UNC


UNC’s Chancellor Holden Thorp takes a postion (“Carolina North: A Glass Half-Full Perspective”) on Horace-William Airport’s closure.

One of the most vexing issues, though, has been the future of Horace Williams Airport. As you know, it occupies the heart of the Carolina North acreage. It’s the flattest part of the tract and, therefore, the best place to build Carolina North. So we have to close it.

Now, I realize it doesn’t take a lot of analysis to figure out that closing the airport is important for the future of Carolina North. But figuring out HOW to close the airport . . . that’s another story.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to this. The AHEC program is an extremely important asset to this University and to our state. Our doctors, nurses, other health professionals, and our MedAir pilots are as committed public servants as you will find. The work they do and the service they provide are fundamental to who we are as a university. And we are telling them that we have to close their airport to build Carolina North.

I have analyzed all the options, and I’m convinced that we really do have to close the airport to make Carolina North all that it must be. I’m equally convinced that we should fully support the airport authority authorized by the General Assembly as the best way to pursue creation of an airport in Orange County. It gives the county zoning authority, and it turns over the siting and development to a public body with greater expertise than we have.

For AHEC and MedAir, I think a move to RDU for the short-term is workable. But for the long-term, we owe it to our doctors to appoint the airport authority to see if there’s a better alternative.

We have said all along that we wouldn’t close Horace Williams Airport until we had to. With today’s challenging economic climate, we anticipate that funding for initial Carolina North construction likely will be delayed. Our state appropriation for planning and infrastructure for the Law School relocation to Carolina North is frozen, at least for now. And Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc., our partner for the Innovation Center, has put new projects on hold, although they have affirmed their interest in our project.

So, as I posted last night, the University maintains their stance that closure is contingent on Carolina North’s building projects moving forward.

I am disappointed that Holden continues to maintain that the only path to serving AHEC’s needs involves a new general aviation facility. This fixation makes no sense at this point and counters UNC’s own consultant’s recommendations to move AHEC to RDU.

Holden is “convinced that we should fully support the airport authority authorized by the General Assembly as the best way to pursue creation of an airport in Orange County. ”

Sure, the airport authority, with the sovereign powers the State granted it, is probably the best way to get an airport built in Orange County over local residents’ objections.

Where, though, is his concern for the Authority’s other duty – to factually justify the necessity of a general aviation facility? The Authority’s duty to “support the missions of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill or the University of North Carolina Health Care System” has to balance against the significant local impacts, the $60-100 million price tag, the infrastructure costs shoved onto local residents.

I applaud Holden’s willingness to engage the community in the discussion via his ‘blog. I wish other local officials took a lesson from him.

I already left him a comment on his post. I hope folks weigh in with their thoughtful and considered input.

Hat tip to Fred Black for highlighting Holden’s comments.

Tonight’s meeting (background) was well attended . Many of the folks attending were there to send the message “No Airport!”. Chapel Hill News reporter Eric Ferriri did a pretty good job covering that part of the meeting over at OrangeChat.

The Chancellor was missing in action. I think that is two of three meetings now.

The Council-Trustee sessions allocate two public comment periods, before and after the main meeting. Jim Ward, responding to tonight’s turnout, suggested doubling the time for public commentary from 10 to 20 minutes. I believe the 8 folks signed up had adequate time to get our points in (though I could easily spend a few hours going through the detail divergences in UNC’s proposals, ways to flesh out the development agreement, setting goals/metrics/methodologies to measure compliance, etc.).

After thanking staff for producing a nearly complete agenda a few days before this meeting (unlike the few hour lead times of the last two meetings), I took a few moments to ask some questions and add some suggestions to my earlier list.
(more…)

[UPDATE] As Fred notes, this was a Cessna 550 probably configured like the photo below:

These type planes are used both for charter and commercial commuter purposes.

[ORIGINAL]

I have lived near Horace-Williams Airport for about 16 years. During the recent uproar over siting a new UNC-sponsored general aviation facility somewhere in the OC, I’ve had a few folks ask what kind of traffic to expect.

There’s the early morning cacophony of AHEC cranking up their prop-driven fleet. The mid-day buzz of single engine vehicles. And, on a game night like this evening, the late-night roar of corporate jets.

By the way, here’s a nice chronology of UNC’s back-tracking on their “no jets” policy. Required reading for anyone interested in possible outcomes at the proposed new facility.

Eve Carson was universally lauded by the local community for epitomizing the Carolina Way. Her friends honor her by ensuring that her contribution to our community continues.

Linda send out this reminder.

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The death of Eve Carson last year was a tragic moment that stunned us all. In the months since Eve’s death, students have planned ways to remember her and the things she loved and cared deeply about.

Come participate in the inaugural Eve Carson Memorial 5k for Education on Saturday, November 15th, 2008. Gather at Polk Place behind South Building for registration at 8:00 a.m.; the race will begin at 10:00 a.m. Children’s activities will be available. Kids under 7 run for free and dogs on leashes are welcome to run.

