Development


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some notes from this evening’s meeting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Commissioners,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your consideration…

I further said on OrangeChat:

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

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

A note on what that N&O article.

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

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

I’ve said I understand why UNC feels compelled to push forward it plans for the Carolina North Innovation Center but I still want to see a master plan that incorporates this project, its supplementary infrastructure and the results of the on-going transit, fiscal equity and environmental studies before one concrete block is laid.

Timing is important as is soliciting continued community input.

My hope is that UNC, the three local government entities, other local stakeholders and the wider community will use the Innovation Center approval process as an opportunity to create a structured framework for further sustained negotiations on Carolina North. While committees like the Horace-Williams Citizens group have helped define some of the principles we want to see the project adhere to, an intermittent process, whose existence is subject to the whims of the Mayor, will not serve our citizens well.

From the outset, we need to create a flexible framework for open and inclusive discussions on Carolina North. As opportunities and obstacles arise over the first fifteen years of Carolina North’s development, how else will we address these challenges?

UNC is giving the community a chance to meet with both their staff and that of their developers, Alexandria Real Estate Equities (whose on-line presence could use a serious upgrade) to see how innovative their cornerstone project – the Innovation Center – will be.

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The University and Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. are planning the Carolina Innovation Center on the Carolina North property at the corner of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and the former Municipal Drive. The Innovation Center will provide an environment where innovation-based companies affiliated with the University can turn laboratory concepts into viable businesses.

The design process for this building is in its early stages. I hope that you can join us on Thursday evening, November 29, from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. at the Robert and Pearl Seymour Center at 2551 Homestead Road for a community meeting on the Innovation Center. Representatives from UNC, Alexandria and the architect for the building will present preliminary sketches of the building design.

We have submitted a concept plan for the Innovation Center to the Town of Chapel Hill. The Town Council is currently scheduled to consider that concept plan at its January 23, 2008 meeting.

We look forward to meeting with neighbors and community members to answer your questions and to listen to your ideas. You can learn more about the Innovation Center in an article from the University Gazette here .

We hope to see you on November 29. As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions. If you are a neighborhood or community contact, please forward this to your group or others who may be interested.

Best,

Linda

Linda Convissor, Director of Local Relations
Office of University Relations
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Linda_Convissor@unc.edu
CB# 6225
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-6225
919-962-9245
919-843-5966 (fax)

X-Posted from my campaign website.

I hadn’t heard of this organization prior to this election but they appear to have been active for the last 10 years.

Friends of Affordable Housing is a non-partisan Political Action Committee that has been active in selective elections within Orange County during the last 10 year. The organization was first organized to support the Orange ballot for Affordable Housing Bond Money. The committee has also periodically sent questionnaires to candidates running for Orange County Commissioner and Chapel Hill Town Council.

Core members of the committee felt the residents of Chapel Hill should have the opportunity to know the positions of the various candidates running in 2007 for Chapel Hill Town Council. The Committee felt the relocation of the IFC, the transition to more attached multi-story housing, the opportunity for more affordable housing in Carolina North, and the possibility of selective use of “payment in lieu” of affordable housing units were issues of significant concern for Chapel Hill residents. The committee members are all long standing residents of Chapel Hill. The four review committee members have extensive executive committee experience in non-profit boards including the IFC, Habitat for Humanity, Dispute Settlement Center, YMCA and various Orange County boards including the Commissioners Committee on Affordable Housing. Committee members have also consulted with staff members of several of the Affordable Housing providers.

The NC Board of Elections has informed us that Friends of Affordable Housing does not have to register as a formal PAC for the 2007 election because we will not be raising money to support a specific candidate or issue.

They weren’t active in the 2005 race even though there was a slew of known affordable housing related issues before the Council.

Dear Candidate:

As you know, initiatives to increase the stock of all types of affordable housing in Chapel Hill have been an election issue for many years. In order to give Chapel Hill residents a better understanding of your position on this critical subject, Friends of Affordable Housing has developed a 7-item questionnaire asking you to address some of the current issues.

A review committee of the Friends of Affordable Housing will review your responses and may endorse specific candidates prior to the November election. Your comments will also be made available to the general public.

Thank you for your cooperation; we look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

The review committee: Natalie Ammarell, Rev. Richard Edens, Susan Harvin ,Richard Leber

They obviously understand that maintaining and expanding affordable housing opportunities will require even more attention of the new Council than the last two years.

Here are my answers to their questions.


Friends of Affordable Housing Questions for Chapel Hill Mayor and Town Council Candidates

1. Please describe your commitment to creation of affordable housing initiatives in Chapel Hill.

I’m dedicated to continuing our Town’s commitment to providing affordable housing in Chapel Hill.

We need to re-evaluate, though, our current initiatives, our capability to manage our affordable housing stock and to rebalance the types of housing we’re currently providing.

