Barn of Chapel Hill. A release from the group says three neighboring landowners are appealing Orange County planning staff’s decision that no zoning approval is required for property owners to construct the venue.

The property owners told WCHL earlier this year that they believed they did not need county approval but said they wanted to go through an open process to hear concerns from the neighbors.

In that interview, one of the property owners – Kara Brewer – said they were working to develop the barn “without being a nuisance to the community.” Brewer said, at the time, the property had two bee hives with hopes they would begin to sell honey in 2017. They had also had hopes of selling other products, including flowers next year.

The neighbor’s appeal is set to be heard by the county Board of Adjustment at 7:30 Monday night on the lower level of the West Campus Building at 131 West Margaret Lane in Hillsborough.