October 2008


Ellie, Elijah and I go to the polls Election Day (it deserves to be both capitalized and a holiday) – it is a family tradition. Even though I’ve voted in every major and almost all primary elections since 1980, I still get excited on Election Day (doubly so when I was running).

While I’ve worked out most of the top of the ticket characters I’m voting for, luckily I still have time to figure out some of the judgeships.

Early voting in Orange County has been heavy but not a problem. As reported in today’s News and Observer:

In Orange County, the average wait has been 15 minutes or less, said director Tracy Reams of the Board of Elections. By the end of Wednesday, 38,904 people — more than 40 percent of registered voters — already had voted in Orange.

Since Orange County has been managing the voter turnout, the Board of Elections decided this morning to close the polls as per the original schedule (9am to 1pm Saturday).

I’ve closely followed the management of local elections for nearly 20 years and from what I can tell, this is one of the best run elections Orange County has experienced.

One reason: Tracy Reams.

Oct. 10th I called the BOE to find out how preparations were progressing. I had heard that in the closing days of regular voter registration the staff was processing hundreds of applications daily. Tracy, who was hired last December, spent nearly an hour sketching out her plan to make what was anticipated as the biggest election in decades go smoothly.

After a few minutes, I well understood why the BOE was so thrilled to hire her:

Billie Cox, Chair of the Orange County Board of Elections, said that she and members of the board, Hank Elkins and John Felton, were very pleased that Ms. Reams had accepted this position.

“Tracy has all the skills we were seeking,” Cox said. “In addition to her understanding of election laws, technology and organizational skills, she is well known and highly regarded in Nash County for her ability to work with staff, precinct officials, political parties, candidates, and the general public,” Cox added.

In 2006, I reviewed the county’s choice of voting equipment. I pushed for the more tamper-proof, verifiable vote, optical scan option. One technical limitation these machines has involves how many ballots, realistically, the hopper can manage. ES&S, the manufacturer, claims 2000. Folks on the Internet claim 1500.

Two years later and two minutes into our conversation, Tracy described her ballot management process.

“Our machines won’t hold 2,000 ballots,” she said and went on to describe how she had instructed poll-workers to empty the bins at 1,200 to prevent jamming. Then she outlined her procedure for guaranteeing the integrity of those ballots – witnesses, safety tape, ballot box opened publicly. Wow!

She had ordered %120 of the required ballots to handle any major swell of last minute registrants, ordered 13 phone lines up from 4 at the BOE office, doubled staff to 65 with another trained 10 employees on standby and planned to position the extra dozen polling machines in the field quickly accessible to replace any broken equipment. Further, she had ordered enough laptops to deploy one, each with the current registration roll, at each of the 44 Orange County voting precincts.

That is the kind of preparation our voters deserve.

I’ve gotten to know our BOE staff fairly well over the last 15 years and they all are a diligent crew.

Tracy is the icing on the cake.

I was Downtown about 8pm this evening. Some folks were gathering but it was generally quiet. It appeared Chapel Hill’s attempt to “scare” off visitors might have worked.

Starting 9:30pm though I began to wonder.

We live close to Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and the Police Station. Starting 10pm there was the constant thrum of helicopters overhead and the nearly continuous whine of sirens moving. Then, as 11:30pm approached, the helicopters moved off and the sirens quieted.

Tomorrow we’ll get to see if we achieved a Homegrown Halloween.

As of 5:00pm, 10 folks applied to fill Bill’s seat. It’s an interesting cross-section of concerned citizens.

Amy, Gene and I have worked on several mutual issues before Council. Andre and Loren I know from their advisory board and advocacy work. Don served on the Technology Board with me.

With 10 applicants, I expect our spiels to last 5 to 7 minutes. Nov. 1st will be a full night.

  1. William R. Abb (PDF)
  2. Amy Chute (PDF)
  3. J. M. Green, Ph.D. (PDF)
  4. Loren Hintz (PDF)
  5. James Merritt (PDF)
  6. Gene Pease (PDF)
  7. Will Raymond (PDF)
  8. Willard Blaine Rogers (PDF)
  9. Donald Shaw (PDF)
  10. Andre’ J. Wesson (PDF)

Here is my formal application to fill Bill’s seat.

I agree with recent Council comments that their new colleague must be “ready to hit the road running”. To do so, an applicant should be prepared, involved and experienced.

Council already has a demanding workload. Over the next 7 months two major challenges – troubled finances and the Carolina North development agreement – along with a number of demanding development,technology and operational issues will strain Council’s capacity to deliberate and decide with the due diligence Chapel Hill’s citizens expect.

I am prepared to take on both the substance of issues – mundane or otherwise – and the time demands (280 hours alone over the next 7 months) necessary to do the job at a level our community deserves. On many issues I’m prepared and already up to speed with no steep learning curve to climb.

Over the last 7 years Council has become familiar with my work ethic: creative, hard-working, dedicated.

I have been an entrepreneur, a consultant, a manager, an executive officer of successful startups. My experience balancing budgets, managing employees, collaborating with customers, finding pragmatic solutions and meeting tough time constraints will assist me in fulfilling Council’s requirement that an applicant be ready – day-one – to serve.

I’m involved with a broad spectrum of local issues: protecting the environment, community outreach, increasing diversity, Town finances and fiscal responsibility, economic development, Downtown revitalization, UNC growth on main campus and Carolina North, civil liberties, affordable housing, treatment of the homeless, building a framework for mutually beneficial negotiation between Town and Gown, hands-on arts, infrastructure enhancements, election reforms, solid waste management, airport relocation and more.

I’ve attended hundreds of meetings, researched deeply, developed informed opinions and offered innovative improvements on many of the issues a new Council member will face.

I have also fought, irrespective of concerns of popularity and political consequence, to bring the best policy to the table. My allegiance is to my conscience. I have no hidden agenda and will continue to fight for solutions that are fair and just for all residents.

Tapping Chapel Hill’s creativity is a cornerstone of my activism these last seven years. I will continue my efforts to draw in the wisest public counsel, to temper Council desires with wide-ranging public input. Without a seat on Council I have helped folks shape this Town for the better. With a seat – tapping staff resources, liaising with advisory boards, shaping Council decisions – my effectiveness serving will only improve.

My experience with UNC and the Carolina North plan, my advocacy on improving the Town’s financial condition and my record of promoting the broadest community outreach meshes well with the leadership requirements of the next 13 months.

I will focus on non-controversial goals: setting Chapel Hill on a firm financial foundation, preserving those Chapel Hill qualities we cherish, creating new economic opportunities and promoting the broadest of public participation.

There are many ways to serve ones community. I’ve done quite a few – hands-on volunteering, advisory board member, community organizer, activist. Like Flicka with her neighborhood sewer problem, I started out with a small issue and now, like her, find myself asking Council to let me serve our fine community as their colleague.

