Development


Here is what I meant to say at this evening’s Council meeting.

Like a lot of my remarks, I find myself editing on the fly, so what I managed to get out in less than 3 minutes wasn’t quite what follows but I believe I made the points I needed.

The simple summary?

We can’t do the Lot #5 (140 West) project and the Library expansion together. Lot #5 hasn’t met its goals, the cost/benefit ratio is decidedly out-of-whack, the necessity quite clearly not there anymore.

Further, the Library expansion project needs to be delayed until taxpayers can bear the total cost. Beyond that, we need to request an extension from the North Carolina Local Government Commission to allow issuing bonds beyond the current deadline so when it is fiscally prudent we can move expeditiously.

Finally, public participation, once again, is barely considered.

Tonight’s remarks:

In 2010 you will be making several key budgetary decisions whose impacts will span the next decade – the Lot #5 (West 140) and Library expansion – two examples.

Lot #5 represents the greatest and riskiest fiscal liability going forward that can be safely dispensed with.

Part of the sales pitch made by some on this Council is we needed this project to kick-start development Downtown.

With Greenbridge nearly built, University Square poised for redevelopment, approval of Grove Park – which will displace the affordable Townhouse Apts. on Hillsborough St. with luxury condos – and other Downtown projects on the way it’s clear that we don’t need that supposed stimulus Lot #5 brings anymore.

It’s time to reconsider this troubled project especially given that:

1) the cost reductions that allowed RAM to lower prices haven’t been significantly passed on to the taxpayer,

2) the number of units pre-sold hasn’t grown in-line with price reductions (33 units pre-sold so far, down from the reported 2008 commitment of 35).

3) the open-ended nature of the cost of the environmental cleanup is still being underplayed,

4) the University at University Square has already put forward a much more sound, interesting and integrative proposal (123 West Franklin) for that stretch of Franklin St. than the expensive – at least to the Chapel Hill taxpayer – Lot #5,

5) still up in the air how we will borrow the money – COPs, TIFs, etc. In any case, however we borrow the $9-10M or more it will limit the Town’s ability to prudently respond in funding core needs,

6) and from what I can see in RAM’s recent missive ( RAM Dec. 22nd, 2009 letter [PDF]) no effort has been made to involve the nearby business and residential community in discussing mitigation of the type of construction-related problems that have plagued Greenbridge or even apprise their future neighbors of current developments (let alone present a coherent and consistent story to the local press).

Three years out and no significant improvement in the proposal. Three extensions to the contract granted by Council. Lot #5 should be shelved now so that the Town can take projects that are more central to its charter.

What does this have to do with the Library?

I want to see the Library expanded but now is not the time.

The memos before you [here] paint a fairly rosy picture of the borrowing in terms of adopting new debt but they don’t do a very good job in putting that increased debt in context of our already astonishing – at least by historical Chapel Hill standards – debt load.

Memo #A, in fact, disingenuously characterizes the increase to homeowners using examples of property valuations well below ($200K) the Chapel Hill baseline.

Look at the chart in Memo #A. The rate of increase in the debt load – that rapidly increasing impact on the Town’s flexibility in borrowing – running our debt right up to the debt ceiling for our AAA bond rating – starts in late 2012 and zooms steeply from there.

Of course, besides adding new debt that and anticipated G.O. additions will account for roughly several cents on the current tax rate while the real kicker is the growth in cost of Library operations – which appears to be even more significant.

Worse, the continued structural instability and weakness of our economy gets short shrift.

Now is not the time to take on a large forward liability.

Making a decision based on these figures tonight will be guaranteeing a tax increase or steep cuts or just ignoring basic obligations two years hence.

Here are my suggestions:

1) Shelve Lot #5. We can have a Library expansion – hopefully starting next year – or we can have Lot #5 – we can’t handle both.

2) The Library borrowing should be delayed until prevailing economic conditions show signs of improvement – strengthened sales tax revenues, stable fund markets which will lend money at a more favorable rate – say less than %100 of the 20 year Treasury bond ratio.

3) Have staff prepare a request to NC Local Government Commission to extend Chapel Hill’s time limit for issuing these bonds so the Council and community have adequate time to plan.

4) Use the established public budget process which kicks off next week [2/3/2010 7:00 PM Council Chambers Townhall) to discuss the Library in light of all our Town’s needs – competitive staff wages, affordable housing reserve funds, the growing retirement fund deficit (Unfunded Liabilities: Pay As You Go Not Sustainable) among many others.