With that, we also need to adopt fiscal policy that helps folks keep the most affordable housing they have – their current homes. We’re already seeing a trend of long-term residents, after decades of contributing to our community, being “shown the door”.

Those just starting out, can’t even get their foot in the door without substantial incomes.

Finally, we need to make sure our Town’s growth policies align with our housing goals.

RAM Development, the Town’s private partner on the Lot #5 boondoggle, is proposing to replace the somewhat affordable apartments with hundreds of big-ticket condos. Developments that displace existing affordable housing stock, like Hillsborough 425, are part of Chapel Hill’s future.

We need to make sure, though, that we anticipate the consequences of those displacements.

2. Please give your opinion about the actions taken by Town Council in the last 4 years to increase the stock of affordable housing in Chapel Hill.

I commend the Council for their intent. I applaud their successes. But, we could’ve done better.

Too much in lieu money, not enough square footage. Necessary reform in managing our housing stock or being able to adapt to changing conditions left undone for too long. Opportunities like Roger Perry’s %30 offer at East 54 or Greenbridge’s Northside neighborhood in-fill proposal missed. Rebalancing the kind of housing we offer, not adequately addressed.


3. Given the current impasse with the County, what would you do as a Town Council member to proactively advance the effort to find a new site for the IFC Men’s Residential Facility?

a. Would you oppose locating the facility in certain parts of town (e.g., downtown; near Seymour Center)?

I would like to see the IFC split the food service and the shelter functions. As far as the Men’s Shelter, our Town – if a leadership vacuum exists at the county level – has a responsibility to manage this process. I believe the Town should work with the IFC, proactively, along four basic thrusts.

One, develop criteria that incorporates both the IFC’s requirements for just the shelter component and our Town’s goals for development, transit and neighborhood preservation.

Transit opportunities, accessibility to health and other social services are a few of the criteria I would suggest.

Two, once we have the mutually developed criteria, find the site that best suits our joint needs. Our community needs to be involved in both the development of relevant criteria and the selection of the site.

Locating on Homestead makes sense, especially over Eubanks or Millhouse but there might be better sites based on the decision matrix the IFC, other interested parties and the Town develops.

Three, our Town could provide some logistical support to the IFC in developing a task list to move the shelter.

The Chamber asked me if I’d support pulling the IFC’s lease on the existing shelter location. No way I did say that our Town should help develop a punch list of items with specific performance goals and a timeline to hold the IFC to – but taking a punitory tack is – in my estimation – a poor strategy.

Four, we need to bring our community into the process early, educate the public on the relevant issues and, proactively, publish a guide on how the Council will measure the success of this project. If Council affirms, as I believe we’ll be able to do, that the population at the Men’s Shelter will not increase criminal activity in surrounding neighborhoods, we should already be prepared to assess that activity and report back if reality matched our projections.

4. What new programs do you envision to increase the stock of affordable homes in Chapel Hill?

a. Do you think priority should be given to one type of affordable housing (e.g., transitional housing, special needs, rentals, small condo’s, larger owner occupied detached homes) over another?

We need to rebalance our housing stock based on a few criteria. First, what is the most diverse kind of stock we can reasonably manage using existing resources? Second, look at partnering on denser developments like Raleigh’s Carlton Place (I wrote about this development here: http://citizenwill.org/2007/03/21/raleighs-carlton-place-a-downtown-affordable-housing-commitment-worth-emulating/ ). Third, like Carlton Place, re-evaluate rental housing within our current mix.

b. What type of affordable housing should be built in Carolina North and on the Greene Tract?

I would like to see affordable housing developed on the Greene Tract that is akin to that of the Homestead Park neighborhoods. I would also like the housing to be on the eastern side of the tract to integrate into those neighborhoods, take advantage of existing and new amenities, be closer to existing transit, take advantage of new transit capabilities (depending on what happens at Carolina North) and avoid damaging some of the more ecologically sensitive areas.

The University has suggested that housing on Carolina North will be market driven. I would like to see a mix of units that parallels the stock that UNC commissions.


5. In the last year, Town Council has approved three mixed-use developments: 54 West, Greenbridge and Ram’s Lot 5. Under Chapel Hill’s Inclusionary housing policies these developments will generate almost 100 affordable one and two bedroom condo units. However, these units will not serve lower income families with children.

a. In your opinion, do current policies provide the types of affordable housing that are really needed? If not, what should be changed?

As you might be aware, I’ve been critical of the Town’s Lot #5 development for a number of reasons. The project is fiscally irresponsible, the original affordable housing stock was not family friendly, the affordable housing parking was off-site (second class citizens), the condo fees were steep and not capped, the condo units – especially the larger ones – will most probably server the student community, measurable energy efficiency and environmental standards were dropped, and on and on. You can read my web site – citizenwill.org – for a detailed discussion on these and other Lot #5 ills.

