September 2008


Now is the time to start planning for the next landfill.

As far as searching for a suitable site and getting community buy-in, the bitter fights over the current site on Eubanks should have provided enough lessons on how not to proceed. If those lessons were left unlearned, our local leaders only have to review the recent solid waste transfer site process or the developing UNC Airport Authority issue to see how a new search might avoid some of their pitfalls.

What do I recommend?

Start now. Community involvement with constant updates an absolute necessity. Create multiple steering committees throughout the County. Anticipate population trends and account for them honestly (unlike the factoring out of the spillage of Durham into eastern Orange, the explosion of population in Hillsborough and the blossoming of Mebane). The decision must be based on objective technical criteria complimented by an analysis of community impacts. The site must support anticipated current and future technologies – like methane gas recovery and e-waste recycling – that will not only enhance the environment but provide potentially lucrative returns. Measurable environmental, social and economic effects must guide the final selection (no hand-waving please).

One last ingredient. Backbone.

Selecting the next landfill site will be a long, arduous task. The final decision will take political courage. It doesn’t have to be one that tears our County and community apart.

Here’s the specific sub-section of Senate Bill 1925 authorizing the creation of the Airport Authority.

The heart-rending bit, at least to me, is 116‑274, “General powers.”

(a) An authority created under this Article has all powers that a city or county has under Articles 1 through 7 of Chapter 63 of the General Statutes and, in regard to financing capital expenditures and operations, shall have such powers as are delegated to or conferred upon the constituent institutions or the University of North Carolina Health Care System. Notwithstanding other provisions of law, both regulations adopted by an authority under this Article and development regulations adopted by a county or municipality under Article 18 of Chapter 153A or Article 19 of Chapter 160A of the General Statutes shall be applicable to land owned by and the approaches to land owned by an authority created under this Article. In the event the regulations conflict, the more restrictive regulation applies.

UNC-CH has been granted sovereign powers normally reserved to municipalities. Setting this precedent, even in what appears to be the constrained case of building an airport to support NC-AHEC, carries terrible portent.

PART IV. ALLOW THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA TO CREATE AN AIRPORT AUTHORITY

The rest after the fold:

(more…)

Sponsored by southwest Orange County residents Tony Blake, Walt Lobotsky, Clifford Leath, Deonna Angelillo, and Susan Lombardo, tonight’s community meeting (WEBSITE) discussing the siting of a new UNC airport, was packed. Roughly 270 folks, from all around the county, attended the meeting to find out the latest on UNC’s (and now, as reported, Orange County’s economic development director Broadwell’s) plans to build a general aviation airport.

UNC’s original reason for creating a new airport was to support the NC-AHEC ( North Carolina Area Health Education Centers Program).

UNC’s director for Carolina North Jack Evans reaffirmed during last Thursday’s joint meeting between UNC and Chapel Hill’s Town Council (discussing a framework for approving Carolina North’s development), NC-AHEC’s current base at Horace-Williams airport (HWA) will be closed when the new Innovation Center is complete (2 years or so). Last week, Bruce Runberg, UNC’s Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Planning and Construction, said that a $2 million contract has been let to build hangars at RDU to “temporarily” house the program. Execution of that contract is contingent on a few factors, money, it appears, isn’t one.

Supporting AHEC, as folks and local media drilled down to the nitty-gritty, seems to have been just a smokescreen as, now, it appears that a much more extensive project – supporting well-heeled alumni, UNC corporate clients, AOPA members, local pilots and some vague mix of commercial interests – with a bigger facility is in the offing. To justify this vast extension, UNC has suggested great public benefit – to the tune of millions. No downside – environmental, community or other – has been mentioned (it’s all roses).

As CitizenWill readers might remember from previous comments, I found UNC’s consultants Talbert & Bright’s 2008 report of an economic impact of $40 million to $53 million a year ridiculous and near insulting to our community’s intelligence.

I’ve asked (letter here) the Orange County Board of Commissioners to appoint me as one of their three community representatives to UNC’s new Airport Authority to help bring objective standards to any decision on building and siting – if necessary – an appropriately sized facility for the originally constrained purpose.