Last Fall many of many on Council obligingly participated in a special “emergency” meeting to acquire Dawson Hall for police and other key Town services. That urgent need hasn’t gone away – the police department’s facility still needs attention – why isn’t that part of the rosy projections?

Our citizens deserve a diligent evaluation of the cost of the Library expansion and operations within the context of our total budget and foreseeable needs – not wants.

They also deserve to participate – not just get an agenda item 3 days before a decision is scheduled.

5) Finally, postponing tonight will give you the opportunity to carefully consider this proposal in light of all your priorities, give you time to evaluate the rosy picture drawn by these memos against your own understanding of the economy and think about how to engage the community during this weekend’s Council retreat.

In addition, it buys needed time for the public to review the current proposal, attend the budget sessions, ask their questions, get their answers and finally weigh in in a thoughtful manner.

Thank you.

[UPDATE: Council Postpones Consideration]

From tonight’s Council flash report:

Consideration of Proceeding with the Library Expansion Project: The Council considered the project schedule and associated costs for expansion of the Chapel Hill Public Library. The Council delayed action and indicated its desire to discuss the expansion costs in greater detail and in the context of the entire Town budget. The Council stated it wants to know what level of funding Orange County will provide toward Library services.

Orange County provides no capital support toward the Town’s Library expenses; this includes all past and present Library construction costs, debt service for same, equipment or special project costs. County support toward Library operating expenses has remained at $250,000 since 1995 and represents 11 percent of this year’s Library operating budget. About 12,000 of the Library’s patrons live in Orange County outside Chapel Hill limits. The number of materials borrowed by these patrons was 386,000 items last year. This represents approximately 40 percent of the Library’s annual circulation.

Given the time of year and Durham’s recent problems in protecting the Lake Jordan watershed, the fiscal impact of mitigating damage which might well be shared by Chapel Hill’s taxpayers, I was tempted to title this post “Trick or Treat on NC54?”

Even if the “development process is broken in Durham”, as LaDawnna Summers, who resigned from Durham’s Planning Commission over the Lake Jordan mess, it is important that both Chapel Hill’s elected folks and greater community engage directly in the NC54/I-40 corridor planning process.

Thirty years ago, when I first came to Chapel Hill, I drove into town on the scenic two-lane NC54 (I-40 from RDU on was still a set of dotted lines on a map). The beautiful pastured hills to the north are now covered by Meadowmont. The woods and vales to the south, by the Friday Center and office parks. And the majestic hill-side entry to the University? Now obscured by the “anywhere USA belt-line architecture” of the road hugging East54.

The process starts Wednesday, Nov. 18th, 2009 from 5pm to 8pm at the Friday Center [MAP]

What: NC-54/I-40 Corridor Study Public Workshop #1
Who: Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization (DCHC MPO), City of Durham, Durham County, and the Town of Chapel Hill
When: Wednesday, November 18, 2009, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education
100 Friday Center Drive Chapel Hill, N.C. 27599-1020

Fast Facts:

  • The Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization (DCHC MPO) will host an interactive community workshop on November 18 to obtain guidance on developing a blueprint for mobility and development in the NC-54/I-40 corridor, a critical gateway linking the City of Durham, Town of Chapel Hill, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  • The NC-54/I-40 corridor serves as one of the major gateways between Chapel Hill and southwest Durham, with its interchange with I-40 consistently ranking as the top congested location in the region. Development pressures within the corridor coupled with mobility and capacity issues have highlighted that the existing and planned transportation infrastructure is insufficient to accommodate growth and address land use and transportation problems.
  • To develop land use and transportation strategies to preserve this important corridor, the DCHC MPO, the City of Durham, Durham County, and the Town of Chapel Hill have begun a corridor study to analyze short- and long-term land use issues and multi-modal transportation problems, evaluate opportunities and challenges, and recommend short- and long-range land use and transportation solutions and strategies along the corridor.
  • The vision of the DCHC MPO is to develop and implement transportation plans that are multimodal and that fully integrate land use and transportation issues. To achieve this vision this study will:

    • Clearly define a realistic “blueprint” for an integrated growth and mobility strategy for the corridor;
    • Establish a development framework that strengthens multimodal travel options and reduces vehicle miles of travel;
    • Improve operations, safety, and travel time; and
    • Categorize strategies into near, mid-term, and long-term phases.
  • A critical component of this study is public outreach and involvement. Three public
    workshops will be held as a part of this study, which should be completed in June 2010.