For all my criticism of the majority of the Council’s decision to take on this money pit, I am happy that Cam Hill did accept my recommendation to resize some of the affordable units to accommodate families. Will families find them inviting? I’m not sure.

Considering Lot #5’s location, I’m quite concerned that the Council never took my call to look at affordable living as well as affordable housing seriously. What is the cost of living in one of these units if you should be on the lowest economic rung of those that can purchase a unit? Will the economics of that location end up making this housing more transitional in nature than was originally anticipated?

The units at East54 strike me as being more family friendly. I was encouraged, at least until the Harris-Teeter moved, that a mix of services were within easy reach. I was discouraged though by the Landtrust’s assessment that these units would be transitional in nature. And, of course, continue to be concerned we couldn’t take advantage of the developers offer to build %30 affordable housing.

With Greenbridge, I believe our philosophy of integrative units, a good goal, interfered with an excellent opportunity to acquire more square footage. The rejection of the proposal to build family units within an existing adjacent neighborhood was disappointing. Our Town policy should be flexible enough to adapt to exceptional opportunities that don’t diverge greatly from our housing goals.

b. Can Chapel Hill’s Inclusionary housing policies be utilized to generate affordable rental housing? If you think so, please explain how such rental housing would be managed and maintained.

From my understanding, the existing inclusionary policies don’t align with encouraging development of rental housing. As the inclusionary zoning process continues, we need to make sure rental becomes more of an option.


6. Many affordable homes are “aging” and will require significant maintenance. Is it appropriate for public funds to be used for long-term maintenance? If so, what sources of funds should be used?

I’m interested in the proposal for a rotating loan fund to assist folks in maintaining their properties. This loan fund, if created, needs to come from monies outside the general fund. I would not support additional Town debt – via bonds or other mechanisms – to fund this loan program.


7. Do you think “payment in lieu” of affordable housing construction should be accepted from builders? If so, what guidelines should be used and how should these funds be used?

Over the last five years, my sense is the Council is accepting way too much in lieu monies over square footage. We’re asking developers to create housing. Housing built now will not only help relieve some of our current demand but also be cheaper than housing built 5, 10 , 20 years out.

If we ask for housing, we should get housing.

Delay is not our friend. Easy money also erodes are discipline. Square footage over in lieu money should be our guiding principle.

Here’s my answers to the Chapel Hill News candidate questionnaire. If the answers seem a bit terse, it’s because brevity was required.

POLITICAL PARTY AND EXPERIENCE:

  • 2005 Candidate for Town Council
  • Town Advisory Boards: Horace-William’s Citizen Comm., Downtown Parking Task Force, Technology Board
  • Other: Community Independent Expansion Comm. , Friends of Lincoln Arts Center

While I’ve collaborated with the Orange County Democratic Party for many years on GOTV efforts, been a poll sitter, literature distributor and have supported local Democrats, usually with sweat equity, in their runs, I am an
independent voter.

Until the party realistically deals with state mandated torture, the two on-going wars, the shredding of the Constitution and begins to address key domestic issues such as health care and the increasing split between segments of our citizenry, I will remain unaffiliated.


CIVIC ACTIVITIES AND OTHER AFFILIATIONS:

– Member of Electronic Frontier Foundation

WHY SHOULD YOU BE ELECTED?

Chapel Hill is at a crossroads.

Do we want a diverse community that honors the contributions of our eldest residents, where young couples and working folks can get their foot in the door or is Chapel Hill reserved for those buying publicly underwritten million-dollar condos?

Good intentions have to be backed by sound fiscal policy and real public accountability.

Borrowing millions from the rainy day fund, engaging in a risky Downtown project whose cost has escalated $500,000 to $8.5 million, when our debt payment is tripling is not responsible.

I will work to return Chapel Hill’s sound foundation so all of us can flourish.

1) Please describe your vision for downtown Chapel Hill and assess the council’s current approach to revitalization.

We need to build on the uniqueness of our Downtown by preserving and improving its human-scale charm.

Let’s invest in simple, cost effective, traditional amenities over risky, costly investments with poorly understood and unmeasured returns.

Let’s start with a family friendly pocket park, decent bathrooms, a water fountain and repaired sidewalks. Simple “you are here” directories to assist visitors in finding public and commercial services would make Downtown more inviting.

Let’s take up the low and no-cost Downtown parking improvements the Downtown Parking Task force suggested instead of raising parking rates as Hill and Foy argued for.

The current revitalization effort is open-ended, too expensive – rising from $500K to $8.5M in one year with no end in sight – and puts all our development “eggs” in one basket. The incumbents have resisted efforts to set measurable goals and make timely reports of successes or failures.

If possible, we need to restart the process using measurable goals, an appropriate and fiscally sound commitment of public resources and an approach that doesn’t risk all for an unknown return.

