Majority of Residents Satisfied with Life in Chapel Hill

The Town Council heard the results of a survey on Monday January 11 that measured public satisfaction with quality of life and town services in Chapel Hill.

The results showed that a majority of citizens are happy with life in Chapel Hill.

The survey was conducted and presented by a private company, the ETC Institute.

“We found that residents have a very positive perception of Chapel Hill, 89 percent of residents are satisfied with the overall quality of life in Chapel Hill compared with only 3 percent who are dissatisfied,” said Morado of the ETC Institute.

The survey was conducted in October and November of 2015 and over 400 people responded. This survey has been conducted every other year since 2009.

Chapel Hill ranks above regional and national averages for satisfaction when it comes to almost all categories except for traffic.

“The top overall priority is the flow of traffic and congestion management. Residents rank that as most important to emphasize over the next two years,” said Morado.

Traffic has been the biggest concern for residents since the survey was first done in 2009.

The next two biggest concerns were how the town is preparing for the future and the amount of affordable housing available.

As for new construction projects, creating more bike lanes and off – road paths was the top priority. Council Member Maria Palmer noted that residents want paths they feel safe on.

“When you look at the results you see that half of people asked say they do not feel safe biking in town,” said Palmer.

The purpose of the survey was to show the Mayor and Town Council where the public thinks the town should improve but other than a few specific areas, people seemed to be relatively satisfied with life in Chapel Hill.

DWI Case for Chapel Hill Town Councilman Continued

Chapel Hill Town Councilman Lee Storrow appeared in court Tuesday morning on a DWI charge.

The case against Storrow was continued until December 8, to allow Storrow time to complete an alcohol support class at UNC.

Storrow says the support class has been beneficial in the days since his arrest.

“I have found that to be a positive experience,” Storrow says. “I have not consumed alcohol since this incident happened and actually seen a lot of personal health benefits from that that I’ve been reflecting upon.”

He says he has been encouraged through his time in the class.

“My counselor has felt very positive about the work that I’ve been doing,” Storrow says. “And he’s recommended, as has my attorney, that I finish the 30 hours.”

Storrow adds he has completed more than 20 hours of the 30-hour program.

Storrow was arrested and charged with driving while impaired and speeding in late August. Storrow was pulled over when his 2012 Toyota Prius was clocked going 63 in a 35 mile per hour zone near Municipal Drive on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, according to Chapel Hill Police.

Storrow willfully submitted a sample of his breath for chemical analysis, according to records. The test showed Storrow’s blood-alcohol content was a .16, twice the legal limit to drive in North Carolina.

Storrow entered a guilty plea to the DWI charge in early September. As part of the agreement for Storrow’s guilty plea, the state agreed to drop the speeding charge, which prosecutors say is standard procedure in a case like this.

Storrow is scheduled to appear in court once again for sentencing on December 8. Storrow was elected to the Town Council in 2011 and lost his re-election bid earlier this month.

CHALT Backs Challengers In Chapel Hill Races

Tom Henkel is one of the founders of the Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town, or CHALT. He says the grassroots organization was formed to channel the voices of those critical of the town’s planning process.

“Many of us have volunteered our time and expertise to take part in the Chapel Hill 20/20 planning exercise,” says Henkel. “To our surprise, not only were we ignored by the mayor and his supporters on the council, we were portrayed as that noisy minority that complains about everything.”

That dissatisfaction is reflected in the group’s endorsements, which favor challengers over incumbents.

In the 2015 municipal election, CHALT is backing mayoral challenger Pam Hemminger as well as council candidates Jessica Anderson, Nancy Oates, and David Schwartz. Though there are four seats open, the group only opted to endorse three council candidates.

CHALT supporters say the current mayor and council have given developers too much leeway to build high-end residential projects while ignoring public input on development plans.

“CHALT has been instrumental in documenting some of the excesses and poor judgment of the incumbent mayor and council,” says Schwartz. “CHALT has shown and called for us to move beyond the current polarization of our politics and move forward, together, toward a more prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable future for Chapel Hill.”

