Mon 12 Feb 2007
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They say, the story is buried in the details.
After reviewing hundreds of pages of confidential documents and listening to hours of ridiculously poor audio recordings of confidential meetings, I can, sadly, stand by my public assertions that the private-public Lot #5 development Council will most probably be thrusting upon us this evening is a terribly flawed beast.
By now, Council should realize that a re-think is in order. But I doubt that will happen….
Yes, it looks like Chapel Hill’s citizens are going to underwrite the development of million dollar condos, lose its moral leadership to criticize other environmentally poor initiatives, set the sub-standard for a new downtown development cycle that will create concrete canyons quashing the charm of our unique berg.
Like dumping a gallon of perfume in a reeking cesspool, the latest “updated” proposal does little to cover the stench that has settled about “the plan”.
RAM Development, directly, and Council, as I expect with tonight’s acquiescence, has no will to ameliorate the vast negative fiscal, environmental, social and political consequences of earlier versions of this plan.
Worse yet, instead of giving the public ample opportunity to review and reflect, the Council is voting to expedite the SUP (special use permit) to rush their development partner’s application through. Beyond the propriety of granting special favors to ones development partner, the problem of public participation has been swept to the side.
“Ahhh, Will, but the public has been given plenty of opportunity”. What a crock. The deal Council is voting on tonight runs to 160 pages – the public record thousands – yet the Council, generally, has made little attempt to integrate a broad perspective ala the NCD (neighborhood conservation district) process – to draw in to the process all the citizens of Chapel Hill.
We’ve heard quite a bit of enthusiasm from those that stand to gain from this precipitous decision. The developers – who benefit from Council’s ill-conceived direction. Those great social champions who want to broaden our affordable housing stock – but, in this case, at too steep a cost. Those that stand to make tons of bucks from the wealthy inhabitants of the publicly underwritten rooftop villas.
Why hasn’t Council tried to build a broader context around this development? Why didn’t they start a conversation with the wider public – the same public that will be picking up the tab for this mess – months ago?
Why? Because a measured assessment of this project, as currently constituted, by the public, would ring its death knell.
And for those Council members caught up in this “rah rah” – “do something, do anything” – atmosphere engendered by folks standing to win big by big, big, big development – that is unacceptable.