Go to the website http://educationforeve.com for information, registration options and a way to donate even if you don’t run.

The Pi Beta Phi sorority and Phi Delta Theta fraternity have organized this great community activity to raise funds in memory of Eve. Two thirds of the total proceeds will go to Eve’s scholarship foundation and the remaining third will be split between First Book, a nonprofit that gives new books to preschool children from low-income families, and the Clyde Erwin Elementary School in Onslow County.

Get your running shoes laced up and join us on Polk Place on November 15.

Someone sent me an email saying one local pundit doesn’t think my service on the Horace-Williams Citizens Committee deserves recognition.

Three comments.

First, while I was appointed in January, 2006 and the HWCC provided its final report May 22nd, 2006 (report here), I definitely hit the ground running. While I wasn’t a member of the HWCC very long, I had already attended many of the Phase II (post production of the HWCC principles) and a few of the HWCC Phase I meetings. I had contributed some ideas during the early phase and, when I ran for Council in 2005, had pushed for inclusion of additional environmental guidelines.

Second, the second phase of the HWCC, under new Chair Julie McClintock, pushed an agenda that included the “fleshing” out of the top level principles.

I must have had the group’s confidence as they let me draft the original response to Chancellor Moeser’s January 25th letter (I was a new member), a letter Julie, Joe Capowski and I further refined and presented to Council in May (here).

They also ignore the work of my version of the HWCC sub-committee in developing a framework for using “best in class” environmental protections, including processes for verifying compliance, for Carolina North.

Third comment?

I’ve worked hard to bring interested citizens into the decision-making process. Questioning volunteers’ commitment – especially without reviewing what they have done – is not very inclusive.

We need more helping hands to lift our community up. I believe the best public policy arises from measured debate. If I ever have the honor of serving our community on Council, I assure you that I will measure a candidate by their ability and interest not by whom the cliquish political in-crowd deems fit.

And I will never, ever dismiss a citizen’s contribution but rather honor and celebrate their civic concern.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plenty of reasons to apply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NRG’s comments:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I respectfully disagree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Dr. David Owens, Gladys Hall Coates Professor of Public Law and Government at UNC and advisor to Council on the development agreement process, has responded to my Oct. 14th.

Will,

Roger Stancil passed your queries along to me.

You asked if the Council is in some way bound to follow this approach should they determine to start on this path. They are not. The Council can at any time decide that the process is not working and needs to be modified or abandoned. All existing options remain open until the Council actually adopts a development agreement (with that accompanying LUMO text and zoning map amendment).

The issue of how to set measurable performance goals — what they are and how they are monitored — is essentially the same for all of the tools available to the town. For each approach the Town has the difficult task of addressing the substantive question of what those goals and standards are and how they are monitored. While I will discuss the enforcement question in more detail with the Council tonight, the short answer is that the Town retains all of its existing enforcement tools and a development agreement, to the extent it changes things at all, enhances enforcement options.

The scope of provisions in a development agreement is subject to negotiation and can be as broad or narrow as the parties agree to make it. One significant advantage to a development agreement is that it allows a broader range of issues to be addressed in binding approval requirements than most any other regulatory approach. As one would expect, the scope of the provisions is frequently a significant point of negotiation between local governments and applicants. The question of how long an agreement runs and how much development is approved is often related to the range and scope of mitigation measures applicants are willing to commit to. But the ultimate answer to this query is that it is for the most part whatever there is mutual agreement on.

I hope this helps.

It certainly does.

Since a development agreement provides a legal framework for requiring adherence to standards above and beyond existing zoning requirements, I am exploring how the Town can negotiate “best in class” environmental expectations somewhat along the lines of the work proposed by the Horace-Williams Citizens Committee sub-committee on environment.

Those requirements, which I set the stage for (May 26th, 2006’s The Last Horace Williams Citizen’s Committee. Hurrah?), would set the “greeness” bar moderately high for UNC. Of course, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. I wouldn’t ask, though, if I didn’t know that our world-class University has the capability, if not the will, to meet environmental standards typically applied in other jurisdictions.

Thank you Dr. Owens for the quick reply.

I will be attending this evening’s meeting I’m glad to hear your going to explore some of these issues in greater depth. Before the Horace-Williams Citizens Committee was decommissioned, the environmental sub-group had started to create a framework for establishing specific “best in class” environmental benchmarks for Carolina North. We also discussed how to monitor compliance – so many candlepower per square foot for light pollution, so many gallons of runoff, so much particulate pollution, etc. – and possible enforcement procedures. This is the context behind some of my questions.

Since your Sept. 25th meeting I’ve had an opportunity to research several other states adoption of this process. While the basic theme is the same, it’s interesting to see how different jurisdictions bind community needs to developer requirements. One issue, though, that I haven’t found much material on is the public hearing process. You might recall from the Sept. 25th meeting my concern about evidentiary procedure. It appears many communities dispense with a quasi-judicial framework and defer to an informal process.