2) Please describe your vision for Carolina North, noting any disagreements with the university’s announced plans.

For many years I have called on UNC to use its incredible research savvy to build a world-class campus pioneering the best in “green” technologies.

To conform to that vision, UNC had to design a campus that was transit-oriented, partially housed its workforce and worked within some serious self-imposed constraints – few parking spaces, a defined energy budget, minimum footprint, cohesive infrastructure, monitored off-site noise, water, air, light impacts.

To achieve these goals, UNC must build within an established master plan.

Further, building upon the successes of the University’s Carolina North Leadership Advisory Committee (LAC), I suggested we work to create a new, sustained framework for further dialog and negotiation. That framework should incorporate the diverse interests of our community within an open, transparent process to work through the next 15 years of issues.

Doing incremental build-outs, like the recently proposed Innovation Center, without a master plan or a framework for further discussion is untenable.

3) How would you respond to persistent complaints about panhandling?

As the only candidate who works Downtown, I’ve experienced the problems first-hand.

I’ve also seen a troubling shift in our community’s attitude – troublemakers all, seems one current perception. Worse, for a few citizens, the face of that population is always a minority one.

My observation? Aggressive panhandling has taken a backseat to the loutish, aggressive behavior. Concrete steps – focusing on those bad behaviors, policing the worst offenders – should come first. Structural changes – moving benches, increasing police presence in a few places, better lighting – should reduce this sometimes frightening Downtown backdrop.

Practical approaches like “Real Change from Spare Change”, will soon shift the economics of begging – reducing panhandlers’ revenue – while bolstering our other efforts to help the homeless.

Finally, the majority of the folks hanging out Downtown are not causing problems. Some are odd but harmless. Our Downtown policy must be focused, goals-oriented – not broadly punitive if we are to succeed.

This year the NRG decided to vet the candidates via email. In 2005 they held interviews and presented the audio responses. Trying to be thorough, I went a bit overboard this year. Figuring no one would want to wade through 10 pages of answers, I tried to boil down this final response to the NRG.

In its Comprehensive Plan, Chapel Hill is committed both to denser urban development and to protection of existing neighborhoods. Do you see any conflict between these goals and what do you feel is the best way to achieve them?

There are trade-offs, thus conflicts between the goals of high density and neighborhood protection.

To start, in any discussion of density we need to establish the limits of growth. I’ve been using the concept of “carrying capacity” as a guide.

Carrying capacity is a multi-dimensional evaluation of an ecosystems ability to maintain a particular population. In biology, this usually means water, food and habitat. In Town, we need to add, for instance, the ability for to maintain a diverse and healthy socio-economic balance within our community. We all can’t live in million dollar condos or pay an extra couple hundred bucks in taxes each year.

We don’t currently assess density to that level of detail. I believe we should at least start thinking within those terms as it will help us create a more sustainable outcome.

Another general problem with our comprehensive plan is that our process for upgrading our goals as our understanding improves is broken.

We need to implement a continuous review process, as suggested by the former chair of the Planning Board, to review our goals in light of achievements to-date, successes and failures. Not only do we need to be more nimble in managing our Town’s comprehensive plan, we need to be much more inclusive in drawing upon our community’s expertise.

Three recent omissions in our planning process provide examples of where we need to improve.

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At 1460 hits, this video is by and far the most popular one I’ve posted on youTube. No surprise to me as Tracey did an incredibly eloquent presentation on the flawed Solid Waste Advisory Board’s search for a new trash transfer site.



I do know that the Sierra Club, in 2005, thought I was a candidate well-suited for addressing our Town’s environmental issues.

Will Raymond has been one of the most outspoken and effective citizen activists in Chapel Hill in recent years. We look forward to him using his talents to advocate for the environment as a member of Town Council. In particular we are excited about his initiatives to promote energy efficiency in town buildings. He will also work to protect lesser known creeks in the Chapel Hill area and to minimize the number of single occupancy vehicles causing air pollution and traffic congestion at Carolina North.

We strongly encourage Sierra Club members and any residents of Chapel Hill who care about the environment to support these four candidates in the November 8th election. They are the best hope for a Town Council that will always make reducing environmental impact a top priority as Chapel Hill grows bigger.

With two years of additional activism – on Carolina North, energy efficiency, open space and environmental protections, Roger Road, environmental standards – by the very measure the Club used in 2005, one might expect a 2007 endorsement.

Over the last two years, I knew I had built a solid reputation for putting our environment front and center. I brought to the table a number of established innovative solutions for reducing environmental impacts, promoting sustainable alternatives and reusing/recycling wasted resources.

Above all, I kept it simple: “Walk the talk.”