I have a number of reasons, one of which, as the Chapel Hill News recently reported, was the terrible precedent of granting open-ended power of eminent domain to a University:

Will Raymond, a former candidate for Town Council, says the decision to form an airport authority was “a terrible mistake by our legislature.”

“Setting this precedent, for reasons good or bad, will probably make policy interactions with UNC-CH more difficult in days to come,” he said in a letter to the Orange County commissioners. “Essentially, the legislature has issued UNC a huge hammer, with the power of eminent domain, that I believe should be reserved exclusively to elective government.”

Are we to think that this power will be reserved only for UNC-Chapel Hill?

Beyond maintaining due vigilance, as a member of the Authority, in the exercise or threatened exercise of the awesome power of “public taking”, I will do my best to document the Authority’s deliberations, publish as much of the supporting documentation as possible and provide an analysis, of course from my own viewpoint, of the progress being made. More importantly, I will work to be a conduit for the wider community’s concerns about the process, the suitability of sites and other relevant issues. I’m sure that both the appointed elective officials and UNC officials will do the same, but I know I can provide community perspectives that I know will be distinct from theirs.

Here are some notes from this evening’s meeting.

Deonna Angelillo made initial introductions and a few comments, noting “no curtains in our neighborhood” and she wants it to stay that way. Her house is on the end of the site H runway.

Clifford Leath, whose 40 acre horse farm is on that runway, led off with a quick summary of recent history. While discussing strategy he said “we’re really fighting the state of North Carolina”, not local governments. Expressing incredulity, he outlined the 2005 estimated cost of $35M to develop site ‘H’ – a figure he and others felt underestimated both today’s costs and the required build-out of infrastructure – road-widening, electric, etc. Suggesting that the second Talbert/Bright study was commissioned “by a misguided planning person”, he emphasized that an objective analysis needed to be done.

A sentiment that was shared by others throughout the evening was “there’s certainly a hidden agenda here and it is not AHEC”. He said he had contacted a number of officials with little response though the UNC System’s Erskine Bowles did tell him that “no site was preferred”. He ended up his presentation expressing a lack of confidence in the proposed Authority’s decision-making process as the community will be represented by only 5 of the 15 members (the rest being UNC related).

Tony Blake, a volunteer fireman with an impressive command of both the history and breadth of the airport drama, went over some of the political dimension of the issue. “This all started as a bill introduced by Verla Insko and Bill Faison”. Later in the evening, it was suggested someone run as a write-in against Faison to “get his attention”. Tony got to the crux of his community’s problem – “they have eminent domain – they can set the price and take the land”. Echoing Clifford’s concern, he said “they’ve stacked the board, they have 2/3rd majority”. He went on to show that by creating this Authority our local legislators – Insko, Faison and Hackney, have bypassed the county’s.

“This is not politics, this piracy!” was his call to arms. “They are going to take land here and we have to let them know that it is” not acceptable.

Tony went on to say he thinks there is a window of opportunity to shutdown creation of Authority. Failing that, that the legislature directed the Authority to “find that the airport is critical to the operation” of AHEC. One avenue of defense was to challenge the necessity of building a $35-50 million general aviation airport when a $2 million hangar at RDU would suffice. They “don’t need to reinvent the wheel with a county airport”.

Tactically, he said, “each site needs to tackle its own specifics.” Building on the strength of community, he challenged his gathered neighbors to work with all the affected communities. “If site 9 has a petition, then site H needs to sign it.” Yes, he said, each site needs to build a case – environmental, social, just a bad idea – in order to “convince the university that this [building vs. using RDU] is a bad idea”.

His final strategy? Attack the granting of eminent domain powers. It was a bad idea – “that it is a sword poised above our heads” – “ultimately we need to get this law repealed…..”

Finishing he said “we need to get our message out there” – “not the lipstick on the pig that is their spin on the airport”.

The next speaker, Laura Streitfeld said “the idea that our land would be taken for the benefit of the few” was disturbing but that the fight can’t be just about NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard). “It’s pretty clear that nobody wants it in their backyards, but that isn’t too different than anyone else”, she said but went on to argue that the issues – the grant of eminent domain, multi-county environmental consequences, waste of tax dollars, etc. – went well beyond the local scope of site H. She also said she would “stand in front of the bulldozer” to stop that site from being developed.