    • The first public workshop on November 18 will present the community profile and
      solicit input on issues, opportunities, and trends to guide the development of future
      scenarios.
    • The second public workshop, tentatively scheduled for late winter 2010, will evaluate
      alternatives and seek public input in the selection of the preferred scenario.
    • The third workshop, tentatively scheduled for spring 2010, will give participants an opportunity to review and refine the corridor master plan and provide input on setting priorities for multimodal transportation and land use strategies, implementation strategies, and phasing.
  • Once the study is finished, the final master plan will be presented to the local and regional
    policy boards and used to inform transportation/traffic analysis, land use decisions, project
    planning, and funding priorities.

    • The total cost for the study is $257,432 with 80 percent of the funding coming from federal transportation planning funds and the remaining 20 percent funded jointly by the City of Durham, Durham County, and the Town of Chapel Hill.
    • Residents interested in joining a group of citizen contacts for this study should contact Leta Huntsinger with the DCHC MPO at (919) 560-4366 ext. 30423 or via email at leta.huntsinger@durhamnc.gov. For more information about this study, visit www.nc54-I40corridorstudy.com .

More on Summers’ resignation:

(more…)

As some of you folks know I’ve been involved – as a citizen – fairly deeply in the attempt to create a successful agreement between UNC and the Town managing growth of the massive Carolina North project.

The Carolina North project could either contribute greatly to or severely diminish the quality of life in Chapel Hill.

To succeed we need a comprehensive agreement that we all can live with. It needs to be fair, not shifting significant costs onto local residents. It needs to manage impacts so that water, air, noise and traffic concerns don’t spill over into the wider community. It needs to meet the needs of the University while honoring the community in which it thrives. It also has to have understandable consequences, demarcated trade-offs and a compliance regimen that UNC will follow.

I’ve attended almost every forum, meeting and public hearing. Suggested improvements in both process and content, more than a few which have been incorporated into the CURRENT draft.

When Council started the final phase of the process, the creation of a binding legal contract between the Town and UNC governing some period and extent of development on the Horace-William’s Airport tract (Carolina North), I took the firm position that their schedule was too aggressive, the amount of work clearly underestimated.

Unlike a traditional development zone, once the agreement is signed the Town – which is us – will be bound not only to the agreement’s stipulations but the supplementary addenda – most notably UNC’s Carolina North Design guidelines [PDF] (which envisaged 8-story buildings lining Martin Luther King Jr./Estes).

There are many moving parts to the agreement – each serving a vital function: protecting the environment, maintaining nearby neighborhoods’ integrity, providing a flexible and transparent process to manage UNC’s growth, etc.

I argued then, as I do today, that the schedule – which has become even more arbitrary (no money to build) – would severely limit the Council’s and wider public’s ability to review and digest the final agreement.

I knew that the bulk of the work would be rushed at the finish line with the public short-changed in the end.

Many of the meetings I would start my comments by pointing out that the public was ill-served by the continuing trend of providing key documents late, incomplete or not at all. As recently as last Thursday’s “public” information event (more like window dressing) the revised development agreement was not available until nearly 6pm (for a 7pm session!).

The information session reviewed a version of the agreement, completely reorganized and extended, with folks who had no opportunity to have read it (I had my laptop and was scrambling to both read the new revision and find out if my prepared questions had any relevance anymore).

Worse, I had to guess on where to find the correct revision (it is here [PDF], not available as a markup or clean version as noted on Monday’s agenda here) [I notified staff later that evening – the problem still exists as of 4:30pm Sunday].

How can Council hold a public hearing on a development agreement that is unavailable to the public 24 hours prior?

They can’t but they will.

Unfortunately, with key underlying studies delivered nearly a year late, with the development agreement still in flux, informal public input not only not fully integrated but cut-off, my prediction of a rush to failure was all to correct.

Council is poised to adopt an agreement incorporating hundreds of pages of supplementary material that they and the Town Manager have not fully read (watch June 8th’s Council meeting) , that is not – as of June 15th – finalized and that continues to have several substantial points of contention – including major traffic issues and costs essentially amounting to a yearly fee of up to several hundreds of dollars per homeowner.

Worse, the current draft agreement is peppered – just like a lousy credit-card deal – with “to be determineds”.