Finally, I can’t fill Bill’s shoes, but I will honor his memory by working-hard to improve Chapel Hill for all our diverse residents.

That is my pledge.

Further background: what I’ve done lately, where I would serve and what I would do.

What would I do the next 13 months? If you look back through the hundreds of posts on local issues I’ve made since September 2005, you will see I’m not short of ideas for positive change. I also have two election platforms (2005 and 2007) and many election questionnaires that contain specific proposals addressing Town finances, economic development, managing UNC’s growth, environmental protection and remediation, carrying capacity, improving operational efficiency and on and on.

For all that, the next seven months are going to be quite busy.

My main role is to fill in the gaps, put my shoulder to the wheel and work on those bread-n-butter issues that are already in the pipeline. I’ll add value where I can, manpower when its needed and innovative solutions as required but for the most part I fully expect that my agenda for building a pocket park Downtown or implementing the Dark Skies initiative will have to wait.

Here’s what I sent to Council:

Laurin suggested on her ‘blog “Decide what you want to do in a proactive way on the council”. Noting “it would be easy to sit up there and just vote on things as they come along in reactive mode, but most council members have areas that they really want to work on making changes and spend extra time on those issues that are important to them.”

As you well know, I have brought many issues before Council these last seven years. Over the next 12 months, most of the work I expect to do is to fill in the gaps, add my shoulder to yours, to push forward on known Council business. I do have a few ideas, old and new, that I would like to pursue. Most have to do with improving operations, environmental and resource management, technology and process enhancements, the budget, economic and Downtown development, managing growth, etc. Some, like adopting lighting guidelines as per the International Dark Skies initiative, can be grafted into current work. Others, like beginning the process of creating a new hands-on arts center, will probably have to wait.

Here’s a list of items I’d like to work on in order to give you some context:

Finances.

Financial report card.

It’s nice that we have maintained, even tenuously, our AAA bond rating but that cannot be the only metric we use to indicate financial health. I would like to work with Council and staff to develop and publish other metrics indicative of the Town’s overall financial health.

Rebuilding our reserves.

The next few years are going to be tough. We need to start rebuilding our reserves beyond what is needed to maintain our yearly credit-rating. The recent and continuing financial crisis proves the need for prudent reserve planning.

Cutting costs.

We need to prioritize spending now, cap some expenditures and freeze some outlays. We must control costs – especially energy – and prepare staff for low or no salary growth. I’ll take the heat for putting all discretionary spending options – library bond, Lot #5, etc. – on the table. We need to aggressively pursue operational efficiencies – I will ask Council to form a small tiger team to work with staff to seek “low hanging fruit” that will cut short-term costs.

We can’t do it alone.

I will call for a new Citizen Budget Advisory Board. I believe this needs to be short-term appointment and that Council needs to actively recruit citizens with professional credentials to assist in formulating our budget.

Carolina North.

Development agreement. Community benefit at every step.

I’ve already expressed some of my concerns on scheduling, the need for a more robust underlying zone, the necessity of negotiating with other entities and how to make the agreement successfully outlast its creators. I will continue to work those and other issues, one of which is community benefit. While Roger Perry suggested 3 million square feet as a good starting point, an investment by the University which justified significant returns – like a $45 million transit plan – to the community I believe that the Council should set goals that benefit the community at smaller increments. For example, I would like to see the bus stop south of the Innovation Center site replaced with a multi-modal facility as part of the next step. Sidewalks should provide safe access to this facility where bicycles and scooters can be securely stored as folks switch to the bus system.

Development agreement. Standards above and beyond.

As a member of the HWCC environmental sub-group, I helped create a framework for making sure the negative environmental consequences of Carolina North were minimized. I and others proposed applying “best in class” lighting, air particulate, ground water, emission standards that are above and beyond those required under the comprehensive plan, LUMO or other statutory instruments. Since a development agreement provides the flexibility to mandate standards outside current zoning requirements, I will ask Council to revisit this framework, add additional provisions for incorporating future “best in class” energy and environmental standards.

“Bang the drum loudly”

As I’ve suggested with other large-scale development projects, I believe that our duty goes beyond inviting folks to Council hearings. We need to pursue public input. We need to use all the tools at our disposal – notably the Internet – to give our citizens an informed perspective on the various impacts these projects bring. I would like to team with the Planning and Technology departments and use Carolina North as a pilot project for developing a public outreach plan which can be extended to other facets of the development process.

Council meetings, discussions and transparency.

As the creation of the development agreement progresses the demand on Council time will also increase. I’ve already put a lot of time into Carolina North and am ready to pour even more effort into creating a framework for Carolina North’s development our community and the University can appreciate. That said, it strikes me that Council could use some new tools to both keep the public informed and to communicate openly with various stake-holders. Council has already called for a new Carolina North website. I’ve asked for a FAQ, glossary of terms and a record of every citizen question with attendant answer. I believe we can do even better and am prepared to make specific suggestions to improve our e-governance.

Safety

“We’re not Mayberry”

Chapel Hill doesn’t exist in a bubble. I have been concerned about increased gang-related violence for several years. I would like Council to revisit Chief Jarvies proposals drafted after the Avalon incident. We need to make sure that Chief Curran and Captain Blue have adequate resources to train our force to meet organized violence.

Downtown

I spend a lot of time Downtown. Handicap accessibility, lighting, signage, and cleanliness continue to be problems. I would like to work with the relevant staff and boards to address some specific issues that seem to be raised over and over.

“Walking is not a crime.”

When the Police Department announced the Orange County Community Safety Partnership, I was concerned because it sounded like the roundly criticized Homeland Security TIPS program. It wasn’t clear what kind of oversight, training or civil protections were part of the program. Pat Burns, our representative, walked me through the program and provided some insight on its operation. The training presentation has a few items I would like see addressed and I believe the community would be well-served by having Pat run Council through the process to solicit feedback. For me, the part about reporting “persons walking through yards of residential areas or seeming out of place” needs to be clarified. You might recall a recent embarrassing incident when a young man using his cell on his street corner had the police called because he “seemed out of place.”

Extending neighborhood contacts

As part of the new website revamp, I would like to provide my professional expertise in improving public safety communications between neighbors and neighborhoods.

Civil rights/civil liberties

We have a well-trained police force. We try to hire the best. Chapel Hill has prided itself on maintaining the highest standards protecting civil rights and civil liberties. I want to work with Council and Chief Curran to make sure we can maintain our citizens confidence that we consistently honor our duty to protect our citizens rights, privacy and liberty.

Downtown revitalization

Parking recommendations implementation.