Schwartz helped organize CHALT prior to running for office. The group has formed a political action committee to promote their agenda for a “livable and leafy” Chapel Hill, raising more than $2,000 so far.

Two other groups have made endorsements in the Chapel Hill races. The North Carolina AFL-CIO supports Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, incumbent council members Donna Bell, Lee Storrow, Jim Ward, and newcomer Michael Parker. The Equality NC Action Fund, an LGBT rights advocate group, is backing the same slate.

Storrow: ‘Planning to Stay in Race’ for Town Council after DWI

Chapel Hill Town Council member Lee Storrow said after his guilty plea on a DWI charge last week that the plea was the first step in a process for him.

He spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck about his intentions going forward. Listen below:

Chapel Hill Town Council Member Pleads Guilty to DWI

Chapel Hill Town Council member Lee Storrow entered a guilty plea on a DWI charge in Orange County Court on Thursday morning.

Storrow was arrested last Wednesday, August 26, around 1:20 in the morning, after his 2012 Toyota Prius was clocked going 63 in a 35 mile per hour zone on Martin Luther King Junior Blvd, according to police records.

Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman told Judge Lunsford Long the officer in the incident described smelling an “overpowering odor” of alcohol after stopping Storrow, and that the councilman refused all field sobriety tests. Storrow was arrested and registered a .16 blood alcohol content after submitting to a chemical analysis; the legal limit to drive in North Carolina is .08.

Nieman said, as part of an agreement for Storrow’s guilty plea to DWI, the prosecution would not challenge a dismissal of the speeding charge.

After the hearing, Storrow said he has spent the days since his arrest contemplating his actions and his future.

“The last week has been a really deep one for reflection for me,” he says. “And I think this was one step, of many, that I have toward taking responsibility for my really truly awful wrong decision.”

Storrow’s attorney – Bill Massengale – told Judge Long that Storrow would be attending an alcohol assessment course before his sentencing hearing on November 17.

The 26-year-old Storrow was first voted onto the Town Council in 2011 and is running for a second term in this November’s election.

Chapel Hill Town Council Member Lee Storrow Arrested for DWI

Chapel Hill Town Council member Lee Storrow was arrested early Wednesday morning on charges of driving while impaired and speeding.

Police records show Storrow was pulled over in the area of Municipal Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd for speeding. Chapel Hill Police Lieutenant Josh Mecimore says the incident report shows that Storrow’s 2012 Toyota Prius was going 63 in a 35 mile per hour zone.

The report states the arresting officer suspected that the subject was impaired by alcohol.

Storrow reportedly willfully submitted a sample of his breath for chemical analysis. The report shows Storrow’s alcohol content was a .16; the legal limit to drive in North Carolina is .08.

Storrow was arrested around 1:20 Wednesday morning and was released from custody at 3:30 on a written promise to appear in court.

Storrow was elected to the Town Council in 2011. He is running for his second term in this fall’s municipal election.

In a statement released to WCHL, Storrow wrote:

“I’m deeply sorry for my actions. I let myself, my supporters, and my community down. This has brought into clear focus that I’m not only an elected official but a role model, and I take that responsibility more seriously now. I’m committed to making better decisions going forward.”

CH Town Manager Contract Renewed

Additional reporting by Elizabeth Friend

Chapel Hill Town Manager Roger Stancil will remain in office until 2017, according to his recent contract extension.

Roger Stancil

Roger Stancil

The Chapel Hill News reports that the Town Council unanimously approved the extension on Monday in a closed session meeting. The decision also approves a three-percent pay increase, as all town employees received this year.

In early September, eleven Chapel Hill residents submitted a petition to the Council asking it to hold Stancil and town staffers accountable for “apparent fiscal mismanagement”.

STORY: Petitioners Question Chapel Hill Town Manager’s Spending

Chapel Hill resident Tom Henkel delivered the petition. He said he’s seen a pattern of over-reliance on outside consultants and a failure to rein in costs for their services. He cites the Central West Small Area planning process as a recent example.