Without a firm contract and the time to adequately review it, the public continues to be ill-served (heck, when you buy a house you get at least 3 business days to back out after signing – and that contract has legal boilerplate that is well-established, one house instead of 3 million square feet of development and an established legal framework to protect your rights).

Why Council is insisting on adopting an agreement that is unfinished and unread? Why not limit the term from 5 to 8 years, the scope to 800,000 to 1,000,000 square feet to protect the public’s interest in maintain our quality of life? Why the rush?

Please contact Council here and ask them to grant the public fully 60 days to review a complete and finalized agreement.


Today’s Chapel Hill News carries an interesting story from Jesse DeConto on concerns circulating around the misfire (not to sugarcoat it) known as East54. The story, which was as much about how the “dense/tall growth at any cost” Council majority’s vision is running up against reality, as it was the anonymous “I could be in Atlanta or Charlotte” East54.

OK, even though I wasn’t thrilled with East/West Partner’s “virtualization” of Chapel Hill, I did credit them for committing to meet the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) standards (though Council wasn’t clear on what to do if the project didn’t meet those goals).

But does that justify such a pedestrian (to be nice) heap?

I expressed my concerns about the trade-offs – minimal setbacks, in-lieu monies instead of affordable square footage, height on Highway 54, traffic patterns, etc. – but was in the minority as the project sailed through an orchestrated “public review” (count me in as one of East/West developer Roger Perry’s “vocal minority” that unfortunately points out that the current sustainability political palaver is parading sans clothes).

Though the story tried to be balanced, it appears, as reported here to have raised the hackles of a few folks.

I understand the realities of today’s news media but I really wish the CHN had spent a bit more time using the “wayback machine” to contrast today’s political posturing from the more “veteran” of the Council folks (including those up for re-election) with what they stood for when they were more than happy to push East54 (and Woodmont) right on through based on a strange read of sustainability.

More on that later.

Bill Strom, following his usual strategy of playing to his “expertise” in transportation, said

“It’s a change in the development pattern, but the guiding principle there is that it is at a regional rail stop,” said Strom. “In order to get federal and state support for these projects, you have to have density organized in a way that promotes ridership.”

Yes, approval of that pile of nondescript architecture, looming over the Glen Lennox neighborhoods and serving as the “de facto” gateway to Chapel Hill, was justified by a rail stop coming sometime mid-century.

This is what passes nowadays for cogent analysis.

In any case, I’d rather leap off the train ala “Slumdog Millionaire” than alight on East54’s commercial doorstep.

Is there an alternative I believe is better?

Sure. Look east to Durham’s new multi-modal public transit station which will serve the Bull’s ballpark, the “white elephant” (Durham’s County jail), Downtown Durham and the American Tobacco complex. Downtown shopping, the Durham Performance Center and Theater, the Durham public library and Arts Guild is not that far away.

The glass heavy design (not sure the role environmental concerns played there) would not be fitting for Chapel Hill but every time I drive by the construction site (finishing this month) it seems like the unfolding design complements Durham’s retrofitted Downtown. Of course, like other Durham projects, the budget was blown – not unlike Chapel Hill’s Town Operations Center.

Central. Convenient. Complementary to its urban environment.

More on Durham’s multi-modal transit station backstory from the Urban Planet forums.

[UPDATE]

The Daily Tar Heel’s Emily Stephenson chimes in here (DTH ‘blogs). A story on yesterday’s poor turnout here.

[ORIGINAL]

Earlier today (Nov. 19th), UNC’s Board of Trustees approved the draft Carolina North design guidelines making the proposal official UNC policy.

This evening, the first in a series of informational/public feedback sessions on Carolina North was held. With the creation of the Carolina North development agreement well on its way, the Council’s explicit call to advisory boards to attend, if possible, and the aggressive schedule to meet next July’s commitment, I expected a fairly full house.

Crowded house? Not the case.

The meeting started with roughly two dozen citizens in attendance. By the time Jack wrapped his presentation covering UNC’s design intent the group of interested citizenry was down to 19. At the end of the Dr. Owen’s presentation, covering the development agreement process, only 17 non-staff/non-press folks remained. Of those, eleven were drawn from the “usual suspects” ( Fred Black, Joyce Brown, Fred Stang, David Godschalk, George Cianciolo, Lynne Kane, Mike Collins, Loren Hintz, Ed Harrison, Bob Henshaw, me).

Disappointing! As Carolina North’s development director Jack Evans noted this evening, the formal process for approval has begun. The first phase of Carolina North is on its way.

