Late-Night Hit And Run Injures Five In CH

Chapel Hill Police are investigating a reported hit-and-run incident that injured five pedestrians on Fordham Boulevard in the early-morning hours on Saturday.

According to a statement from the CHPD, police responded at 2:30 a.m. to a report of a pedestrian being struck by a vehicle near the intersection of Fordham Boulevard and Scarlett Drive. When they arrived, officers discovered that five individuals had actually been hit – all while they were dealing with the aftermath of another vehicle accident that had just occurred. All five were transferred to area hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries.

The driver of the suspect vehicle may have fled on foot or may have been picked up by a passerby.

The investigation is still ongoing.

Comics, Bridges, And Community Forums

ORANGE COUNTY – The DSI Comedy Theater in Carrboro is gearing up for the annual North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival, the largest comedy festival in the South. This year’s festival runs for 10 straight days from February 6-16, featuring standup, sketch comedy and improv at venues across Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Longtime comedy writer Bruce Vilanch will be among this year’s headliners.

For a complete schedule of shows, visit


The next step in Hillsborough’s Riverwalk project has been postponed by a week: two 100-foot steel prefabricated bridges were scheduled to be delivered Thursday, but delivery has been delayed to February 13.

When the bridges are delivered, it will affect traffic on Churton Street downtown. Hillsborough police will direct traffic while the trucks complete their delivery.

When they’re installed, the bridges will cross the Eno River. Construction of Riverwalk’s mile-long Phase II began in October and is slated to be completed by fall, at a cost of $1.86 million.


Orange County 4-H is holding a Community Forum on Thursday, February 6, from 6-8 p.m. at the Orange County Center on Revere Road in Hillsborough.

The forum is rescheduled from last week; it had to be postponed due to the snow.

Triangle Expressway Toll Increases 5% With New Year

TRIANGLE – Commuters using the Triangle Expressway will pay more in 2014 as the rates increased nearly five percent Wednesday to pay off the bond that helped build it.

The increase was scheduled to take place and isn’t a change in the plan. But, now commuters traveling on the road every day will pay an extra $67.60 per year.

The first phase of the project opened in December 2011; phase two opened in August 2012; the third phase opened December 2012.

With the discounted rate using an NC Quick Pass, the rate to travel the full length one way is $2.77 up from $2.64.

AM Accident KOs Telephone Pole, Hundreds Lose Power

Photo courtesy of Chapel Hill Public Library director Susan Brown.

UPDATE: At around 11:00 a.m. Sunday, Duke Energy’s website reported (incorrectly) that the power outage was over. Chapel Hill Police, however, issued this statement: ”Pike Electric mentioned that residents and businesses in the affected area…will be without power up until 9 PM.  They will have to shut down all power for a one hour time span in order to get everything back up and running.  It may be as late as midnight before power is restored to the entire affected area.”

UPDATE: Power was restored shortly before noon to (at least some) homes in the Colony Lake area, near the Sage/Fordham intersection.

UPDATE: Shortly after noon, a Duke Energy spokesperson told WCHL that power had been restored to many Duke customers, but about 350 were still affected. (Corroborating the earlier report from Chapel Hill Police, she said those customers were likely to remain without power until at least early evening.)

CHAPEL HILL – An early-morning single-car accident on Sunday brought down a telephone pole near the intersection of Ephesus Church Road and Legion Road, knocking out power to hundreds of Chapel Hillians.

The accident occurred shortly after 4:00 a.m. According to a statement from Chapel Hill Police, the driver actually ran into several telephone poles before coming to a stop.

122913 power outage pic 1

122913 power outage pic 2

All photos courtesy of Susan Brown.

Duke Energy initially reported more than 2,000 customers were without power. Homes in Briarcliff, Ridgefield, Colony Lake and other nearby neighborhoods remained without power for hours, as crews worked to restore service. Several stoplights were out along 15/501 between Elliott Road and Sage Road; Chapel Hill Police set up emergency signage at those intersections.

The driver of the vehicle – still not identified by CHPD – was not injured in the crash, but was arrested for driving while impaired. It’s not clear whether the accident was related in any way to Sunday morning’s heavy rain.

UPDATE: Crews are installing a new pole. Photo below, also courtesy Susan Brown:

122913 power outage pic 3

Lane Closures; Charity Calendars; Roller Derby!

Watch out for lane closures on and near campus on Wednesday: one lane of Pittsboro Street will be closed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. near the intersection of S. Columbia Street and Manning Drive for waterline work, and the left lane of northbound S. Columbia Street will also be closed from 9 a.m. to noon for tree trimming. Town officials are warning drivers to be cautious in these areas.


Would you like to see roller derby in Chapel Hill? If so, there’s an interest meeting on Tuesday, November 5, at 6:30 p.m. in the Lincoln Gym on Merritt Mill Road. Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation is holding the meeting; they’re thinking about launching a city-sponsored women’s roller derby league, provided there’s enough interest.