As a former member of the Downtown Parking Task Force I’m quite familiar with the competent suggestions made by staff and task force. One, the new parking assessment I called for, is near completion. We should see this as the starting point for addressing our longterm parking needs. As Dwight Bassett scrambles to backfill the spaces being lost on Lot #5 and plans move forward for more on-street slots, now is the time to form a small implementation task force to make sure the best, practical (low-cost) recommendations are carried out expeditiously. I volunteer for that new team.

Security

I would like to be part of the team that improves Downtown’s security.

Friendly experience.

There are a number of short and long term improvements that would improve folks Downtown experience. Water fountains, a decent bathroom, a family-friendly pocket park, way-signs and other amenities which don’t have to be expensive could greatly improve visitors and residents Downtown experience. I will work with the Downtown Partnership, the Downtown business community, the Chamber, staff and relevant advisory boards to bring these straight-forward improvements to Downtown.

Development and growth

How high, how dense?

Last Spring, Council decided to end their pursuit of high density development zones. We need to restart that discussion. We should take the recent work on twisting RSSC into a palatable high density zone and start fresh with the density discussion. Our community might not embrace high density, but if we’re going to allow high-density development to go forward civic duty demands we have a clear, honest and open discussion among not only Council and those developers wishing to use a new zone but the wider community.

What just happened?

We need to make the development and inspections process easier to understand, easier to deal with and easier to track. We can use the Carolina North process as a pilot for community outreach. We can pursue NRG’s (Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth) request for a straight-forward progress reporting system.

University Square, how does it fit?

The UNC Foundation is moving forward on their plans for University Square. One challenge, in the next few months, will be how to seize this opportunity to reshape one of the more troublesome aspects of Downtown. Also, incorporating the University Square redevelopment into a broader Downtown development plan is necessary if all the components of revitalization currently on the table are to work complementary.

The Foundation has already expressed an interest in building a parking deck, which could elegantly solve some of Downtown’s parking issues, but Council needs to work from day one to make sure that their parking solution has a wider public utility.

Measure twice…

For several years I’ve suggested we use more metrics-based goals in our planning process. Compliance, by necessity, requires measurement but many times the goals under which a project is approved are not measured on delivery.

Carrying capacity

Along with measurable goals, we need to establish the longterm growth limits of Chapel Hill. We only have so much water. We can only ship so much trash cost effectively to some other community. Now is the time, as the available land for development is nearly gone, and as discussions of in-fill and density begin, to start a community discussion on what are the resource limits to Chapel Hill’s growth.

Evergreen process.

As we review our development plans and modify LUMO, I believe we need to revisit the process we use to keep these instruments current and firmly based on the best understanding at the time.

Rogers Road, our neighbors and future residents.

As the Rogers Road Small Area Task Force’s efforts draw to a close, we need to look at resolving some nuisances that have long plagued this community. In next years tight budget, adequate planning must go on to deal with these long neglected items.

Miscellaneous items I would want to work on:

  • Technology
    • Website refresh
    • Technology upgrades including more use of open source and open document standards.
    • The DOT fiber optic project
    • Better community outreach
    • Leverage the Internet
    • Put Council email on-line
    • Trouble ticket system
    • Specialty sites for Carolina North and Hillsborough425
    • Complete Council agendas on-line a full 7 days before meetings
    • Council and Planning Board video on-line. Audio of all advisory board meetings.
  • International Dark Skies Initiative
  • Waste management
    • Our part in managing waste – setting long term goals – in-county or not
    • Siting transfer site – our role
  • Storm Water Utility
    • Effective coordination between SWU, OWASA and Bolin Creek restoration
    • Effective oversight
  • Open space
    • Preserve creeks leading to Bolin Creek watershed
    • Identify and preserve natural corridors connecting through Carolina North
  • Arts
    • Hands-on arts in Chapel Hill
    • %1 Art funding to more local artists

I submitted my formal application to fill Bill’s seat (not his shoes) this afternoon.

Along with my application, I provided some examples of my recent activism, a list of advisory boards I would like to represent Council on and some suggestions covering a few of the issues that Chapel Hill faces next year.

I’ve served on three Town advisory boards, the Horace-Williams Citizens Committee, the Technology Board and the Downtown Parking Task Force.

A few of you know I attend many more advisory board meetings, Council meetings, relevant Orange County Board of Commissioner meetings, UNC community outreach events (including all the Carolina North meetings, most Carolina North Leadership Advisory Committee meetings) and other community-related events (like the recent Preserve Rural Orange County airport or the Hillsborough OrangeAwareness waste transfer station meetings).

I show up to learn, to contribute and to meet folks working for change.

Of the next 13 months, the first 7 are key. Between the budget process, the creation of Carolina North’s development agreement and the pile of normal business, Council will be busy. Part of a Council member’s duties involve liaising with various advisory boards, a task I take quite seriously.

I’m not sure if Council plans to re-balance representatives to various boards, so I submitted a list based on where I believe I could allocate the most time and do the best work:

  • Orange County Solid Waste
  • Human Services Advisory Board
  • Stormwater Management Utility
  • Sustainable Committee
  • Orange County Economic Development Commission
  • Land Trust Affordable Housing Maintenance Task Force
  • Citizens Budget Advisory Board – new
  • Downtown Parking Implementation Task Force – new
  • Liaison to internal technology, website and budget staff groups.
  • Liaison for fiber optic deployment to DOT and other relevant groups.

Two of the boards – the Citizens Budget Board and the Downtown Parking Implementation Task Force – don’t exist yet. A few others are internal work groups pursuing specific tasks.

I submitted my formal application to fill Bill’s seat (not his shoes) this afternoon. Along with my application, I provided some examples of my recent activism, a list of advisory boards I would like to represent Council on and some suggestions covering a few of the issues that Chapel Hill faces next year.

The additional material is representative but by no means exhaustive (I tried to keep it somewhat brief).

Here’s some supporting material listing some of the contributions I made these last few years. I listed proposals I made, proposals I assisted on and proposals created in collaboration with the advisory boards I served on. On other issues I’ve flown solo, like requesting that the process of siting a new landfill begin and on others I’ve been one among many pushing for change.

  • UNC

    • Main Campus development

      • OI4 creation – mainly concerned about creation process and time
        limits.
      • Attended most UNC outreach and progress reviews
      • Provided feedback on modifications

        • Noted disappearance of residence halls
    • Carolina North

      • Lobbied for a new negotiation dynamic. Endorsed LAC negotiation framework.
      • Attended every Carolina North meeting.

        • Posted online video of many meetings for broader community review.
        • Feedback on process and proposals.