As recently as this Spring, when our Council wavered on eco-friendly standards for their Downtown development, I was there making the case for measurable goals. Three of the incumbents, Hill, Strom and Greene, voted for their public-private project even though the developer refused to be held to a goal of %20 energy reduction as measured by acceptable standards.

On the same project, I was there first on the hazardous waste remediation – sizing our obligation, funding the effort accordingly. The same three incumbents downplayed the costs to our Town’s open-ended obligation to clean up that environmental mess.

I’ve supported mandating ASHRAE and AIA 2030 environmental standards for energy efficient buildings, well beyond what some of the incumbents have called for.Beyond that, over the last two years I’ve lobbied (and successfully got) the Town to purchase bio-fuels for its fleet, though I’ve yet to get the majority to agree to targeted reductions in fuel use.

I’ve called for a stronger emphasis on reducing noise and light pollution, including adopting the precepts of the Dark Skies Initiative

As part of the Horace-William’s Citizens Committee (HWCC), I brought metrics to the environmental assay process – setting goals, discussing methodologies for measuring achievement of those goals.

Unfortunately, that necessary additional work was canceled when the Mayor pulled the plug on the HWCC. Fortunately, UNC’s Leadership Advisory Committee on Carolina North did listen and made a serious environmental assay of the Horace-William’s property a key requirement for moving forward.

On other issues, preserving open space, using the wasted landfill gas (LFG) for Town operations, teaming with the County on bio-fuels production, I have been at the forefront – calling for specific measures that would not only improve our local ecology but recycle/reuse wasted resources (two bangs for the same buck).

Whether it was right-sizing our Town’s vehicle fleet (still not done after a commitment to do so over 4 years ago), calling for the Town to get Duke Energy to use much more efficient light fixtures in our street lights (6 years now without action by Council), using technology to reduce car trips to the new Town Operations Center (ignored, and no longer championed by the dissolved Technology Board) – my efforts have been backed by solid, detailed, research and marked by a pragmatic, practical approach to solving problems.

Throughout, I’ve called on our Town to “walk the talk.”

Where was the concern for tree protection, for instance, when Southern Park was clear cut? Where was the commitment to carbon reduction (CRED) by reducing our Town’s fuel use or replanting appropriately at the new Town Operations center?

Lots of talk, but very poor follow through. Deeds, in the case of our incumbents, don’t always follow the words.

But it hasn’t just been about the environment. What about social justice?

Strangely ignored by our local Sierra Club, the environmental consequences of siting the landfill, and, now, the trash transfer station in the Rogers Road community have been well known for years. I remember two of the neighborhoods representatives, Fred Battle and Rev. Campbell, asking for relief at a Council meeting nearly eight years ago (and many times since).

They were asking Chapel Hill to make good on promises made a decade prior – to show some basic, decent, human concern.

The burden has only increased over the years but our elected folks have just not responded adequately to our neighbors just concerns. Many of their concerns – slowing down traffic, picking up spilled litter, improving the safety along Rogers Road – could be addressed by low cost means. Our Town, which has dumped trash in their backyards, could certainly allocate some funds to deal with the sewer and water problems.

Yet, two of our incumbents, Jim Ward and Bill Strom, over eight years, have moved slowly, if at all, to address this case of obvious environmental injustice. In spite of escalating requests, over the last four years, Cam Hill and Sally Greene joined Bill and Jim in mostly ignoring the pleas of our neighbors.

Yes, there was murmured concern but when it came to making measurable progress – the results were anemic – and quite unsatisfying to the Rogers Road community.

Not only have I spoken out on behalf of our neighbors, I’ve documented their case and have made specific proposals for addressing some of their concerns.

Why the Sierra Club refuses to address this environmental injustice in their own backyard I don’t know.

I do know that when I asked their political committee why I wasn’t asked about this glaring issue during my interview, two of the members told me that they thought it wasn’t part of the Club’s or Chapel Hill’s docket. I pointed out that the next Council will definitely be ruling on the County’s solid-waste plans and Rogers Road – even if we dispense with common neighborly courtesy – is squarely our Town’s concern.

In the recent League forum you can compare my response to those of the incumbents (40 minutes in).

Once you review the footage, I’d ask, “Who would you want standing in your corner?”

In 2005, the Sierra Club said I was a candidate well-suited for addressing our Town’s environmental issues:

Will Raymond has been one of the most outspoken and effective citizen activists in Chapel Hill in recent years. We look forward to him using his talents to advocate for the environment as a member of Town Council. In particular we are excited about his initiatives to promote energy efficiency in town buildings. He will also work to protect lesser known creeks in the Chapel Hill area and to minimize the number of single occupancy vehicles causing air pollution and traffic congestion at Carolina North.

Yes, these last two years, I built upon that activism – on Carolina North, energy efficiency, open space and environmental protection – the Sierra Club endorsed.