Chapel Hill residents need to wake up and show up.

Every resident will eventually be affected by Carolina North’s development. At least 5 advisory boards will be consulted on both the outline and details of the development agreement. Community groups like the Friends of Bolin Creek and Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth (well represented this evening) could play key roles in shaping the discussion.

There is quite a bit of work before the community. If we follow Pal Alto’s trajectory, the development agreement – which is, as Dr. Owens pointed out again this evening, essentially a binding legal contract – could swell to 200+ pages over the next 8 months (that’s 25 or more pages of detailed legal requirements per month – a heavy responsibility). Those pages will dictate development over a long period. Once set, unlike zoning ordinances, the ability to tweak conditions requires mutual agreement. Mistakes could be difficult to correct.

The community has a tremendous opportunity to shape the outcome at Carolina North. Both UNC and Chapel Hill’s Town Council agreed to involve the public at every point in the process. But, so far, Chapel Hill’s citizens have not turned out.

The negotiations between UNC and the Town will continue to accelerate. The momentum is building rapidly. My concern is that by the time citizens go into reactive-mode – recognizing missing elements in the plan, trying to wedge in protections beyond those outlined – the inertia will be too great and the time too short to significantly change course.

Now is the time for public concern. Now is the time for community involvement.

Because of the extensive impacts Carolina North will have on this community over the next several decades, I’ve asked Council to “bang the drum loudly”, to go beyond simply inviting the public into the process. We need to seek out folks, develop multiple avenues of engagement and draw them into the discussion. That said, at some point it comes down to whether our citizens want to shoulder their part of the burden and work on behalf of folks that will live here decades hence.

Do you recognize the following scene?

This is East West Partner’s revisionist view of Chapel Hill as improved upon by their East 54 project. They have provided a cool animation of the eventual East 54 living experience.

One small problem.

Their Chapel Hill doesn’t match reality.

What is it about big time developers and their desire to re-conceptualize reality?

From what I hear, East West Partners are working hard on their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) certifications. East54 could be the first North Carolina development to leap LEED-ND’s hurdles. An accomplishment well worth noting if they run the whole race.

Isn’t that worth overlooking a little virtual retouching of Chapel Hill?

I wasn’t able to attend the spoken-word event concerning the corrosive effects of Greenbridge on Northside last evening, but according to the Daily Tar Heel, it stirred some sharp discussion.

UNC junior Kane Smego, who performed slam poetry at the event, described the project as two towers, “one 10 stories, the other seven — like a middle finger to the Northside.”

The Greenbridge promotional video added some controversy:

The video features interviews with black Northside residents recounting family history intermixed with narration about the proposed Greenbridge site.

Many of those featured in the video now say their words were taken out of context and misconstrued to seem as they were in full support of the project.

“I didn’t realize what I said was going to be used in that manner,” said Dolores Bailey, a Northside resident who was featured in the promotional video. “So that bothers me a lot.”

Delores (not Dolores) did support Greenbridge’s zoning application though she also wanted to carve out a better deal for the neighborhood:

Delores Bailey, a Northside resident, pointed out that Greenbridge could help but would not solve all of the problems in that area of Chapel Hill and/or Northside. She said the notion that preserving downtown is more important than preserving a neighborhood makes her “shudder.” Ms. Bailey said there were people in the neighborhood who did not understand that Greenbridge would be 10 stories high. She proposed putting half of the affordable units in the neighborhood, adding that this would address more needs. Ms. Bailey said that developers had listened, and that even though she had problems with the project she supports it because it is an attempt to work with the neighborhood and an understanding that some people will be living in its shadow. She stressed the importance of Greenbridge being respectful of the neighborhood and not making it feel shut out.

As far as that shadow, I argued that the socio-economic shadow this throws across Rosemary was not adequately discussed or evaluated (the physical shadow is pretty large also).

Alum08 at the DTH said:

It’s truly unclear what NOW is hoping to accomplish. This organization’s sole achievement has been complaining about something it does not fully understand. Additionally, this is all final and in the past. Why, as bright Carolina students, are we focusing on this instead of the future?

The future Downtown, at least as it is constituted by our current leadership, is high – high cost, high density, high buildings. The consequences, especially the long-term cumulative consequences, have not been adequately evaluated by our community.