Stancil responded to the petition saying he’s proud of the “consistent and transparent reporting of budget matters”. He said financial updates are given to the public and Council periodically throughout the year and are always available through the Town’s website.

STORY: Roger Stancil Responds To Allegations Of Financial Mismanagement

Henkel said the town should consult with experts from UNC instead of outside experts.

However, Stancil said annual independent audits show the continued commitment to proper financial management.

Henkel also noted that the Town Manager’s administrative budget increased by 45 percent over the past five years, while spending for street repair and new vehicles dropped by 25 percent.

Despite these allegations, the Council showed its complete support of Stancil with Monday’s unanimous vote.

2014  town council

CHTC To Discuss Development Agreements Vs. Special Use Permits

CHAPEL HILL – Monday, the Chapel Hill Town Council will consider a process for evaluating which long-term projects would benefit from development agreements instead of Special Use Permits.

To date, the town has only ever used the development agreement process once, to create long-term guidelines for UNC’s Carolina North Campus.

But town staffers say three major projects in the works now could benefit from the planning tool, which they say allows the council greater leeway in negotiating with developers.

The Glen Lennox redevelopment, Obey Creek and Orange County’s expansion of the Southern Human Services Center are all potential candidates for development agreements. The council will review a process suggested by the town manager to evaluate which of the projects are ready to move forward.

The council will also take public comment on a number of Federal housing grants. Earlier this month Town Manager Roger Stancil told the council much of that funding is up in the air due to sequestration.

The council meets at 7:00 p.m. in Council Chambers at Town Hall.


Planning Board Chair Responds To Call For Resignation

CHAPEL HILL – Chapel Hill Planning Board Chair Del Snow says she’s not going anywhere despite a second call for her resignation.

“Quite honestly, I don’t want to get into a battle of words with Mr. Pease over this,” Snow says. “So, I guess I’m not going to go through it like a teacher correcting an essay. If other people want to point out his errors, he can discuss it with them.”

She says the errors can be found in a letter Town Council member Gene Pease wrote to Snow in response to a letter she previously wrote to the Council. She says the letter expressed the concerns the Planning Board had over last week’s approval of the Bicycle Apartments.

“They’re not just my opinions, and to suggest somehow I can influence a very self-confident group of diverse people is silly,” Snow says. “These are people all appointed by the council and they’re professional.”

Pease responded to her letter with a lengthy reaction that ended in a call for her resignation.

“I waited and this thing was festering with me,” Pease says. “The email she sent last week just kind of was the tipping point I guess. I felt I needed to speak up.”

Snow says the points he addressed in his response were not completely correct.

“I thought it was unfortunate, but I will leave that to other people to discuss with him,” Snow says. “There were errors in there, but as far as I know, the Planning Board decided on their own not particularly under my leadership.”

The main concern Pease addressed was the fact that he does not believe Snow can correctly serve as the Planning Board chair when she is suing the Town over another development.

In late October, residents of Chapel Hill sued the Town over the Charterwood project—which abuts Snow’s property—after the Council approved the development in September. The lawsuit stated that the Superior Court of Orange County should review the Town’s decision and that the development would be an inconvenience to its neighbors.

“Just because I’m pursuing my legal rights in a case along with other people that I am not in charge of, and I did not vote, I recused myself, it doesn’t mean I’m not qualified and impartial in other cases,” Snow says.

And, she says the lawsuit is not an opinion-based concern.

“The lawsuit against the Town is based on procedural errors,” Snow says. “It’s certainly worse to approve a case through errors in procedure than anything else.”

Snow says her time on the Planning Board is not spent inserting personal opinion, but instead reviewing the facts about the individual developments.

“I would say that I evaluate applications based on their specific merits,” Snow says.

Snow says she will continue to serve as chair until her term expires in June. She will then have two more years on the Planning Board.

To see the letters and hear comments from Pease, click here.

Second Public Official Says CH Planning Board Chair Should Resign

CHAPEL HILL – Yet another public official has asked for the resignation of Chapel Hill Planning Board Chair Del Snow.