But I knew this year, because of Sierra Club politics at the State level, and because of my repeated calls to the Sierra Club’s leadership to take a principled stand on a number of environmental issues, I had very little chance to secure an endorsement. I had some small hope that the Club would surmount the politics and select the candidates that have shown the courage to “do” over those that have had the opportunity to “do more” and haven’t.

So, a small hope but little expectation. Given the Club’s assurance that they would carefully review my record, I did expect they would get my name right:

Dear Ray,
One great thing about Chapel Hill is that fact we have so many candidates with positive ideas about the environment and who have contributed to the community. Based upon the interviews, forum, voting records and other information we made our recomendation to the state Sierra Club. I’m glad to hear about your concerns about carrying capicity for Chapel Hill and hope you will continute to pursue them, however we decided to endorse other
candidates who had more experience. Thank you for spending time with us to share your ideas and thoughts and of
course, please keep on talking them up.
I was unable to post the forum. I am having copies made. If you contact me after Tuesday I can lend you a copy of the DVD.

Sincerely,
Loren Hintz

Voting records? I’ll have to wait for that opportunity. On every other 2005 Club expectation, I delivered.

As far as sharing my ideas and “talking them up” to promote a sustainable community that lives within the limits of its “carrying capacity” Loren, you can count on that.

Sincerely.

A big thank you to the local chapter of the League of Women Voters for an excellent forum this evening. Vicki Boyer, who occasionally posts on OrangePolitics kept the show moving along with a variety of audience questions.

Unlike the Sierra Club forum, the environmental and social justice issues surrounding our neighbors out on Rogers Road (of which I have spoken about numerous times) got a fairly decent airing. The $8 million Downtown Development boondoggle merited one round.

The forum’s format, a round of answers with some opportunity for give-and-take, suited tonight’s questions. I hope the public and the local media take some time to mull over our responses.

There were a few surprises from the non-incumbents: Kevin Wolff bringing up voter-owned elections, Penny Rich suggesting punishing Downtown landlords who wouldn’t fill their storefronts, Matt Czajkowski’s excellent point that Chapel Hill has become introverted.

Of course, the incumbents tried to take credit for all the successes over the last four years while trying to dodge any responsibility or account for any of the mistakes.

Some of the successes – hiring an economic development officer, developing a strategic economic development plan, the Town’s new fiber network – were issues I brought forward first.

As far as surprises from the incumbents, I appreciated Mayor Foy’s complementary observation that I have an eye for efficiency.

Jim Ward’s bit of criticism (Incumbency Is Not Enough or Nineteen Seconds Is Too Long) about the 19 seconds I went over my time on one response provided some humor.

And Cam Hill, one of the negotiators on Lot #5, quoting a citizen outlay about $1 million short of the actual figure (CHN). I’ve been up since 6am and can understand a fumble –
hope fatigue explains his sloppy accounting.

The League graciously allowed me to assist them in posting tonight’s video on the web.

I’m preparing for upload now and expect the full video to be available by tomorrow evening (I’ll post a new article when it’s done).

Oh, and the Sierra Club has since declined my offer to post their forum on the Internet. They plan to do it themselves. I’ll keep an eye on their progress and will announce its availability.

X-Posted from my 2007 Campaign web site.

Even though the Chamber made it clear that extended replies where not welcomed in the 2007 questionnaire ( Election 2007: The Chamber’s Yes, No, Unsure – Again!), I took the opportunity to answer each of their questions beyond the constraints of “yes, no, unsure”.

The questions are broad, open to interpretation and, on occasion, leading. How would you answer the Chamber’s questions?

In case the Director omits my business background, as he did in 2005, I worked for Northern Telecom for many years, winning a couple President’s Awards and a Chairman’s Award for Innovation (the first IT person to do so). I have been a CIO/CTO of a couple successful startups, including Reged.com which sold to FiServ for millions. As an entrepreneur I was part of the crew that guided those companies to multi-million dollar revenues. I currently work for Tibco, an enterprise application integration company, specializing in XML technology and distributed Java application architectures.

Here is the questionnaire and my extended answers. You’ll note I wasn’t unsure at all:

4. Is increasing the commercial tax base in Chapel Hill an important priority for you?

YES

Even before my run for office in 2005 I was agitating for a Economic Development Officer to help develop strategic and tactical approaches to increasing our commercial tax base. Council finally hired an officer, now we need leadership with business acumen to make the best use of his services.