Here’s a comment I left at the DTH:

It’s a shame that this dialog didn’t happen when the project was going through the approval process. I was one of the very few folks that stood up to challenge the project. I took a lot of heat for pointing out that this project would accelerate the gentrification going on not only into Northside but spreading South to Cameron, West to Pine Knolls, etc.

There are other shoes to drop here: the commercialization of Rosemary to the North, the cumulative impact of the Town’s Lot $5 project/Short Brothers project/University Square redevelopment on the nearby neighborhoods, the gentrification of nearby local businesses (how long will unsubsidized local business last as their rents rise or landlords redevelop to attract boutique shops?) and other corrosive effects of the high-priced/high-density vision our Council maintains.

Delores, as well as did other local leaders from organizations like the Hank Anderson Breakfast club, supported the project wholeheartedly. It was quite difficult to contest the social justice issue in the face of their support.

There’s a lot to like about Greenbridge, even as it sheds some of its “green” cred. I argued it was in the wrong place and that it would exacerbate the community displacements seen in Northside, Cameron and Pine Knoll.

Again, while Greenbridge is a “done deal”, there is still an incredible need to explore these other issues. I’m glad some other folks are taking up the challenge.

Characterizing Delores’ acquiescence as wholehearted is maybe too strong a sentiment but as I recall, in the end, there wasn’t a lot of struggle to get the final approval.

If there’s one lesson to be learned from last night’s event it is that our Town needs to look at improving our community outreach effort, get creative and more expansive, in order to build a broad consensus.

In my application for the Council seat, I called again for Council to sponsor a thorough, wide-ranging and comprehensive community discussion on development density.

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.

We won’t have to wait on Council to initiate that discussion. Dec. 10th, Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth (NRG) is holding a forum meant to begin a community conversation on acceptable limits to density and growth.

Dear NRG neighbors and supporters:

Mark your calendars for December 10, 2008!

Chapel Hill 2020: where are we headed?

Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth will hold a public forum on growth, density, and the future vision for our community on the evening of Wednesday, December 10, 2008, in the Chapel Hill Town Council Chambers, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

As our community has grown, the need for a community-wide discussion on how we want our town to look has become acute. More and more citizens are expressing uncertainty and concern about what degree of density is most appropriate for our community, and where the best locations for it might be.

NRG believes that our region will develop best if it develops based on a comprehensive vision that is understood and endorsed by informed citizens. The goal of this forum is to kick off a community-wide discussion of these issues. NRG will be broadcasting more information as the agenda and speaker list firms up. But for now:

– Mark your calendar for this event

– Please forward this e-mail to any and all potentially interested friends and neighbors

– Please send any questions to NRG by return response to info@nrg nc.net

Thank you, and please watch for more details on this important event!

Julie McClintock and Kristina Peterson

Co-Chairs, NRG www.nrg-nc.net (email) info@nrg-nc.net

Like they say, mark your calendar for what promises to be an interesting event.

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.

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.

Quick reminder that there is another joint meeting between Council and UNC’s BOT representatives tonight (Oct. 22nd) from 7 – 9:30 pm at the Chapel Hill Public Library (no agenda online – boo!).

Tonight’s meeting continues to flesh out the policy surrounding use of a development agreement for Carolina North (previous posts here and here).

More on the nuances of development agreements here: Exactions, Dedications and Development Agreements Nationally and in California: When and How Do the Dolan/Nollan Rules Apply [PDF] and Development Agreements: Bargained for Zoning That is Neither Illegal Contract or Conditional Zoning [PDF]. Description of some possible legal pitfalls here:

  1. NJ Supreme Court Holds that a Development Company Cannot be Required to Pay More than its Fair Share of Off-Site Improvements, Irrespective of Development Agreement
  2. Zoning Requires Uniformity and CA Appeals Court Says Developer Agreement is Not a Substitute for Rezoning
  3. DURAND V. IDC BELLINGHAM, LLC:TOWNS FORSALE?

The Durand case is interesting. The development agreement between Bellingham and a developer was set aside by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court because “rezoning action was tainted and improperly influenced by the presence of a large cash gift from a developer”. In that case, an $8 million payment to the municipality for “general use” in return for zoning consideration was considered improper.

Here’s a brief outline of my comments to Council at the Oct. 15th Public Hearing on Guiding Development at Carolina North (video of the meeting here).

Tonight you are being asked to approve a resolution that does three things: start the development agreement process, create a base zone for Carolina North and agree to a timetable.