          • Many suggestions, to numerous to list, representative examples:

            • Shift CN focus to “green”, treat new campus as
              “green” laboratory
            • Parking ratios, metrics on “greenness” building
              heights
            • Development agreement, traffic management, Bolin Creek
      • Attended many Carolina North Leadership Advisory Committee meetings

        • Lobbied for environmental assay, continued environmental monitoring
    • Innovation Center

      • Design review sessions.
      • Feedback on detachment from Carolina North plan.
    • Methane gas project

      • Asked Chapel Hill and OC BOCC to team on LFG recovery for TOC
      • Attended LFG proposal meeting and provided feedback

        • Constant environmental monitoring as per Cameron Power Plant
        • Noise abatement
        • Impact on Mens Shelter project
    • Horace-Williams Citizens Committee member under Julie McClintock’s leadership

      • Drafted HWCC response to Chancellor Moeser’s letter
      • Environmental Sub-group

        • Pushed for process to use “best in class” metrics and
          continuous environmental monitoring of site
        • Help draft environmental guidelines and proposed specific criteria
      • Draft of new work proposal fleshing out the HWCC principles adopted 2004
  • Finance

    • Technology Board recommendation saving $50K yearly
    • As citizen, contributed to Citizen Budget Committee efforts
    • Suggested specific improvements 2003-2007
    • Multi-year budget horizons
    • Lobbied for permanent Citizen Budget board
  • Downtown

    • Called for decent bathrooms, water fountains, sidewalk handicap accessibility,
      family-friendly pocket park, WIFI, comprehensive policing plan, way-signs
    • Downtown Parking Task Force

      • Pushed for new parking study – Downtown Partnership commissioned
        one
      • Use of new customer friendly technology
      • Re-balance parking allotments – lease remote, preserve prime
        spaces
      • Implementation team proposal with Aaron Nelson
      • Better signs, less signs
  • Town Operations

    • Technology

      • Comprehensive evaluation of technology use

        • Council commissioned technology assessment report
      • Operational efficiencies

        • Got $50K yearly savings on leases
        • Proposed $100K+ license fee reduction plan
        • Proposed trouble ticket with online access so citizens could track staff
          activity/responses and management could measure proficiency
      • Website overhaul

        • Non-proprietary design with eye towards permanent presence
        • ADA usability standards
        • Privacy provisions
        • On-line payments
        • On-line access to Council and public communications

          • Council and other relevant email posted
          • On-line video of Council, Planning Board and other meetings
          • Audio of all advisory board proceedings
          • Seven day deadline for Council agendas
          • Pushed adoption of David Lawrence list-serv/’blog process for advisory board
            communications
        • Planning/Inspections tracking system
        • Trouble ticket process for residents to ask for and track issues

          • Streetlights out
          • Waste removal
          • Inspections
      • Open documentation and open source systems initiatives

        • Ensure Town documentation is openly available irrespective of computer
        • Use free and open-source software to reduce cost and promote open documentation
          initiative
      • Communications upgrades/deployments

        • WIFI
        • Fiber optic collaboration with DOT
      • Emergency Operations review

        • Suggested consolidations at TOC
    • Resource use

      • 2004 Green fleet modifications
      • Bio-fuel use – Public Works subsequently purchase 1,000 gals.
      • Proposed targeted reductions and staff reward process
      • Requested fuel/energy/water records to be posted on-line for citizen analysis
    • Staff training/development

      • Proposed “spot award” program
      • Merit-based raises
      • Turnover problem with up-and-coming staff
  • Arts

    • Promote more community arts opportunities

      • Founding member of Friends of Lincoln Center Arts Program

        • Expand Chapel Hill’s hands-on arts program
      • Locate new community arts center at Community Park or other central location
      • %1 Art Program – more funds for local artists
    • Reform Arts Commission
  • Development Process

    • Greater community outreach

      • “Bang the drum loudly” – neighborhood presentations
      • Use of 3D models and other on-line tools to show scale/placement
    • Comprehensive plan reform

      • Evergreen process so new ideas/standards can be incorporated more frequently
      • Discuss metrics for measuring compliance with goals
  • Orange County issues

    • Waste management

      • Siting of the transfer station
      • Request that the process for siting new landfill or incinerator begin
    • UNC Airport – volunteered to be the Orange County representative on
      the Airport Authority

As a member of the Town’s Downtown Parking Task Force I lobbied vigorously for a baseline study of parking conditions Downtown. Why? The data covering typical parking patterns was spotty at best. Further, there was no adequate model to plug any data into to analyze suggested improvements. A year on the Downtown Partnership is rolling out the results of the study they and the Town commissioned.

Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership is holding a public forum to gather input from the community on the downtown Chapel Hill parking study. Parking has been identified by downtown business and property owners, residents and visitors as one of the top five issues affecting downtown.

The forum will be held at University Presbyterian Church on Thursday, October 30 from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm. The church entrance is located at 110 Henderson Street.

Parking is available in the Wallace Parking Deck on Rosemary Street. For bus routes
and schedules please visit [routes].

The Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership hired the parking consulting firm of Rich & Associates to conduct the study. The study includes a current assessment of parking, an analysis of parking supply and demand, as well as parking promotions, management, policies and maintenance. The study makes recommendations on how to improve parking in the downtown.

To view the Parking Study Findings and Recommendations please click here.

To view the detailed Parking Study Recommendations please click here.

This information is also available at the Downtown Partnership’s office located
at 308 West Rosemary Street, Suite 202. To receive a copy by mail or email please
contact the Downtown Partnership at 967-9440 or partnership@downtownchapelhill.com.

If you are unable to attend the forum but would like to make comments please contact the Downtown Partnership at 967-9440 orpartnership@downtownchapelhill.com

Following up on tonight’s trash theme, another quick and quite thorough response, this time from Orange County’s Recycling Programs Manager Robert Taylor.

Early June, with an eye on the impending approval of a new Orange County solid waste transfer facility, I was doing some research on e-waste (electronic waste) management. I already knew Orange County’s residents, the University and businesses have worked hard to reduce, reuse and recycle – and that we’re making good progress towards our goal of %61 waste reduction (see Blair Pollock’s Chapel Hill News column).

In reviewing our county’s waste management plans, I didn’t see an explicit mention of two concerns I had: one, was the county prepared for an onslaught of analog television sets with the Feb. 17th, 2009 switchover to digital (Wired’s Oct. 28th article) and two, what due diligence does Orange County plan to take to validate that the waste facility our solid waste is shipped to will manage e-waste responsibly ( GAO 2008 report detailing U.S. e-waste export travesty [PDF]).

As the transfer site selection process progressed, I had asked the Board of Commissioners consider a site large enough to accommodate additional facilities – like commercial e-waste post-processing operations (E-WasteCenter for instance) that certified their processing complied with the highest available standards. Providing adequate on-site opportunities for these type commercial operations not only makes environmental sense but also offers an economic benefit – jobs.

Here’s my June 1st email:

I’ve been concerned for some time that we’re not handling our county’s e-waste as effectively as we can. Along those lines, are there any special preparations being made to handle the anticipated flood of old style TV’s that might occur with the 2009 switch to HDTV?