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Rev. Campbell

David Richter

Tracy Coleman

Jeff Kingman

Jeanne Stroud

Nancy Ignia

Sharon Cook

The Rogers-Eubanks Coalition to End Environmental Racism, a coalition of the

  • Chapel Hill -Carrboro Branch of the NAACP
  • Environmental Justice Network
  • West End Revitalization Association
  • Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom
  • Orange County Progressive Democrats
  • and members of UNC-CH Faculty, Students, and Staff

are calling for folks to turn out at the Thursday, Sept. 20th Joint Assembly of Governments Meeting, 7:30pm at the Southern Human Services Center [MAP]

Support the Residents of the Landfill Neighborhoods*

at the Joint Assembly of Governments Meeting (Orange Co., Hillsborough, Carrboro and Chapel Hill)

• No to the proposed transfer station
• Shut down the stinking landfills
• Safe water hookups
• Safe and cheap sewer services

Improve the quality of life for Landfill Neighborhoods.*

Thursday, September 20, 2007 at 7:30 p.m.
Southern Human Services Center
2501 Homestead Road, Chapel Hill

*The predominantly Black neighborhoods along Rogers Road and parts of Eubanks Road were seen as politically impotent to stop the placement of stinking landfills and other waste products of the more powerful white residents in the recent past. This is called Environmental Racism.

For more information: camko@bellsouth.net

What issues does the Rogers Road community want addressed?

Here’s a quick overview from some of my posts covering our neighbors continuing plight:

Hat tip to OrangePolitics.

Coming on the heels of last month’s $65,000 NRC fine, Progress Energy continues to promote two more reactors at their Shearon-Harris site.

There are several unresolved issues involving Shearon-Harris that makes siting further reactors more than problematic. Until waste disposal, security, adequate fire protection, safe storage and a slew of other issues are dealt with, furthering a development proposal for Shearon-Harris makes no sense.

The NRC, the industry’s partners in the nuclear mess, is holding an initial public hearing Sept. 18th in Apex.

In preparation for the Progress Energy license application for Harris, the NRC has scheduled a public information meeting on Tuesday, September 18, at the New Horizons Fellowship at 820 E. Williams Street in Apex, NC. An open house will be held from 6 to 7 p.m., followed by a NRC presentation at 7:00 p.m., after which the public will have an opportunity to ask questions. (A copy of the meeting notice is attached.)

Earlier posts on Progress Energy’s Shearon-Harris

The complete notice follows (more…)

As I mentioned in my post “The Climate Heats Up AND The Mayor Has A Website?”, the Town is hosting an all day “conversation” on climate change (as part of our Town’s ongoing commitment to sustainability).

The program is sponsored by ICLEI US (Local Governments For Sustainability) and the local Chamber of Commerce’s “green” coordinating arm, Foundation for a Sustainable Community.

The advertisement on the Mayor’s (www.chapelhillmayorsoffice.com) website says the program is FREE but the link takes you to this Chamber of Commerce signup page that only lists an October 4th Sustainability Workshop costing $30 for non-members.

I’ve sent an email to Director Aaron Nelson asking for a clarification.

Here’s the program:

Speakers:

Part I:

  • Lyle Estill, Piedmont Biofuels (biodiesel, sustainable community design, sustainability movement)
  • David Lee, Bland Landscaping
  • Tobin Freid, Triangle Clean Cities Program
  • Eric Henry, T.S. Designs
  • Greg Overbeck, Chapel HIll Restaurant Group

Part II:

  • Kevin Foy, Mayor of the Town of Chapel Hill
  • Anne Waple, National Climatic Data Center, NESDIS
  • Cindy Pollock Shea, Director of UNC Sustainability of Office
  • Tom Jensen, North Carolina Sierra Club

Program:

Part I:

2007 Sustainability Workshop

Location: Town of Chapel Hill Public Library, 12:00 pm – 4 :00 pm

To register and see the Part I Workshop schedule click here

Part II:

2007 National Conversation on Climate Change

6:00-7:30 pm National Conversation on Climate Change Workshop

Program Agenda: TBA

This program is free and open to the public.

For additional information about this event please email the Mayor’s Office, crobustelli@townofchapelhill.org.

An interesting program, though it’s not clear from the schedule when or how the “conversation” will occur. We’ve had some great local success using an unconference format to stimulate, educate and inform the public on technical issues.

Maybe the evening program could be reserved for a “conversation” built around and directed by the attendees?

As I predicted (“Carolina North: What’s Next?”) last week, the Carrboro Citizen is reporting that UNC is prepared to move the Carolina North Innovation Center north of Estes to sit roughly on the Town’s former municipal services site.

Not a hard guess given UNC’s Jack Evans recent comments.

…one indication that the university is intent on the timetable is a related matter on the trustees agenda — the shift of a proposed site for an 80,000-square-foot Innovation Center from the south side of Estes Drive Extension to an area just off Municipal Drive near the Town of Chapel Hill’s former Public Works facility.

Earlier this month, Jack Evans, Carolina North’s executive director, said that the area would likely be in the very first phases of construction. In addition to being already cleared and served by utilities, the site also avoids a potential conflict over the closing of Horace Williams Airport. University officials have said they’d like to close the airport as soon as a new facility is ready for its Medical Air operations. But that idea has met resistance in the North Carolina General Assembly.