Bonnie Hauser, representing a group called “Orange County Voice” (more here) said “our goal is to repeal this eminent domain law.” “We are fighting this as an overarching act” of abuse of eminent domain. And that “We don’t understand why UNC is doing economic development plans for Orange County”.

Neither do I, except as a strategy to get Federal dollars. The utility of this general aviation airport has to be justified with benefit to the wider community in order for Federal grants to be approved.

Judith Wegner, former UNC Law Dean and current member of the Orange County Planning Board, called on the assembled citizenry to ‘write Bill Faison” ( Billf@ncleg.net [ 919-715-3019 ] ) noting “he is running unopposed.” “We should run a write-in candidate” to oppose Faison because “everyone should ask ‘Why are we doing this?””.

She also asked folks to send on specific impacts to the Orange County Planning Board (CONTACT HERE) because “we need to document it…for planning board.”

There were a number of comments and questions from the crowd. A woman stood up waving a copy of a UNC publication (didn’t quite catch the name) pointing out how commercialized Dr. Roper’s UNC Healthcare has become these last few years (here’s what I said about that on the appointment of Rev. Seymour as UNC Healthcare’s ombudsman in 2006).

“UNC has turned into a corporate entity”, she said, reeling off the corporate influence on UNC Healthcare, “How many of the corporate execs have jets?” “How many AHEC doctors”? I don’t know how many are used by corporate execs, but as a neighbor of HWA, I can assure you that jets are not uncommon.

One resident asked about UNC’s research property, which abuts one of the proposed sites. He said that he had heard a “secret lab” with hermetically sealed doors had been buried 80 feet below the surface. He wanted to know if that had anything to do with the proposed airport site.

Fred, a pilot, said he had worked with the former HWA flying club for four years and, in his experience, AHEC “are fools.” He suggested that “there is a lot of undeveloped land that the county could use that doesn’t involve stealing it from people who have lived here for generations.”

A great question concerned the spread of UNC’s airport into the surrounding community.

It had been noted ealier that the language of the bill authorizing the creation of the Authority could be interpreted broadly enough to justify, at least in the Authority’s eyes (and maybe with the rah-rah approval of Orange County’s economic officer), the taking of surrounding property to support commercial activity at the new airport. In that citizen’s words, the powers conferred “to expand as they saw fit.”

This prompted Tony Blake to observe that instead of the hotels and restaurants the Talbert/Bright study envisioned, the outcome would be more akin to Burlington’s experience – “a wasteland”. Trucking companies and other undesirable commercial uses not very complimentary to the rural way of life.

The airport wasn’t the only topic discussed. At the end of the evening, a resident living off Hwy 54 brought up the siting of the new solid waste transfer station. I hope to ‘blog more on my conversations with Hillsborough’s widening opposition – whom are having a meeting Oct. 2nd, 7pm at the Hillsborough United Church of Christ, corner of Old 86/Davis Rd. In his case, he was concerned about the 4 sites west along Hwy 54.

The gentleman next to me, a former manager in Chapel Hill’s public works, pointed out that Chapel Hill’s garbage trucks were geared in such a fashion that long-distance hauls will burn fuel outrageously, thus be prohibitively expensive (I sent an email to Howard Harvey, Chapel Hill’s Solid Waste Superintendent asking about this – I’ll post his response).

There were many other great comments, questions and observations and some very encouraged folks. It was heartening to see a community pull together to challenge UNC, our local legislators and the State of North Carolina to justify, objectively and with clarity, the reasons for moving forward.

I write my ‘blog knowing full well that there are many folks more eloquent, more on-point than I will ever be. Jim Protzman, former Chapel Hill Councilmember, BlueNC’r sent this simple request to Representative David Price about the Bush Administration’s $700 billion long con.

Dear Congressman Price

We were told last week that the world would end if the bail-out didn’t pass immediately. It didn’t pass, and the world didn’t end. Then we were told we had a few days. Then we were told next Monday would be okay. Some even say a few weeks would be okay.

The truth is, no one in Congress has any freakin’ idea what you’re dealing with here. The $700 billion figure was pulled out of Paulson’s ass. It has no grounding in reality whatsoever. It’s not even clear that a bail out is absolutely necessary…..