“I feel the chair of the Planning Board has stepped over the line of suing the Town over a development agreement that she disagrees with,” Chapel Hill Town Council member Gene Pease says. “I think it’s inappropriate and I don’t think she can be unbiased in her decision making in future developments while there’s a pending lawsuit where she’s one of the leaders in the lawsuit and organizing the neighborhood.”

In response to a letter by Snow to the Council asking why the Bicycle Apartments were not delayed further in a vote last week, Pease replied with a letter stating her personal opinions too often make way into the Town’s planning decisions.

“I don’t have an issue with any advisory board or commission member disagreeing or not agreeing to any kind of development agreement,” Pease says. “I don’t have any issue with a citizen suing somebody or the Town over a disagreement. I think those are all our rights.”

In late October, residents of Chapel Hill sued the Town over the Charterwood project—which abuts Snow’s property—after the Council approved the development in September. The lawsuit stated that the Superior Court of Orange County should review the Town’s decision and that the development would be an inconvenience to its neighbors.

Pease says as a member of the Planning Board, and especially the chair of the Board, it’s hard for him to see how she can be a part of that lawsuit.

“I’m not comfortable with not speaking up on it,” Pease says. “I think there’s an ethical line that’s been crossed. The essence of my email back to her (Monday) was to ask her to resign her position on the Planning Board.”

He says he feels it’s important to understand how far is too far.

“I don’t have an issue with any other Planning Board member unless they’re a participant in a lawsuit on a development issue against the Town,” Pease says.

Snow’s letter regarding the Bicycle Apartments stated that the Council brought up “legitimate concerns” about the project that should have been answered with “fact-based data” but instead were overlooked and the development was approved.

However, Pease stated multiple times in his response that “fact-based data” has often been a request from Snow. He says that term is often misused “by amateurs trying to sway an argument that is primarily based on their personal bias.” He added that “in our town the term has been greatly overused.”

“They use a word about not being against development, but being for smart development,” Pease says. “When I talked to them about being able to define that, I can’t get a clear definition of what they mean.”

He says these requests often don’t leave any options to further Town development.

“They don’t want our taxes raised,” Pease says. “They don’t want our services cut. But yet there’s a group in town that consistently rallies citizens and close neighborhoods to speak out against development. I can’t figure out how to have the balance in town we need.”

In late December, former council member and current Orange County Commissioner Penny Rich wrote a letter to Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt stating Snow should hand in her resignation.

Click here to read the full story.

Snow had appeared before the Board of Commissioners earlier in the month to voice her objections to the County bus and rail plan. In doing so, she identified herself as the Planning Board chair and cited the Board’s opinions on long-range transportation planning.

Rich argued this amounted to an over-reach of power, but Mayor Kleinschmidt appeared at the next Planning Board meeting to clear the air of the conversations he said were occurring through local media instead of face to face.

Mayor Kleinschmidt stated it was perfectly fine to have an opinion, and fine to credential oneself when the time is appropriate. However, he made it clear that the Planning Board is an advisory board and that the final say goes to the Council.

Click here to read the full story.

Pease says he’s had this concern for some time, but it wasn’t his place to speak up during the conversation over Snow’s visit to Orange County. He says since he wasn’t at the meeting, he didn’t have first-hand knowledge of what took place.

“I waited and this thing was festering with me,” Pease says. “The email she sent last week just kind of was the tipping point I guess. I felt I needed to speak up.”

Regardless of the Mayor’s comments and what role Snow says she is able to play on the Planning Board, Pease says he doesn’t see her performing that role properly anymore.

“I’m not at all complaining or it bothers me that we got sued,” Pease says. “That’s the right of somebody to do that. But to be part of the development process, I don’t know how somebody that’s suing us could be unbiased in future recommendations to the council and that’s where I think an ethical line’s been drawn.”

Snow was not available for comment on the matter Monday evening.

Click here to read Del Snow’s letter to the Town Council.

Click here to read Gene Pease’s response to Snow.