While the first 15-year phase of the Carolina North plans include using sections of the current airport runway near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the site for the innovations center is out of the way of the airport approach.

At the last community outreach session, the reported [PDF] size of the facility was 85,000 square/feet not 80,000 as the CarrboroCitizen reports. I’m not sure if there’s been a shift.



Click to Enlarge


What is the Carolina Innovation Center?

The Triangle Business Journal had this nice overview published May 18, 2007:

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is working with a high-profile West Coast developer to build a business incubator near its proposed Carolina North campus that could put the university back in the market for venture capital.

Preliminary discussions between UNC officials and Pasadena, Calif.-based Alexandria Real Estate Equities have yielded a model for the proposed “Carolina Innovation Center” that would provide more than just office space for university spinoffs.

Alexandria CEO Joel Marcus says the center would round out traditional incubator resources such as office and laboratory space with on-site business and managerial experts and a cadre of investors ranging from local and national venture firms to the university itself.

In short, the Alexandria-owned facility[emph. CW] would act as a one-stop clearinghouse capable of matching top technology prospects flowing out of UNC’s research departments with the financial backing and expertise needed to keep a startup alive.

The UNC center would be modeled in large part on Accelerator Corp., a biotech incubator in Seattle completed by Alexandria in 2003. The private biotech development and investment incubator has attracted nearly $22 million in venture capital from blue chip investors such as Amgen Ventures, MPM Capital and Arch Venture Partners. So far, Accelerator Corp. has invested in five emerging biotech firms.

Mark Crowell, associate vice chancellor for business development and technology transfer at UNC, says the venture capital component of the Carolina Innovation Center could total as much as $25 million and would not be limited to life sciences startups. Pending receipt of a special use permit from the town of Chapel Hill to construct the incubator facility, Crowell says UNC could begin “paying visits” to potential investors as early as this fall.

“At the end of the day, we would like to go to four, five, six institutional investors, as well as make a presentation to (UNC’s endowment) management company” says Crowell. “I can’t imagine we wouldn’t visit every local fund.”

Crowell goes on to say

“This project is going to make a sound and create a smell that is going to be attractive to the venture capitalists,” he says. “It is an incredibly attractive way to introduce Carolina North to the community, and it’s really starting to gain momentum.”

Of course, the sounds and smells nearby neighborhoods are concerned with are not so attractive as the lure of big money is too UNC’s venture capital specialists.

I wonder if getting anywhere on Carolina North seems harder than running a sub 4-minute mile for former world record holder and current UNC vice chancellor for research and economic development Tony Waldrop:

Corporate funds are vital to filling the gap, but, with neither an incubator facility nor a research campus similar to NCSU’s Centennial Campus, those dollars are difficult to come by, says Tony Waldrop, UNC’s vice chancellor for research and economic development.

“Seventy percent of campuses have either a research park campus or an incubator, and here we are without either. It puts us at a disadvantage,” Waldrop says. “In terms of getting federal funding from the corporate sector for research, we have not competed with our peers.”

Centennial Campus envy once again?

Tomorrow’s UNC Board of Trustees’ meeting starts 8am at the Carolina Inn: floor plan and map.

The BOT agenda is here.

The Carolina North draft concept plan is item #8 on the following agenda.
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I’ve heard from two different sources that the “final” design concept for Carolina North is ready to present to UNC’s Board of Trustees (BOT). The BOT, in years past, have happily rejected the efforts of both UNC’s administration and the local community to create a win-win for what is to replace the Horace-Williams Airport.


The Infamous Carolina North C-shaped design concept.

Now that the grand plan for Carolina North has morphed into that of an overflow campus, I wonder what the BOT will be reviewing? And what of the recent resurgence of calls to stem AHEC’s move (more on AHEC’s efforts starting here)? How will that change the complexion of the latest publicly available design [PDF]?

If I was to make a guess (which I guess I am), I’d say that the initial build-out will start mid-way up Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. across from Piney Mountain (Municipal Dr.). Further, considering that building on the existing municipal buildings footprint should be the least controversial of options, one hard to reject on environmental or other grounds based on the Town’s current usage patterns, I imagine that Moeser’s administration will suggest placing the first set of buildings there.

Oh, and coincidentally, this will allow UNC to delay the decommissioning of HWA and moving the AHEC program farther afield.

If this proves to be the case, I plan to ask at the next Carolina North outreach meeting [ Tuesday, July 31, 2007 at 4:00 p.m. (School of Government, room 2603) ] what that means in terms of their commitment to “finish the C”.

For those falling UNC’s bouncing ball of Carolina North intentions, here is their website and a nice list of June 21st’s community feedback comments.

I have some amateur video (to join my other coverage) which I’m still processing. I’ll post that sometime soon.

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