Dead on. Thanks Jim for articulating, if even a little freakin’ off-color, what I want David to do – reject the Bushies final grift.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid that David’s efforts, if he should take Jim’s sage advice, will be subverted by his own party’s leadership, ala Salon’s Glenn Greenwald’s recent observation what the Democratic Leadership
(The complete (though ever-changing) elite consensus over the financial collapse) will probably do:

Leave aside for the moment whether this gargantuan nationalization/bailout scheme is “necessary” in some utilitarian sense. One doesn’t have to be an economics expert in order for several facts to be crystal clear:

First, the fact that Democrats are on board with this scheme means absolutely nothing. When it comes to things the Bush administration wants, Congressional Democrats don’t say “no” to anything. They say “yes” to everything. That’s what they’re for.

They say “yes” regardless of whether they understand what they’re endorsing. They say “yes” regardless of whether they’ve been told even the most basic facts about what they’re being told to endorse. They say “yes” anytime doing so is politically less risky than saying “no,” which is essentially always and is certainly the case here. They say “yes” whenever the political establishment — meaning establishment media outlets and the corporate class that funds them — wants them to say “yes,” which is the case here. And they say “yes” with particular speed and eagerness when told to do so by the Serious Trans-Partisan Republican Experts like Hank Paulson and Ben Bernake (or Mike McConnell and Robert Gates and, before them, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell).

So nothing could be less reassuring or more meaningless than the fact that the Democratic leadership has announced that what they heard scared them so much that they are certain all of this is necessary — whatever “all this” might be (and does anyone think that they know what “this” even is?). It may be “necessary” or may not be, but the fact that Congressional Democrats are saying this is irrelevant, since they would not have done anything else — they’re incapable of doing anything else — other than giving their stamp of approval when they’re told to.

This will be the third “big scare” used to justify the most corrosive of public policies. 9/11 led to the hasty adoption of the Orwellian Patriot Act. Fabricated “intelligence” of Iraqii WMDs led to the worst foreign policy and humanitarian disaster of the last few generations. And now, with the implosion of financial institutions whose underpinnings were based on incremental movements of trust in instruments spun from less substance than cotton candy, we have the rush to payoff the indefensible ripoffs on Wall St.

By every and any measure, the American public, prodded by fear and ignorance over 7 years, have emptied their, their childrens’ and grandchildren’s pockets – trillions of dollars – in the largest transfer of public weal to private hands ever.

Never have so many given so much to so few.

And as the Cheney/Bush madministration draws to a close, this third and final act seeks to strip the America’s cupboard bare, dot the final i on the most incompetent Presidency in our Republic’s short history and end, it seems, by drowning the Neo-Con’s favorite whipping boy – a Federal regulatory government – in the bathtub.

Tonight I asked the Council, once again, to reconsider cutting corners in the zoning process to push their “dense” development agenda.

Just as in this Spring’s approval of the new TC-3 zoning district (A Matter of Process: Greenbridge and Council’s Devolving Standard of Public Review), the Council is trying to slide through a far-reaching zoning modification to favor another RAM Development project.

RAM Development is the Council’s development partner in the ill-fated Lot $5 public/private partnership (a partnership where the public literally gets the shaft and RAM gets all the gold [Downtown Initiative: $500,000 here, $7.3 Million there, pretty soon we’re talking real money…]).

TC-3, which doubled the allowable density and increased the height limits by %50 of projects built Downtown was tagged to the popular Greenbridge projects approval but its real raison d’etre was to get Lot $5 over a SUP (special use permit) hurdle. What was clear, then, especially if you review secret negotiations, the Council’s negotiating team (Strom, Hill, Greene) failed to get RAM to commit to all the requirements the Council had asked for whether reasonable or not. The team had painted themselves into a corner, in a sense, because they had publicly stated they would not approve a SUP granting the height, density and other extraordinary specifications that RAM wanted (specifications tailored to enriching their bottom line at taxpayer expense) without a commensurate quid pro quo.

Empty handed, unable to get a deal which would satisfy their already announced SUP requirements, they created a new zoning district, rammed it through without extensive public review and applied to their own pet project – Lot $5 – to close the deal.