Rob’s response was not only thorough but included links for further research.

Hi Will,

Thank you for contacting the recycling program with your concerns.

I understand from your email that you have concerns about the effectiveness of Orange County’s Electronics Recycling Program. Have you experienced a particular difficulty or problem that causes your concern? If you do have a specific concern, it would be helpful to me for you to provide me with some detail so that I can attempt to address your concerns directly.

As a general response to your concern, I will attempt to describe in a broad sense why I believe that our electronics recycling program is quite effective. I will also briefly describe the County’s plans for addressing the potential consequences of the change from analog broadcasting to digital broadcasting that will happen in February 2009.

Orange County began our electronics recycling efforts in the spring of 2002. Since this time our electronics program has experienced significant growth and has also been recognized both regionally and nationally as one of the leading public electronics programs. This is true even when our program is compared to programs operating in states that were early to enact strict electronics recycling legislation such as Massachusetts and California. North Carolina did pass a law last year that requires “computer equipment manufacturers” to develop and implement recycling plans. It is important to note that NC’s legislation specifically excludes televisions, and as such there has been no real leadership on the part of our state to prepare for the transition to digital broadcast. For more information on current state legislation re electronics recycling, please see the National Electronics Recycling Infrastructure Clearinghouse web site: http://www.ecyclingresource.org/ContentPage.aspx?Pageid=28&ParentID=0

Orange County currently accepts all electronic goods and items from Orange County businesses and citizens at no cost. We maintain six public drop-off sites for electronics recycling, and we cooperate with each of our local public works departments (Carrboro, Chapel Hill, and Hillsborough) to enable municipal public works departments to collect from households that choose to work through their municipality’s public works infrastructure, and then deliver that material to our program. Finally, we have a cooperative relationship with the Chapel Hill Carrboro City School System’s PTA Thrift Shops to encourage people who would like to donate their working machines to the Thrift Shops and then in return the electronic materials (computers, monitors, stereos, printers, televisions etc) that are rejected by the Thrift Shop are funneled back into our recycling program.

Our electronics recycling vendor is Synergy Recycling, based in Mayodan NC. Before deciding to work with Synergy, County staff visited, interviewed and audited at least five other vendors. Synergy is ISO 14001 2004 certified, meaning that they have achieved the highest levels of environmental standard for the management of the materials we send them including down-stream audit of the facilities that process and reclaim the commodities that come out of the back-end of the electronics recycling system.

The typical measure used to gauge an electronics recycling program’s success and effectiveness is by measuring diversion (from landfill disposal) in terms of pounds per person per year. By this measure, Orange County’s program is one of the most effective in the nation. Using our program figures from the 2006-2007 Fiscal Year and an estimated population of 121,000 for Orange County, our per-capita diversion for FY 2006-2007 was 5.9 pounds. A more common per-capita diversion rate for a mature electronics recycling program would be on the order of 3.5 lbs per year. Our program continues to improve, and I expect that we will exceed our 5.9 lbs per capita rate for our current fiscal year, FY 2007-2008. I am unaware of any public recycling effort in the nation that exceeds our per-capita diversion rate.

I appreciate your desire to know what Orange County has planned in order to manage the anticipated increase in demand for television recycling that will likely accompany the end of analog broadcast television and the change to digital broadcast.

The Federal Communications Commission has a web site dedicated to providing public information about the transition from analog broadcasting to digital broadcasting. Here is a link to the site: http://www.dtv.gov/index.html

While we have anticipated an increase in the amount of material we will manage, it is my opinion that the transition to digital television will not impact Orange County to the extent that it will impact other communities. I feel this way for three main reasons:

1 – The impending transition to broadcasting only in digital will primarily impact people who watch broadcast television. This means that it will not impact those households who receive their primary television signal through cable or satellite subscription services. Because of the relative affluence of our community, and because of the wide availability of both cable and satellite television service in our area, it will not be necessary for most households to upgrade their television or to purchase a digital-to-analog converter box;

2 – While we have not conducted a scientific survey, I generally believe that many households in Orange County have already purchased televisions that are equipped with internal digital tuners and have already recycled their outdated television sets; and finally

3- Orange County’s electronics recycling program began accepting televisions in the summer of 2003. Since that time we have recycled more than 15,500 end of life televisions. Because of our early commitment to electronics recycling, we already have a robust infrastructure for recycling televisions in place. With this in mind, in order to be ready for the transition to broadcast television we simply need to ensure that our current system is ready for the influx of additional units. In comparison to communities without an active electronics recycling program that accepts televisions, much of the groundwork here has already been completed.

That being said, Orange County is definitely taking several steps to ensure that we are ready for the transition. County staff are preparing language to enable the Board of County Commissioners to add Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs, the lead-bearing glass picture tube found in televisions and computer monitors) to the items banned from disposal at the Orange County Landfill. If the BOCC approves this proposed ban, it is contemplated that this ban would become effective in January 2008, or about 45 days before the end of analog broadcast. The Department of Solid Waste Management is also preparing to reallocate resources so that there are more staff members available to assist with the handling and processing of the electronics that we receive, and our proposed budget for FY 2008-2009 includes funds to cover the anticipated recycling costs for managing the additional televisions we anticipate receiving.

I hope this information helps address the concerns you raised in your email. I would be glad to answer any specific questions you may have, or to further discuss our electronics recycling program with you. Feel free to email me or to call me at 969-2072.

Sincerely,
Rob

So, the reason for the transfer site omission was straight-forward: Orange County already contracts with Synergy Recycling, a company verified to manage e-waste competently.

Over the years I’ve had the pleasant opportunity to meet folks that quietly and competently perform their job on our community’s behalf.

When I worked at Northern Telecom and, subsequently, as an operating officer at Blast, Inc. (CTO) and Reged.com (CIO/CTO), I liked to present folks that performed beyond their duties a “spot award” as an immediate acknowledgment of a “job well done”. Unfortunately, all I can do here is recognize another effort – like Harv’s – to respond to a citizen’s concern.

Thanks Rob.

I’ve pushed for not only greater transparency in our governance but greater inclusiveness. Chapel Hill has an incredibly talented community well worth listening to, that is why I’ll be asking Council, again, to reconstitute the citizen budget advisory board to assist in identifying efficiencies and spending reductions to get us through next year.

Listening to a concern without following through, investigating deeper, doesn’t make sense.

The other night at the Preserve Rural Orange meeting a gentleman that used to work for our Town suggested someone look into the potential increased fuel costs associated with shipping Chapel Hill’s waste to Hillsborough or Highway 54. He told me that the garbage trucks of his era had been geared in such a way that long-haul operations were , when compared to in-town service, inefficient by a factor of two or more.

Great concern.

I ask a lot of questions, frequently seek out expertise, to better understand the issues before our Town. I find that Council and advisory board minutes, attending numerous meetings and doing my own research doesn’t necessarily reveal underlying problems or solutions – reaching out for input is part of my process.