The idea for the league came from Colleen Carroll, who moved to Chapel Hill earlier this year. She says as far as she knows, Chapel Hill would be the first town to sponsor its own roller derby league.


For the fourth straight year, Chapel Hill textile collage artist Elaine O’Neil will be selling limited-edition 2014 calendars featuring her original artwork to benefit the North Carolina Cancer Hospital.

They’re called the “Luv This Place 2014 N.C. Calendars,” highlighting twelve of North Carolina’s most famous and iconic places. You can purchase them through January at a variety of stores around town, including Flyleaf Books, Southern Season, and FRANK.

Elaine O’Neil is an award-winning collage artist. Since she started the calendar project, she’s raised $23,000 for the North Carolina Cancer Hospital.

Central West Group Struggles Ahead Of Fall Deadline

CHAPEL HILL- Next Tuesday Chapel Hill residents will have a chance to check in with the Central West Steering Committee to review maps laying out possible land uses and building heights for new development along the Estes Drive corridor.

But the 17-member group is at odds over which maps the public should see and what the maps actually represent. Mickey Jo Sorrel told fellow committee members she’s not comfortable with any of the current plans.

“I personally do not feel that these maps are a product that I have endorsed. We have voted on them a piece at a time and in groups, but they were created by consultants,” said Sorrel, speaking at Tuesday’s steering committee meeting.

The four versions currently under review were drafted by a consultant following committee discussions to provide a starting point for technical analysis.

The maps feature mixed-use development on the north side of Estes near the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard intersection, residential development closer to the schools, and a mix of office, institutional and higher density housing to the south. Proposed building heights along Estes range from two to four stories, with five to eight stories suggested for some interior parcels of land.

But some committee members argue a fifth map should be included, namely a lower density version drafted by an unofficial subset of the group who say they can’t support any of the committee’s concept plans.

The alternative plan limits building heights to three stories, adds more single-family housing to Estes and leaves some interior parcels untouched. Supporters of the alternative plan say it is responsive to neighbors concerns about vehicle traffic, pedestrian safety and environmental conservation. Four members of the committee, including Julie McClintock, delivered a letter to the group asking that the alternative plan be presented to the public for feedback.

“There hasn’t been any real dialog in order to collectively come up with something that will also match what the citizens want,” said McClintock. “That was actually the reason the steering committee was formed.”

However, many on the committee worry that this alternate plan is too small in scale. Committee co-chair Amy Ryan said while she’s willing to consider a less-dense scenario, the alternate plan would be a missed opportunity to plan for increased transit usage and affordable housing in the area.

“I don’t think I would go as far as this because one of the real opportunities that I see in this area is we are on the major transit corridor in town,” said Ryan. “One of the goals the town is trying to do is we’re trying to get that transit ridership which will keep people off our streets. We’re trying to house more people who aren’t at the upper ends and maybe can’t afford a single family house. I think this is a really good place to try and do that.”

Others in the group took their criticism further. Whit Rummel, who owns undeveloped land on Estes Drive, said the lower-density plan lacked vision.

“What I’m really concerned about is if we go with something like this that has no center, no core, no heart, no vision, we have lost,” said Rummel. “We have lost what we came to do. We have been sold out by people in this neighborhood who want to keep it [zoned] R1. And that is not our vision.”

Nonetheless, McClintock said she plans to circulate copies of the alternate plan at next week’s community meeting with or without the approval of the wider committee. This drew the ire of council liaison Jim Ward, who urged the group to present a united front.

“We haven’t talked as a group about anything but those four maps in terms of having any kind of group discussion on it. I really would feel like you would be demonstrating very poor form if you pull out an alternative map that we have not had as a committee,” said Ward. “You may feel very strongly about it, but that is not the place to do that.”

The Central West Steering Committee is charged with creating a small area plan to be incorporated into the town’s revamped comprehensive plan. The group is scheduled to submit its final report to the town council in November.

While the committee wrestles with the scale of the project, the process has begun to draw fire from citizens and elected officials outside the group, after a recent email from Town Manager Roger Stancil showed the cost of the consultant’s work with the committee has jumped from $92,000 to $230,000.

Originally the town hired planning consultants from Rhodeside and Harwell to participate in four committee meetings and one community workshop. Now, that work plan has evolved to include 19 meetings, three community workshops and multiple concept plans.

The community will have a chance to evaluate the committee’s work next week at an information session at the Amity United Methodist Church at 825 North Estes Drive.

The session will give residents the opportunity to provide feedback on the planning principals, goals and concepts the committee has developed. Members of the public are invited to drop in between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday September 10.  The Central West committee will reconvene to assess the results of the community workshop on September 19.

Two of Three Lanes Closed on I-40 EB @ Exit 274 – Disabled Tractor-Trailer

DURHAM – A disabled tractor-trailer has caused the closure of two of the three lanes for I-40 East at N.C. 751 (exit 274).

A fire truck is blocking traffic to provide room for crews to work. Other emergency crews are on scene. After 7:00 a.m., crews laid out materials to clean up a diesel-fuel spill.

traffic delays 7-29-12

I-40 at NC 751 (exit 274) 7:32 a.m.