Tonight the Council proposed using the same tactic, in this case twisting an existing zone (Residential-Special Standards-Conditional Zoning District) developed in 1999 to promote affordable housing, so that they could apply it to another RAM Development project – The Residences at Grove Park of which I have written about several times.

Over two years ago, in fact, I asked Council to be as Caesar’s wife – beyond reproach – when dealing with other projects from their business partner RAM Development.

Carefully tailoring a zoning ordinance modification that, as our own Planning Board said “appears to be in direct response to the proposed Residences at Grove Park developments and therefore may not be well suited for other areas of town”, doesn’t instill confidence in the integrity of our zoning process.

Why does this project, which wipes out 111 affordable housing units and replaces them with 300+ luxury condos get this particular special treatment?

Here are my prepared remarks (which I tried to consolidate as, once again, the Council collapsed two public hearings into one possible confusing tangle):

What we have tonight with these proposed zoning modifications is a set of vague requirements with no backing metrics. Essentially, you are being asked to loose the “specialness” of the Residential Special Standards zone.

The original intent of RSSC zone was to promote affordable housing.

Tonight’s proposal is all about a 3-fold increase in density to satisfy your development partner’s, RAM Development, desire to maximize their profits in selling more luxury condos at the community’s expense.

But, like the Council’s decision to pass TC-3, modifying the RSSC opens the doors to all developers to follow your business partner’s lead. Without the specific, measurable standards, it will be quite difficult to measure if the promises made in granting a zone are actually carried out.

#1. Promoting affordable housing.

This Council has more and more accepted in lieu payments over actual square footage. How will this project be any different? Is there a commitment to accept 26 units? And based on RAM’s own projections, in no way are these units as affordable as the existing housing stock.

#2. Promote sustainable transportation.

What, specifically, is so much more extraordinarily different in RAM’s 425 Hillsborough proposal than existing transportation conditions? Nothing. Without setting specific goals or guidelines, how will we ever know?

#4. Protection of the natural environment.

RAM’s project, as currently designed, has significant impacts on the health of Bolin Creek. During the buildout and occupancy of these condos, significant changes – changes not accounted for in the current plan – will negatively affect the surrounding and downstream environment. There are already sanitary sewer issues along that part of the system, where’s the request to study the impact of Hillsborough 425 on that system?

#6. Protection of adjacent neighborhoods. [I made an aside to Sally Greene since she had raised concerns about the appearance of UNC's Innovation Center fronting MLK,Jr.: ...this is a big project..it will be the visible entranceway to our Downtown...it will loom above the historic neighborhoods behind... ]

Like TC-3, the proposed modifications are pushing an agenda that will have far-reaching effects on adjacent Downtown neighborhoods. Pass the modifications and you are opening up the flood gates to radical changes at odds with Chapel Hill’s current character. Let’s give the public a full opportunity to understand the breadth of these changes.

#3. “Promotion of a healthy downtown and healthy neighborhood commercial and employment centers;”

Does this mean displacing the hard-working folks from what little remains of privately owned affordable housing stock and replacing them with rich retirees and wealthy student havens? What guarantees do we have that the residents of these 300+ luxury condos represent greater economic reward for Downtown? Like Lot #5, do we expect RAM’s targeted demographic to increase employment Downtown? Or will, given the cost of these units, will the workers commute to RTP – defeating the transportation initiative?

[Another aside in reference to RAM's point mans statement that only 3 non-student leasees live at Town House] As far as the 100 students you will displace. I’ve known folks living at Town House…students…they work in our community….they have jobs….] (this trivialization of the student population of Town House just shows how RAM Development feels about Chapel Hill – it’s a fattened goat – with a sleepy goatherd – ready for the roasting].

What is so special about this project to justify a modification in the zoning laws to allow not only your business partner but every other developer wishing to cash in on Chapel Hill’s diminishing cachet from making the same vague assertions? Once you open the door, you cannot favor RAM over others – unless you want to invite lawsuits.

Which brings me to my final issue with tonight’s proposal.

This is the second time this Council has been asked to modify zoning regulations to favor their business partner RAM Development.

The first time, with TC-3, the majority of this Council were willing to open the door to long-range negative changes Downtown – radically allowing increased density and heights Downtown – with the costs passed on to us – the taxpayers.