In some cases, like getting records documenting our Town’s energy and water usage, years go by without any response.

Many times, though, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Orange County and University staff turn an answer around immediately. I appreciate the time and effort they take to answer citizen concerns – even when the concern is moot.

For instance, Harv Howard, Chapel Hill’s Superintendent Solid Waste/Fleet Maintenance Services, took on the issue of garbage truck gearing:

Mr. Howard,

At a community meeting I attended this evening, a fellow citizen told me that Chapel Hill’s garbage trucks were geared in such a fashion that they could operate effectively on hills but would have terrible mileage running long hauls. His comment came from his concern about siting the new solid waste transfer site. I had asked the Town several years ago about any additional fuel costs associated with trucking waste out-of-town. My understanding that the trucks were roughly as efficient in long and short hauls. Has there been an evaluation of that cost? Is it true we will be burning double the diesel running these trucks up to Hillsborough or out to Hwy 54?

Will Raymond

Harv responded within hours:

Dear Mr. Raymond,

Chapel Hill’s Solid Waste Fleet used to be “geared” as your fellow citizen informed you. However, they have not been so beginning with the 2000 fleet replacements. The current fleet is able to efficiently operate in town or over the road. Your understanding that the trucks are roughly as efficient in long and short hauls is correct to some extent.

We have not concluded our full evaluations of the pending transfer station proposed locations.

The fleet would start and end each day at the TOC. It’s everything in the middle that has to be evaluated. What makes perfect sense as a route starting point now, could change depending on location of the transfer station.

Please feel free to contact me if you have further questions.

Harv Howard
Superintendent Solid Waste/Fleet Maintenance Services
Public Works Department

Thanks Harv. Good to know, one, that the trucks won’t cost twice as much to operate and, two, that you plan to follow up with a cost analysis once the solid waste transfer site is selected.

Early voting is moving at a breakneck pace this year with large turnouts from day one.

Unfortunately, NC’s “straight party” ballot option continues to confuse.

Even if you vote “straight party”, you MUST vote for President separately!! Luckily, our new local BOE Director Tracy Reams made sure this year’s poll-workers were well trained to notify voters of this peculiar situation.

Ellie, Elijah and I usually go to the polls on election day – it is a family tradition.

I’ve voted in every major election and nearly every primary (especially since independent voters had the option) since 1980 and have usually seen my top of the ticket choice for naught but this year is different.

Change, I dearly hope, is on the way.

There are a few more days to early vote. This year, same-day registration is available (details here).

No excuse for not getting out to vote!

Early Voting Locations and Hours

Monday – Friday, October 27th – 31st, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 1st, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

MOREHEAD PLANETARIUM, 250 East Franklin Street, Chapel Hill [MAP]
CARRBORO TOWN HALL, 301 West Main Street, Carrboro [MAP]
ORANGE COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY, 300 West Tryon Street, Hillsborough [MAP]

Monday – Friday, October 27th – October 31st, 12:00 Noon – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 1st, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

SEYMOUR SENIOR CENTER, 2551 Homestead Road, Chapel Hill [MAP]
NORTHERN HUMAN SERVICES CENTER, 5800 NC Hwy 86 North, Hillsborough [MAP]

Nov. 4th Voting Locations

Orange County Board of Elections website has more information, including a search tool to identify your particular precinct.

Can’t wait to cast my vote for a guy who unapologetically wears sandals ;-)

The Chapel Hill News’ Jesse DeConto’s posts over on OrangeChat a discussion of tonight’s request by Orange Community Housing and Land Trust Executive Director Robert Dowling’s renewed request to take in lieu payments over affordable housing stock.

I’ve been troubled by his and others calls to take money over square footage for some time. Whatever problems the Town faces financing, managing or maintaining the program, sacrificing square footage of actual housing doesn’t make sense. If the kind of housing stock offered by a developer falls outside the Town’s desired mix, we need to put more flexibility into the program not rigidly insist on “it’s cash or nothing”.

At the end of the day, housing built now is less costly and will be available sooner than units that might (money is fungible) be built in the future.

And, of course, you can’t live “in lieu”.

Here’s the staff recommendation from tonight’s agenda.

Below is my comment left on OrangeChat.

For the last 4 years, during two election cycles, I’ve said that our escalating acceptance of in lieu payments over building actual square footage is a problem with our affordable housing process.

If we can’t fund the affordable housing program adequately without large infusions of in lieu monies, we have to reform the program, the way we underwrite it. If we can’t manage a larger portfolio of housing stock, we have to, again, look at reforming management of the program. If we think that the character of the housing, condos (of which the Town itself is investing in at Lot #5) is inappropriate for the population, we have to rework our approach to be more flexible.

I’m struck by Delores Bailey’s statement “”Everbody doesn’t want to live in a condo. Imagine the homes we could build for $500,000″ for two reasons. One, the developers of Greenbridge floated an idea to build affordable units off-site – a plan that was rejected. And, two, she subsequently endorsed the creation of more affordable housing units – all condos – at Lot #5.

At the time, I asked Council to consider more flexibility in the kind of housing offered by the Greenbridge developers. All the supporters of the project based their endorsements, to some extent, on the extraordinary qualities this project offered. The Council even created a special Downtown development zone, allowing the projects looming height and increased density, by justifying the unusual public good the project presented. Yet, when it came to having the flexibility to accept off-site housing – housing built now instead of possibly later, as was the case in the in lieu monies argument – they couldn’t bridge the ideological gap.

Clearly it is time to rethink our approach to affordable housing. Inclusionary zoning will only increase the need to deal with the “in lieu” versus “square footage” dilemma.

To me, it’s pretty straight forward. Housing built now is less costly. A program that can’t manage a larger, more diverse portfolio of housing stock is not acceptable. Financing of the maintenance and management of the affordable housing program has to shift from in lieu monies.

I’m formally applying for Bill Thorpe’s Council seat this week.

As I said before (Filling Bill’s Seat, Not His Shoes), serving the community as a Council member is a responsibility I take quite seriously. It is an awesome privilege, an incredible honor, a humbling trust that promises personal satisfaction if one serves to improve the lot of all our residents.

There are many ways to serve ones community: hands-on volunteering, member of an advisory board, working within or creating a community organization, direct advocacy, issues analysis, drumming up support via the local media, etc. Some folks enjoy and are quite effective working behind the scenes. Others pursue solutions to their own neighborhood’s problems. Others work to achieve specific goals – better bicycle access, open space preservation, Bolin Creek’s restoration – that impact the wider community. Some press our government to be better, set an example whether as proponents of equal rights for all or in the conduct of our law enforcement.