I-40 at Farrington Rd 7:54 a.m.

I-40 at Farrington Rd 7:54 a.m.

I-40 at NC 54 (exit 273) 7:52 a.m.

I-40 at NC 54 (exit 273) 7:52 a.m.

I-40 at NC 751 (exit 274) 7:51 a.m.

I-40 at NC 751 (exit 274) 7:51 a.m.

Traffic is stop-and-go for more than five miles to NC 86 (exit 266).

A second accident was reported near Farrington Rd. at around 7:30 a.m.

Click here for a map of the area to find an alternate route.

Traffic Decrease Expected Ahead of Deadliest Day for Drivers

Image courtesy of

CHARLOTTE – With the July 4 holiday coming up, the American Automobile Association (AAA) is warning drivers to be careful, as a recent AAA study found that Independence Day is the deadliest day for car crashes.

Public relations manager for AAA Carolinas, Angela Daley, says July 4 is consistently the deadliest day for car accidents because, unlike other holidays, it always falls on the same date.

“For Memorial Day and Labor Day, it changes based on the year, so July 4 is always going to be the holiday for every year,” Daley says.

In its study, AAA attributed the high number of traffic fatalities to the higher number of drivers on the road and the fact that many people drink during Independence Day celebrations, impairing their driving.

July 4 also has more drivers than other prominent holidays because, according to Daley, summer has the highest traffic volume of any season.

AAA estimates that 988,500 North Carolinians will be driving during this year’s July 4 holiday. But, this is actually a two-percent decrease from 2012.

Daley points out that gas prices have risen eight percent in North Carolina since 2012, but she also adds that last year’s travel numbers may have been inflated.

“Most years, the July 4 holiday is a five-day weekend, so depending if it falls on a Thursday, like it is this year, the travel holiday is through Wednesday to Sunday,” Daley says. “But every seven years, it falls on a Wednesday, and that’s what happened last year.”

By comparison, North Carolina traffic during July 4 in 2011 was around 940,000.

Crash Downs Lines on Franklin St.

CHAPEL HILL- Chapel Hill Police spokesman Seargent Josh Mecimore says drivers need to avoid Franklin Street between Boundary Street and Park Place, following a one car wreck that knocked live power lines into the road.

The cause of the crash is unknown. The driver was taken to UNC Hospitals with minor injuries.

Police are currently blocking off traffic in both directions to allow Duke Power crews to repair the power lines.

***According to Chapel Hill Police, at 10:40 p.m. Friday Pike Electric completed the installation of a new telephone pole. All lanes of Franklin Street reopened shortly thereafter. 

Mecimore says drivers should seek alternate routes, as the side streets in the area are n0t meant to handle heavy traffic.

Pedestrians are also warned to stay away. If you are walking in that area, watch out for downed lines or debris from the crash.

Mecimore says it may be several hours before the area is cleared. In the meantime, drivers should use Raleigh Road or Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard until Franklin Street reopens.

CHTC: New ABC Store Could Spell Traffic Trouble

CHAPEL HILL- The Chapel Hill Town Council on Monday reviewed a plan to build a new, 5,000 square foot free-standing ABC Store on Perkins Drive, on a 2.7 acre plot across from the Cruizers convenience store and the Chapel Hill North shopping complex.

But council member Gene Pease worried it’s likely to make a bad situation worse.

“Every time I’ve been in or out of this property, from either direction, it’s a hairy experience, and around rush hour it is just ridiculous,” said Pease. “I question a high traffic in-and-out use of this, quite frankly.”

In response, the applicant has offered to add a new left turn lane on Perkins Drive and to pay for a study six months after completion to evaluate the impact of the new traffic pattern.

Town Planner Kay Pearlstein said that study could lead to further restrictions on how cars enter and leave the site.

“We recommend a stipulation that would initially allow full access to both driveways, all turning movements, for six months and an evaluation at the end of that six month period of time,” said Pearlstein. “That study might put restrictions on that driveway, maybe limiting access to right-in, right-out.”

The Orange County ABC Board already operates a store at the Chapel Hill North shopping center, but ABC Board Manager Tony DuBois said the cost of leasing and repairing the current location could be better spent investing in a new, larger store.

No decisions were made at Monday’s public hearing. The project will return to the council for a vote on May 29. Council member Laurin Easthom asked staff to come back at that time with new ideas to solve the traffic tangle.

“My concern is the traffic safety and I think there could be a creative solution, potentially. I’d like to see it, if there is one,” said Easthom.

In other town business, the council voted unanimously to change the stormwater management rules for existing single-family homes.

Under a decade-old rule, projects that disturbed more than 5,000 square feet of land were required to build stormwater control systems, such as bio-retention ponds. Now, that threshold has been raised to 20,000 square feet and owners of about 150 homes can consider removing those ponds, if they can demonstrate that stormwater runoff is being effectively managed in other ways.

Town staffers say they’ll waive any permitting fees associated with reviewing the new designs.