The appearance of favoring RAM, your development partner, once again calls into question the integrity of the Town’s zoning process.

If this project is so special as to require modifications, let it be under the current zone. Make RAM make the case – cross every T and dot every I – and set specific, measurable requirements for granting variances so that the public remains confident that one, they are getting a good deal and two, that favoritism played no part in the final outcome.

Councilmember Mark Kleinschmidt said I was “being mean spirited” highlighting that this is the second time that a proposal was made to modify the law – the zoning ordinance – to favor the Council’s business partner. I wasn’t being mean-spirited, I was being frank.

What would I do differently?

I agree that the RSSC needs to be updated to reflect current density expectations. Would I go from .4 to 1.10, not without an escalating scale of extraordinary requirements and not outside the original intent – to foster affordable housing. For great rewards, go great responsibilities.

What about higher density, transit-oriented developments? I would take another stab at creating a new zone, as the Council failed to do this Spring, that captured the requirements – and as importantly – set specific measurable metrics – for a new zone. I would then invite community input – have outreach events as UNC has done with Carolina North – and then hold extensive public hearings to “sell” this new zone to the public. No more of this under-the-table gamesmanship.

What about adding the six new comprehensive plan related requirements as proposed by staff to this new zone? Great idea if it can be done to foster appropriate in-fill development throughout Chapel Hill.

What I wouldn’t do, and what I really hope our Council stops doing, is to attempt to make far-reaching, potentially harmful modifications to our Town’s zoning ordinances, without informing and educating our public.

[UPDATE]
The meeting started out with a set of criticisms, especially from Barry Jacobs, about the consultant’s work product and process. “This is not the process we agreed to…” sums up the majority’s concerns.

I called for a reworking of both the process and the criteria used to determine the siting of the transfer facility, including suggesting a “matrix decision” process (Trash Talk: Systematic Is The New Watchword). As such, I agree that this wasn’t the process the BOCC wanted or asked for. I understand that during the summer it is more difficult to track progress of ongoing projects. That said, the BOCC knew that this particular issue required more oversight than usual and should have been prepared for substantive process this evening.

Nice if they had “got it done”, as one public commenter said.

In any case, it appears that the Eubanks road location is slated to be bumped on community concerns putting Hillsborough’s sites squarely at the top of list. It will be interesting to see how that discussion plays out.

Here (“Rogers Road Community:A Unified Front”) is a collection of background information.

[ORIGINAL]

Starting in the middle with community input.

First, room is packed to the point the fire marshal has asked that folks move out into the hall. Haven’t seen this many folks in the room in quite awhile…

Using the matrix decision process I suggested last year (Trash Talk: Systematic Is The New Watchword), the BOCC just agreed to apply the community criteria to the selection of a site from the top ten. Eleven sites were winnowed out of hundreds based on exclusionary and technical requirements. One of those was dropped because of an existing preservation agreement.

First up Rev. Campbell steps up and hands the BOCC two stacks of comments – each the size of a NY City phone book – and says “here’s some community comment” to get us started.

Next is Rev. Eaton (James B. corrected me, that was “Pastor Rick Edens from the UCC church on Airport “), calling on site #4, the existing Eubanks site, to be dropped.

UNC environmental graduate says that NC is the only state which has studied siting waste management and that, in general, those with little political power get stuck with the garbage.

Neloa Jones points out that if Federal EPA guidelines for site selection had been followed that Eubanks would have never made it to the list of ten. She asks that ALL the criteria be applied before any of the sites be eliminated but then continues by citing the relevant guidelines underlining that Eubanks Site #669 be eliminated. She finishes by saying “vote tonight”, “let it end tonight”.

Rev. Campbell is back. He handed in 340 community criteria comment forms. “36 years” is enough. 36 years of tainted ground water, unsafe roadways, etc. means there is no social justice for this community – in fact for all the citizens of Orange County. He calls on the BOCC to protect all residents – to protect their environment – to protect their rights. “Make the right decision. Remove site #669″.

Mike Gerry – Hillsborough board member – asks why two of the top sites are in the Eno River Economic development zone. Was quite concerned that his committee is just now finding out about those site selections. Wishes they had been involved earlier in the process.