I endorse moving forward with this resolution
  - flexibility and predictability
    - caution: flexibility is a double-edge sword - make sure requests comply with:
        + LUMO, comprehensive plan 
    - exactions outside normal zoning law
    - secondary agreements - lease, easement, contract extending reach of 
    - mechanism to extend beyond term of team members
      - process must live outside of tenure of negotiators 
         + not an agreement between Mayor Foy and Chairman Perry but current
           and future Councils/UNC BOTs
      - "escape hatch" - resolution doesn't bind us to development
         agreement

CONCERNS

-- process
   - transparency
     - ex parte communications - no side comments like Barry Jacobs/UNC airport
   - evidentiary process 
     - apply to some part of the process
     - establish factual basis for agreement within a couple quasi-judicial proceedings
   - public hearings/outreach
     - multiple checkpoints in process - let public know of progress
     - website FAQ/all questions asked by public, answers online
     - "bang drum loudly" - seek out neighborhoods, don't expect folks at public 
       hearings

-- other questions
   - impact fees not normally assessed elsewhere, how does this
     fit with fiscal equity
   - "freeze" rules, most examples compatible underlying zone
      new zone - explain flexibility
   - application of general development philosophy, requirements to out-parcels...
     - Airport Dr.
     - Duke Energy parcel
     - method to incorporate other parcels under guiding philosophy

-- schedule - aggressive - huge undertaking - lots of moving parts
   - number of concerns need to be resolved ASAP
     - clear list of UNC "will and will nots"
       + LAC process has already high-lighted a few/formalize

-- new zone
   - developed outside of but in cooperation with planning board, highly public
   - OI-4 controls a built-out footprint, new zone more open ended
   - new zone needs to go beyond "base"
     + zone will act as safety net
     + effectively manage unanticipated edge cases, etc.

-- fiscal, transportation, other studies not ready
   - need to merge their schedules into dev. agreement schedule

-- requirements complimenting/exceeding zone and LUMO guidelines
   - new task force
     - HWCC environmental elements - light pollution, air particulate
       + measurable goals parking ratios, noise, particulates, light, etc.

-- specific metrics - "best in class"
   - Arizona/Hawaii light pollution
   - air particulates 
     - energy budget/carbon footprint
     - AIA 2030

-- enforcement provisions - look at "best practice"
   - loose enough to manage mistakes, tight enough to control growth

-- secondary legal agreements 
   - usually implement elements outside zoning requirements
   - who will develop - lawyers from Town or UNC or both?
   - who pays?

-- multi-governmental negotiations/agreements
   -  Is there adequate time for multi-governmental cooperation?

-- cost management
  - defray costs to Town
    - building permit fees won't cover upfront planning dept. costs
     + chip away good idea 

One suspicion raised by the local organization Preserve Rural Orange is that the newly proposed UNC airport has more to do with private desire than the public good.

UNC’s lead on the formation of an Airport Authority, Kevin Fitzgerald, was already hard-pressed to justify the recent fabulous (as in: “almost impossible to believe; incredible”) claims made by UNC’s consultants that the airport would generate $40M to $53M in yearly economic activity.

Those claims are utter balderdash (read the draft report [PDF]).

Now it appears, as the Chapel Hill News’ Mark Schultz reports over on OrangeChat, that the report had some private backing – to the tune of $30,000.

According to public records, two prominent businessmen — Jim Heavner and J. Adam Abram, contributed $15,000 each toward $100,000 paid to Talbert & Bright. The money helped retain the consulting firm and fund its working paper, according to Kevin Fitzgerald, associate dean of the medical school, which contributed $20,000.

The remaining $50,000 came from the university, and both the med school and university contributions were not from state appropriations, UNC spokesman Mike McFarland said in an e-mail.

I’ve met Jim a few times. He has always been cordial. He owns WCHL 1360 (wonder if they’ll report the link?) and was nice enough to invite me to one of his radio round-tables. I’ve known that he has opposed moving Horace-Williams for years. I assumed that was why WCHL news seemed to be less than critical of the report than other local media outlets. I’m surprised that he is comfortable underwriting this draft report which makes some rather tenuous extrapolations in justifying the $40M figure.

It is great to see Mark tear into a local story. As much as I like the Carrboro Citizen (Happy First Birthday!), I don’t want Chapel Hill to be a one-horse town.

