Tonight’s vote is not about whether Chapel Hill is a town or a city or whether we need to vitalize Downtown or not. We know that Downtown needs help.

Tonight’s vote is simply about whether the RAM proposal is a good deal for the town’s citizens – both now and in the future….

After reviewing January’s proposal, reading 100’s of pages of confidential minutes, listening to hours of confidential negotiations, rereading all the published material on this project, it is quite clear that this is a
broken deal.

There are so many reasons to turn this deal down, so many, I’ll mention just a few:

Affordable housing is important in our community but affordable housing at any cost is not a good deal.

What kind of precedent does this community set when we spend $7.5 million housing cars at this facility and give property worth millions dollars to a developer so he can build million dollar condos – all so we can get 21 small units?

Council says that these units are sufficient for families but that assessment has not really been made. We don’t know the economic viability of units where folks have to park off-site when their neighbors don’t…. Or can only park between 6pm and 6am. How family friendly is that?

And the %1.5 condo fee cap sounds so alluring but it makes up a significant chunk of qualifying tenants monthly income.

The $7.5 million would be better invested in strengthening existing neighborhoods and building affordable housing units more akin to what we KNOW our citizens desire.

Council continues to celebrate the %1 Art funding going to an out-of-state artist for a centerpiece who’s public usage has not been clearly defined. Nearly a year after I first asked, I still don’t know if my 10 year-old son or his friends will be trespassed off the property for dangling their feet in the fountain.

And why is it that the lions share of this public investment isn’t going to structural improvements in our local art’s scene? Why not provide an on-site arts space? For that matter, why aren’t the taxpayers getting on-site play structures, public bathrooms, drinking fountains.

The pretense that this development improves our transit picture is disturbing.

Without sufficient walkable living infrastructure – grocery stores, parks, schools, jobs – the tenants of this building will inevitably make car trips – maybe as many as a typical resident.

Why no anchoring grocery store? Why no commercial office space for jobs? And why no discussion of incorporating the planned Downtown transit transfer station?

LEED certification is a minimal requirement for today’s sustainable buildings. The lack of a firm commitment for energy reductions in the design and operation of this building is just not acceptable. We know, with better accuracy than RAM showed in forecasting construction cost increases, the trend line for energy costs is only up. Energy efficiency is more than saving money – it is about doing the right thing.

How will Chapel Hill claim moral leadership on environmental issues when our Council approved, financed, built an environmentally sub-par project?

Approval of the initial stages of Carolina North is coming soon. How can our Council demand the highest caliber of environmentally sound development from UNC when they won’t practice what they preach?

You need to walk the talk…

As Council member Kleinschmidt asked, without the carrot of Lot #5, can we ever get a good deal on re-development of Wallace Deck? You know the answer – it will be from difficult to nearly impossible. Will we have to sell the Wallace Deck to get redevelopment? My guess is yes.

Finally, what about the pure bread-n-butter of paying for this project?

Tonight’s coversheet claims we will see significant property and other tax revenues. It also claims a %43 increase in parking revenue. Yet, as we’ve seen, just over the last 9 months, this projects economic projections have been seriously flawed – flawed to the point of losing half the original projects scope. Add to that the public investment increasing 15-fold. Where is the business-like certainty? What proof the return on public investment exceeds the cost of services?

This is a broken project. If Council approves it, please, please, don’t expedite the special use permit.

The public is still coming to terms with the wild shifts in this projects scope and cost – please give them the courtesy of a reasonable time to review what will be the most significant public investment of the next decade.

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