I suggested earlier (2035: Orange County’s Garbage Center of Gravity) that these sites would actually function as an economic resource going forward. Not only being sited in a zone already set aside for commercial development, both sites are close to rail access.

Another representative from Hillsborough is pointing out that the two top sites (based on the exclusionary and technical criteria) will negatively impact Hillsborough’s development. You think that these sites aren’t in somebody’s backyards back “this is in Hillsborough’s backyard”. A backyard that Hillsborough already has planned to develop for its economic well-being.

Nate – environmental engineer with extensive background in site selection. In professional opinion the county’s consultants used subjective criteria in scoring Eubanks in an effort to depress its chances. First example – transit access on Eubanks should score higher given I40 access and existing road improvements. Second, existing site improvements on Eubanks makes it more technically superior than the score indicates. Third, existing perception that the 2011 closure will bring “a pristine meadow”, that isn’t the case. He’s trying to make the case that the technical and exclusionary criteria were biased and not objective in order to create a political excuse to remove Eubanks.

Unfortunately some folks are trying to drown this citizen out. His comments show that he hasn’t been following the story as closely as he maybe should to apply his professional opinion. He finishes by addressing the environmental justice consideration by calling on the BOCC to provide tax breaks, development funds, etc. to reward those neighborhoods. Of course, this means he doesn’t know that promises made to these neighborhoods have been ignored for over 36 years.

Jim Ciao – local developer for Waterstone – who is developing neighborhoods near site #573. They put $28 million into economic development where the OC and the BOCC asked them to put it. Is afraid that #573 will negatively impact their development.

Two more Hillsborough citizens pipe up that the entrance to Hillsborough shouldn’t be blighted by trash trucks. Jo Soulier says she doesn’t want to tell visitors that “instead of using Google to find Hillsborough just follow the trash trucks.”

Rogers Road resident Ken Meardon gets up to respond “to the lady who was concerned about following the trucks…imagine telling [folks] to follow the trucks to your house as I have these last 36 years.”

Kevin Wolff steps up and reiterates his opposition to the Rogers Road site. Asks that the commissioners begin to consider keeping our trash in county and not dumping it on another community. He points out that the costs for transporting our trash problem is only going to increase and calls for a resolution that will economically address our waste now and in the future.

Barry Jacobs wraps the session by reiterating that the community criteria will be applied by the next meeting and the final slate will be ready for community discussion.

Final tally – at 6:30pm the fire marshal counted 184 folks at the meeting.

[UPDATE Matt Dee's N&O report here. ]

Quick reminder about tonight’s Board of Commissioner’s working session on siting the Orange County trash transfer station – 5:30PM at the Southern Human Services Center [MAP] (agenda).

I continue to be concerned about the process – including the criteria – but hold out hope that a good result will eventually be crafted. More on tonight’s meeting here (OC), here (DTH), here (HS – registration still required!!!) and here (CHN).

From Neloa Jones and Sharon Cook:

Dear Friends,

Our Orange County Commissioners are getting closer to selecting a site to build a county-wide trash transfer station. Please support the Eubanks-Rogers Road neighborhood in their effort to remove Eubanks Road as a potential site for this new facility. Eleven potential sites have been identified. Most of the other sites are west of White Cross Road along Highway 54 or off of the I-40 and Old 86 intersection.

This attachment shows all of the potential sites [SEE GRAPHIC]. Every current and future garbage truck in the county will travel the selected route to the waste transfer station. From there all the trash will be dumped and loaded onto extended semi-tractor trailers for shipment out of the county.

Please show your support by attending the Orange County Commissioners’ Work Session on Tuesday, September 16th at 5:30 p.m at the Southern Human Services Center on Homestead Road (back behind the new Senior Center.) Please come, even if you will arrive late.

There are so many reasons why Eubanks Road is NOT the best place for this new facility, including:

- the opening of Morris Grove Elementary School and the school buses and families who now use this route on a daily basis;

- the future middle school and county park near Morris Grove;

- the continuing residential and business developments along Eubanks Road;

- and most importantly, the fact that the Eubanks-Rogers Road neighborhood has hosted our county’s trash facilities for the past 35 years!