By the way, Preserve Rural Orange is having another community meeting. Laura Streitfeld sends this:

Since our first meeting in late September, news and letters about UNC’s airport plans have generated increasing interest from the wider community. Committees have begun to work on research, outreach, speaking with officials and continuing to gather petition signatures to build our case against building an airport in rural Orange County. At last count, there were 1980 signatures– that’s 180 more people who signed during the week and a half after we presented petitions to county commissioners. While the petitions came out of our community’s concerns over being a likely site, we stand with all of rural Orange County in urging UNC to move its operations permanently to RDU or another existing airport.

This organization is still in its early formation and there will be many opportunities for those who wish to be more involved. If you know of people who don’t use email but would like to be included in our communications, please send us their names and phone numbers. Our website is almost complete and we’ll let you know within the next day or two when it’s ready
for you to log on and get more information. The web address is:

preserveruralorange.org

At our next meeting we’ll hear from local residents who would be affected if an airport were built. We’ll also hear from others including elected officials and community leaders, who will speak of the potential impacts on the environment, our health, and the economy that would result from building an airport. There will be time for questions and answers afterward.

Attached is a flyer with the meeting announcement. We anticipate a large turnout, so please bring your folding chairs just in case!

Please come and be part of the discussion, and spread the word. Here are the details:

Monday, October 27th 7:00 pm

White Cross Recreation Center 1800 White Cross Road, Chapel Hill [MAP]

Speakers will include:

  1. Senator Ellie Kinnaird
  2. Bernadette Pelissier, Candidate for Orange County Commissioner
  3. Mitch Renkow, NC State Economist
  4. Elaine Chiosso, Executive Director, Haw River Assembly
  5. Jutta Kuenzler, Kuenzler Wildlife Habitat Preserve
  6. Nancy Holt, Carolina Concerned Citizens
  7. Local Land Owners

Even though local environmentalist have talked about our county’s responsibility to manage its waste stream responsibly – not dumping the problem on another community – I couldn’t find a recent request to the Board of Commissioners by either a organization or an individual to start the process of developing either a new landfill or a sound alternative. With the missteps selecting the trash transfer site fresh in our community’s mind, I thought that starting that search now would give our community plenty of time to come to terms with what I think is a civic responsibility.

Why? Simply because it will take years to build community consensus on, one, whether we do have an obligation to manage our waste locally and two, what kind of facility is most appropriate.

Earlier this year, the Board of Commissioners did direct the Solid Waste Advisory Board to research alternative waste management technologies with an eye to the future. Their Oct. 7th report on Solid Waste Process Technology Assessment [PDF-huge] and September minutes [PDF] sketches out both the advantages and pitfalls of existing technologies.

Their comments also reveal that the greatest hurdle is political, not technical.

For instance, one promising, though expensive, alternative is to use of waste to produce energy. The only financially feasible way to implement incineration, at least at Orange County’s current level of waste production, is to develop a regional approach in cooperation with surrounding counties and the University (one concern is that there is a “secret plan” to build this type of a facility or a new landfill on the excess acres purchased for the new transfer site).

Incineration can be done in an environmentally friendly fashion and appears, at least using state of the art techniques, not to have as large of a carbon footprint as transporting waste 90 miles to a landfill that doesn’t capture its methane by-products.

Incineration, of course, is even less politically popular than landfills.

In either case, the search for a reasonable and supported solution will take time. Selling the public, probably years. Developing the political will (and backbone) probably even longer.

Shipping waste out-of-county was NEVER going to be a longterm solution (unless fuel cost stay constant and other communities willingness to host our garbage continues ad infinitum). Recognizing the built-in limitation of the transfer process now and acting accordingly is the responsible course to take.

After this evening’s solid waste transfer site meeting, I took a second to ask Alice why she said delaying the final site selection would lead to “garbage piling up”. She had made that statement earlier, in an effort to encourage her colleagues to make a decision by mid-November.

Orange County’s landfill is slated to close in 2011 (Trash Talk: The Ticking Clock). Our solid waste management folks say it’ll take 18 months to get the new transfer site up and running. The BOCC has to figure out the financial impacts, find the revenue and let the contracts sometime early next year to make that date.

But if the County doesn’t make that date, will trash really pile up?

No, as Alice should know. Even though the local municipalities supposedly balked at shipping their waste to Durham’s transfer station ($42/ton + fuel), I’m fairly sure that Orange County can negotiate a temporary use of that facility while a new one in Orange County is built. If a delay of a few months buys community consensus and confidence, the temporary financial inconvenience will be well worth it.

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