Though lately my efforts have mostly fallen more to analysis, outreach, organization and advocacy – I’ve worked with a variety of folks in a variety of ways to address a broad spectrum of community issues these last seven years. And though I haven’t always been successful, I have, I hope, helped move our community forward to some measurable degree.

Council has incorporated my contributions on a variety of issues – preserving the Lincoln Arts Center, Downtown WIFI, environmental metrics for Carolina North, online video of Council meetings, cost reductions, character of affordable housing, economic development, budgeting for hazardous waste removal, etc. – why, then, not continue working issues from the “outside”?

One advantage of having “a seat at the table” is staff support.

As you might expect, with a steady flow of information and thoughtful assistance from our Town’s staff those 30 or more hours a week I currently spend researching and analyzing issues can be utilized more efficiently. On some issues, like Dr. Owens on the Carolina North development agreement process or Amy’s on the application process (see below), I’ve had no difficulty in getting rapid, detailed responses.

On others, like my quest for detailed public records documenting our Town’s fuel, water and electricity consumption, almost four years have passed with no progress. I expect that backlog, and others, to be resolved as a sitting member of Council.

Another advantage is being able to contribute directly at the policy meetings I frequently attend.

For instance, at yesterday’s (Oct. 22nd) Carolina North development agreement meeting, UNC’s proposed landfill gas recovery project (LFG) came up as an issue. There was some confusion concerning the impact of this particular project on the Carolina North plan.

I attended UNC’s presentation last week (more on that soon), and knew what the specific proposal included: gas lines from the existing landfill on Eubanks supplying methane to a 1 mega-watt (Mw) generator at the old Duke Energy site whose output was going to be used to supply UNC’s Airport Drive facility (which currently consumes 1.2Mw daily). As a Council member, I could have quickly brought my colleagues up-to-speed. Instead of meandering through misconceptions, the Council could have focused on what I think is a core issue in developing the Carolina North development agreement: how will out-parcels that will support Carolina North’s development, like the old Duke Energy facility, be incorporated under the provisions of the agreement?

Council’s workload over the next seven months is daunting. Juggling Carolina North and what promises to be the most critical budget process of the last couple decades is work enough, but those are just a few of many issues hurtling forward. Economic development, Downtown’s revitalization, a slew of moderate to large-scale developments, facility expansions, housing ordinances – a whole panoply of public business mundane to game-changing faces the next Council member.

Even with a seat at the table, to effectively discharge the duties of Council member at a level our community deserves over these next six or seven months will take a concentrated effort that I think most citizens would be surprised by.

Laurin Easthom isn’t kidding about 11lb. meeting agendas. Matt Czajkowski wasn’t joking about meeting until 1am.

I did a quick check of the scheduled official Council meetings from Nov. 11th (the date the Council set to select a new member) until June 22nd (the date the Town and UNC set to finish the Carolina North agreement): 30 or more. As Matt and Lauren both recently noted, the workload has increased to the point that meetings go 5 or more hours.

With the additional Carolina North related informational/community outreach meetings scheduled by either the Town or UNC’s administration (including UNC-BOT/Orange County BOCC meetings), there is another 8 (as of Oct. 23rd).

I am one applicant that will come prepared to be, as Council member Laurin Easthom says, “proactive…on the council” and “have areas that they really want to work on making changes and spend extra time on those issues that are important to them”.

I have the advantage in that the Council should have a fairly good grasp of the portfolio of issues I wish to work on (more on that portfolio in my formal application). Common themes – improving our Town’s budget and budgeting process, extending our Town’s community outreach efforts, using technology more effectively to drive cost out of and improving delivery of Town services, working along-side UNC to make Carolina North a “win-win” proposition for both our community and the University – have been well-established over the last six years.

If I add in all the advisory boards and staff groups (like the internal technology steering committee) I would like to be appointed to as Council liaison, the number of meetings jumps to 76. All together, considering both time spent preparing and meeting, in order to diligently perform my civic duties at a level I believe this community requires, I will spend more than 280 hours over the next 7 months, or more than an hour a day on Town business.

Of course, that is my commitment to the community. Other possible applicants might not want to invest that much time , wish to involve themselves so broadly or obligate themselves as deeply.

Finally, the most significant reason to seek a seat is the possibility of directly influencing and deciding the direction our Town moves.

There is a ton of work to be done over the next seven months. As a Council member, someone with a “seat at the table”, I will focus on the many tasks at hand. I don’t expect to create major new initiatives over those seven months. I do expect to pitch in, fill in the gaps,work hard to shape and refine effective policy,keep our citizens aware and involved as issues progress and apply my expertise as a former corporate technical and information officer to make sure we continue to deliver quality service at a price our community can afford.

I also fully know that I will be one among nine other committed colleagues. Their viewpoints don’t always mesh with mine – and that, I believe, is the strength I will bring to this Council. Delay is not our friend but neither is the lack of informed deliberation.

Sometimes, in the pursuit of “cohesiveness”, our citizens are left behind. I am frequently asked how a particular policy was adopted, how a particular decision arrived at – questions that arise because the give-and-take necessary for shaking a policy out – making sure it is viable – is not always readily apparent. Not all issues demand debate but our citizens must be confident that, when necessary, debate – even public debate – will be embraced.

So, little time, if any, to start new major initiatives. Plenty of work without revisiting the past. Prepared, experienced and ready-to-roll on Carolina North, the budget and a passel of other key issues. Incredible opportunity to contribute effectively and directly to the major game-changing projects. Exciting times to be part of Chapel Hill’s leadership.

Plenty of reasons to apply.

Amy Harvey, from the Clerk’s office, sent me this further explanation of the selection process. Five to ten minutes sounds like a long time but I’m sure I’ll have no problem filling them up ;-)!

The Council will receive brief remarks from applicants at a Special Meeting on Monday, November 3, 2008 at 7 p.m. in the Council Chamber at Town Hall.

Applicants should be present at 7 p.m. and will have a 5-10-minute time limit to make their presentation. Time for presentations will be limited based on the number of candidates; it is anticipated that the time for each presentation will be not less than five minutes per candidate and not more than ten minutes per candidate.

Applicants should submit electronic presentations (e.g. powerpoint) by 10 a.m. on Monday, November 3rd. Powerpoint presentations can be emailed to the Town Clerk’s office at clerk@townofchapelhill.org

This meeting will air live on cable television on Chapel Hill Government Channel 18 and by streaming video on the Town website at www.townofchapelhill.org.

Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, October 31 and will then be forwarded to the Council.

Sabrina M. Oliver, CMC
Communications and Public Affairs Director/Town Clerk

Julie McClintock presented the following comments on behalf of Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth (NRG) to Council during Oct. 15th’s public hearing.