I’m going to lobby Council for the greatest transparency in adopting the development agreement: no ex parte discussions, minutes of all meetings, some formal evidentiary proceedings and informal – though open, documented – discussion. I know Council has indicated they want the community to have a full opportunity to weigh in but given the tight timetable, I’m afraid that the public might be shortchanged as the process concludes. This is not an abstract concern, as this has happened several times recently. Any suggestion on how to build in this transparency from day one?

Thank you again for work on behalf of Chapel Hill.

I appreciate Dr. Owens rapid response.

I’m not afraid to ask questions – dumb or not – in order to zero in on the relevant issues. I have a number of updates from recent requests on everything from the County’s e-waste management to the Police department’s “eyes on the community” plan in the pipeline. I hope to share soon – keep an eye out.

Tomorrow the Town Council will hold a public hearing describing the basic framework for managing Carolina North’s development over the next couple decades. This is the second meeting discussing the framework. The first was Sept. 25th. Unfortunately, I was the only citizen not directly involved – as either a representative of the Town, UNC or the media – there. Here are my [remarks [VIDEO]].

The proposal couples two legal strategies – zoning and a North Carolina development agreement (authorized by NC Statute 160A-400.20 [DOC]) – to set conditions for the proper build-out of the 250+ acre Carolina North project. Under a development agreement, a developer can be bound to conditions – like fiscal equity – that lie well outside the purview of the zoning process. In return for being bound to what is hopefully measurable performance based goals that have specific remedies for non-compliance, the developer can be confident that the rules of the game won’t change mid-stream.

Other benefits and concerns are covered by Prof. David Owens’ excellent Sept. 25th overview.

The development agreement process is new to North Carolina but has been used extensively elsewhere to create a flexible approach in dealing with large projects instead of insisting on piecewise approvals – a process which tends to introduce uncertainty. If I’ve learned one thing about local development in the last ten years, it is developers – and the University is a major developer – want more certitude in Chapel Hill’s approval process. We’ve had folks willing to jump through as many hoops as necessary to push their project forward but, in the end, have decided on a more mediocre approach because of inconsistency in the current process.

A Carolina North development agreement coupled with one or more potentially new zones could be quite effective and mutually beneficial in managing growth of this 50 year project.

Still, there are questions surrounding the application of this process to UNC’s Carolina North project that must be answered before firmly committing the Town to this approach:

For example, here’s a couple from an email I sent Town Manager Roger Stancil and Town Attorney Ralph Karpinos today:

Hello Roger and Ralph,

I have a few quick questions about tomorrow’s meeting and the proposed resolution the Council is being asked to adopt.

First, will citizen comments on the development agreement framework be taken?

Second, as far as the language of the resolution, does proposing the agreement as the “preferred tool” give the Council some wiggle room if they decide the process isn’t working out? In other words, does this mean there is a built-in “escape clause” or will the Council be bound to follow this approach?

Using a development agreement coupled with a new base zone (or zones) seems like a good and equitable strategy but there are some issues – for instance, how one sets measurable performance goals linked to specific remedies for noncompliance or establishing long-term requirements, like green space preservation, beyond the agreements term – that I would like see resolved before the Town commits whole-heartedly to this approach.

Finally, has anyone considered extending the coverage of the development agreement beyond the borders of HWA?

Along those lines, has anyone explored the legality of including a project approved outside of the Carolina North process, like the Innovation Center, into the agreement? The University is developing the Duke Energy property. Last night, UNC described putting a small power generation center on that property to support their Airport Dr. facility. Any discussion on incorporating the development of that property or of the anticipated modifications at the Airport Dr. facility that will support the Carolina North project into the agreement?

Basically, my concern is that once the physical dimensions of the development agreement are established, any supplementary development in support of the Carolina North project outside of the described property cannot be included under that agreement’s provisions. Because various performance goals, like mitigating water runoff, controlling air/light/noise pollution, managing traffic impacts, etc. are expected to be defined as part of the agreement, I want to understand how these secondary projects can be brought under the same umbrella. If these secondary projects don’t require a SUP or zoning change, I don’t see how the Town has any leverage to encourage a voluntary assumption of the development agreement’s obligations.

I know you both are quite busy but it would be great to have an answer prior to tomorrow’s meeting.

Take care,

Will

encl: Resolution language

“NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Council of the Town of Chapel Hill that the Council establish the development agreement, with a base zone, as the preferred tool for guiding development at Carolina North; and concurs with the Trustees’ request that June 2009 is a reasonable target date for having established the process for guiding development at Carolina North; and sets the next joint work session with the representatives of the University Trusts for Wednesday, October, 22, 2008.”

http://townhall.townofchapelhill.org/agendas/2008/10/15/1/2008-10-15_r1.htm

I’ll let you know what they have to say. I also have planning to pull together my notes and remarks from the Sept. 25th Special Carolina North Meeting – I’ve got a backlog of posts but I’ll try to get them out ASAP.

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