If there is simply no way that you can attend the meeting on Tuesday, September 16th, please send an email to our county clerk at dbaker@co.orange.nc.us and ask her to forward your comments to each of the County Commissioners, and to include your comments in the public record.

Many of your neighbors in the Eubanks-Rogers Road have been working very hard to prevent our area from becoming the permanent trash center for the county. Please give them your support at this critical time in the decision making process. For more info about the issue, google Orange County, NC Waste Transfer Station.

I have carved out more time for civic activities of late. As part of that, I’ve thought about applying for Chapel Hill’s open position on Orange County’s Solid Waste Advisory Board. A recent shift in that Board’s leadership holds out some hope for not only a reasonable outcome on the trash transfer site but a new look at managing our county’s future waste stream in an ecological and economically sustainable fashion.

Fred reminds us that tomorrow, Sept. 17th, 2008, is Constitution Day. 221 years ago our Founders ratified a vision which carried this Nation to greatness. Over the last 10 years, much of our national leadership, motivated by partisan zeal and political gamesmanship, have done their best to besmirch and diminish that awesome achievement. As long as folks remember, though, there is hope we will restore our lost civil liberties and re-infuse this Nation with the same spirit upon which it was founded.

Fred has gathered a fantastic set of links, including the Library of Congress’ historical retrospective.

As noted by Chapel Hill News Editor Mark Schultz here [OrangeChat] and here [N&O], I’ve asked the Orange County Board of Commissioners to consider appointing me to the new UNC Airport Authority (more on that here [UNC News] and here [N&O]).

Dear Commissioners,

I’m asking for an appointment to UNC’s new Airport Authority.

As a long time resident of Orange County, a citizen that has lived within a stones throw of Horace-Williams Airport (HWA) these last 15 years, a member of two Town committees interfacing with UNC on both HWA and Downtown issues (Downtown Parking Task Force), a close observer of UNC’s Carolina North planning process and frequent participant over the last 8 years in UNC’s community outreach programs, I bring a set of qualifications that I believe will help our community deal successfully with this issue.

Beyond my participation in Town and Gown relations, I’m quite familiar with the proposed sites that have been floated over the history of this issue. I also know residents affected by some of the proposed sites – notably those on the Alamance-Orange line.

As you know, I’ve also maintained a deep interest in our County’s environmental and economic sustainability and, again, believe I could bring a necessary perspective that will satisfy our citizens.

Finally, I want to be clear on my public concerns about UNC being granted, even if indirectly, sovereign powers.

I believe this was a terrible mistake by our legislature. Setting this precedent, for reasons good or bad, will probably make policy interactions with UNC-CH more difficult in days to come. Essentially, the legislature has issued UNC a huge hammer, with the power of eminent domain, that I believe should be reserved exclusively to elective government.

The consequences of this decision, unless the legislature moves to narrow the powers and limits their use to this “one-off” situation, will be far-reaching. I hope that our legislature revisits this granting of eminent domain and, if they decide to maintain their decision, inject greater community oversight and participation in that process.

That said, I am prepared to join with UNC, local officials, other citizens, to craft the best solution possible for both Orange County and UNC-CH.

Thank you for your consideration…

I further said on OrangeChat:

One reason I applied was to work to bring community input directly into the process. If you are familiar with my website citizenwill.org, you know that I try to bring concentrated research to bear in order to help our community make fact-based decisions on issues. Other than my background working on local boards , having already been involved in plotting HWA’s future, I think one of my strongest qualifications is this desire to integrate broader community awareness and participation in vital issues.

If appointed, I will do my best to document the Authority’s deliberations, publish as much of the supporting documentation as possible and provide an analysis, of course from my own viewpoint, of the progress being made. More importantly, I will work to be a conduit for the wider community’s concerns about the process, the suitability of sites and other relevant issues. I’m sure that both the appointed elective officials and UNC officials will do the same, but hopefully I can help provide community perspectives that I believe will be distinct from those.

A note on what that N&O article.

I said I thought granting the UNC, through the Authority, eminent domain power is a “terrible mistake”. Guess you could conclude that an Authority without this power lacks authority but I don’t believe this to be the case. If UNC is going to construct a new airport, we do need a framework within which the community can participate in the decision-making process.

I want to be one of our community’s representatives within that framework.