I had to chuckle when NRG’s request for an online progress tracking system stirred Council’s interest. Why? I proposed a work tracking system for Planning when I first got involved in local government 8 years ago (it was part of the “technology manifesto” I used to flog as old-timers might remember). The now defunct Technology Board not only endorsed this type of system several years ago but stirred Council to tentatively approve a move forward. In spite of an outside technology assessment that echoed that endorsement, there has been no substantive progress.

Over the last 8 years I’ve seen so many constructive, creative community suggestions bite the dust through inaction. I’ve also seen good ideas resurrected through repetition. I hope that NRG’s boost we’ll stir action this time around.

NRG’s comments:

I’m speaking tonight on behalf of Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth.

NRG is pleased that the Town Council and UNC are taking a broad look at all the options in regard to the development of the Horace Williams tract and Carolina North. Considering the size, scope, and potential impact of this development, we feel it is extremely important to consider it in full context and to be willing to consider creative approaches. We look forward to the discussion, and would like to make a few comments for your consideration.

Community involvement and information will be critical during this process. Many in our community do not yet understand the importance of what you are considering tonight – potentially implementing a Development Agreement with UNC. To most, it is simply the latest of many processes involving the 900 acre Horace Williams tract. The most recent of these produced two useful products: The Horace Williams Citizen Advisory Committee Report and the Leadership Advisory Committee report. UNC presented a concept plan several times to the Town Council but no action was taken.

The Development Agreement approach offers both benefits and disadvantages. The chief element of this approach is that you will be settling on a framework which will contain specifics about the new campus, such as density, building types, placement, design and public facilities. While this approach offers many potential benefits, the main disadvantage is that once the agreement is adopted, it becomes impossible to modify or amend the plan without the agreement of both parties.

We are also concerned that the over-all process and schedule as recommended by the Joint Staff Working Group will be very confusing to the public. As we understand the proposal, we see two processes underway at the same time – one going on with the Trustee and Council meetings drafting an over-all agreement, and at the same time a series of text amendments working their way through Town Advisory committees and Council review.

Everyone is fully aware, especially in these uncertain times, of the need to get this Development Agreement right the first time. We are deeply concerned that the schedule may be too demanding and intricate for the public to follow and give meaningful input. It is clear that the schedule is currently being driven by a June 09 change in membership of the UNC Board of Trustees. However, Roger Perry stated at the September 25 meeting that the UNC Board of Trustees has already given him and Robert Winston the authority to represent the UNC Trustees in this matter. Additional new members are unlikely to depart from this approach.

Therefore, we would like to offer these recommendations to improve the process, should you decide to move ahead with a Development Agreement with the University of Carolina for Carolina North.

1. Input from public. During the next year, we recommend that the Council develop a specific and robust schedule for public input to your framework meetings. We suggest at least two public hearings on the progress to date on the UNC-Town discussions in order to provide greater feedback from the community.

2. If you decide to go forward with an Development Agreement, we request a longer timeline so citizens will understand what is on the table for public input. We urge you to delay text and zoning amendments until you and UNC are satisfied with the outlines of the plan. In past negotiations we have seen the staff undertake much work which was later not used.

3. Place on the town website a tracking and notification mechanism that will allow citizens to remain informed and in the loop as the process moves forward. This would be in addition to a notification and tracking system regarding ongoing development projects in general.

We look forward to sharing specific suggestions and recommendations as the process unfolds.

The agenda just went online (a full 5 1/2 hours before the meeting ;-) ). The good news is that the various foundational studies are nearing completion.

The Council and Trustees have concurred that the current Carolina North discussion should build upon rather than replicate this prior community, Town, and University work. The additional background data and analysis requested in these prior discussions is now complete or nearing completion. The ecological foundation studies are complete and will be formally submitted by the University next week. The University has revised its long range development plan and will also submit that next week. The consultant reports on fiscal impacts and transportation are nearing completion and will be submitted over the next six to eight weeks.

Two major areas of discussion tonight: schedule and scope of work.

Now that the schedule is laid out, my concern on both managing the workload and dealing with community outreach effectively has grown. For instance, both the tardy fiscal and transportation studies are slated to be delivered November 26th and December 8th respectively, which doesn’t jibe with the 6 to 8 weeks quoted above.

If these studies are as comprehensive as Council, the BOT and community requested then time needs to be built into the process to evaluate their contents. These studies haven’t been characterized as “foundational” on a whim.

The schedule references “public comment” periods but no community outreach events. I’ve asked the Carolina North Joint Working Group to go beyond the normal “invite and we’ll listen” approach to community involvement. If we are going to serve the public well, we need to get out in the streets and bang the drums loudly. Time needs to be allocated to make this extraordinary effort.

The first public hearing is scheduled for May 11th, 2009, really late in the process. We shouldn’t backload a public information dump but feed a steady stream of updates – via the website, community outreach, roundtables, charrettes – as the particulars of the development agreement come together.

It isn’t clear if the informational meetings scheduled Nov. 20th (before the studies are submitted), Jan. 29th, March and April 1st are one way affairs or if the public will be able to participate actively. Mayor Foy did suggest “workshop” type events.

As far as scope of work, there is high level outline that needs to be further fleshed out. Big bullets like “traffic”, “parking”, “sustainability” have to broken down into workable subcomponents.

The biggest omission? The new “base” zone. Dr. Owens, our UNC mentor, suggested that the “base” zone could be simply constructed – basically saying that this zone’s requirements are controlled by the development agreement and any secondary legal obligations the development agreement is contingent on.

I respectfully disagree.

We need a “base” zone that acts as a safety net. Unlike traditional land use management, where property can be rezoned to tighten or loosen restrictions at nearly any point in the development approval process, the Carolina North development agreement will lock the Town into a particular set of requirements that cannot be modified.

The most prudent course is to design a catch-all zone that establishes baseline conditions for developing Carolina North. This way any issues not anticipated by the development agreement will be managed successfully using the “base” zone safety net. While UNC’s master campus OI-4 zone should inform the development of this new “base” zone, I don’t believe it is an appropriate model for the new “base”. OI-4 was developed to manage growth on a nearly mature, well-encapsulated campus going through its last major building throes.

The new zone needs to manage piecemeal growth spanning decades. Not an equivalent task.

There is a lesson to be taken from OI-4 – we must avoid the mistakes made in its creation process. If Council decides to create a new zone that will act as a safety net, it will have to do so fairly rapidly. As I suggested at last weeks meeting, the zone should be sketched out independent of but in cooperation with the existing Planning Board. A new task force – hopefully with a few members of the Horace-Williams Citizens Committee who helped develop the Carolina North guiding principles – should work concurrently to establish this “base”.

The other night I found out that while I was the only citizen to speak, I wasn’t the only community member at the first development agreement meeting. Bob Henshaw, Cindy Henshaw’s husband, a resident of Piney Mountain Road – the neighborhood first affected by Carolina North development – came in a little late.

I’m hoping that more folks join us this evening.

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