Election 2007: Friends of Affordable Housing Questionnaire

Monday, October 15th, 2007

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.

Election 2007: Chapel Hill News Candidate Questionnaire

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

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.

Election 2007: Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

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.

(more…)

Election 2007: Chapel Hill Sierra Club Forum

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

Here’s the Chapel Hill Sierra Club forum. I’ll be adding some commentary about clear contrasts in environmental policy between the incumbents and the non-incumbents, how we should “walk the talk” on environmental protections – making both large and incremental improvements in our Town’s commitment, and how current policy sets goals the Council never plans to revisit (I guess that’s politics – which explains why I’m just not a political creature).

Election 2007: On Environment, Early to the Carolina North Party

Sunday, October 7th, 2007

I’m a longtime watchdog of the UNC development process.

UNC, with Carolina North, started off as they had with many of their main campus projects – discounting our community’s concerns and dispensing with residents input.

I knew there had to be a better way to work towards a satisfactory conclusion for both our University and our community. So, in 2005, I renewed my call to UNC and the Town to create a more stable framework for dealing both with our common concerns and our disagreements.

I’m not sure how much my encouragement helped but UNC, by late 2005, did create a new kind of community effort. UNC’s Leadership Advisory Committee – the LAC – was created to try to find common ground among all the participants in the Carolina North process.



I threw my support behind the process, seeing the LAC as a good first start at building a more stable framework for Town and Gown relations. Both Council members, now incumbents running for office, showed little confidence in the process from the start.

Even though I supported UNC’s new effort – praising their success where appropriate – critical when they backslid into old habits – I also kept a close eye towards the eventual product – a master plan for Carolina North.

There were some initial missteps I thought needed some quick attention. One, inattention to the public input. Two, a missing commitment to measure the environmental baseline of Carolina North.

As you can see from this Aug. 24th, 2006 video, as a citizen I appeared before UNC’s LAC calling for a real environmental assay of Carolina North and making substantive improvements in their community outreach.

Finding champion species would help identify critical areas to preserve. Doing a thorough flora and fauna survey would help us establish a baseline to determine if conditions improve or diminish 10, 20 or 50 years out. Committing to measuring off-site air, noise and light pollution impacts could help build confidence in UNC’s commitment to maintaining the neighboring environment throughout our community.

What is different from UNC’s past performance is they actually integrated that criticism into their process and improved upon the overall plan.

Election 2007: League Of Women Voters Forum

Monday, October 1st, 2007

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.

Election 2007: Sierra Club Interview

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

X-Posted from Will Raymond for Town Council 2007:

The local Orange-Chatham Sierra Club participates in the local election process two ways: endorsing candidates and sponsoring a forum.

Last Sunday, Chairman Bernadette Pelissier, Political Chair Loren Hintz and member Matthew Scheer interviewed me on behalf of the Sierra Club to determine if I qualified for an endorsement.

Questions spanned local zoning policy, a discussion of good and bad infill, personal commitment to environmental protection and Carolina North.

Folks that read CitizenWill already have a good idea about where I stand on many of these issues.

Surprisingly some issues, like local waste management, the trash transfer station and Rogers Road community’s complaints, our storm water utility policy or in-town open space preservation didn’t make the list. Of course, you can only fit so much into a 45 minute interview.

I appreciate these members taking the time to review my thoughts on Carolina North, zoning policy, pragmatic carbon reduction strategies, transit, etc. (I tried to cram way too much into my answers and digressions).

The Chapel Hill forum takes place next Tuesday, September 25th, 7-9pm at the Chapel Hill Town Hall. The event will be broadcast on our local public access channel.

In 2005 I did secure the local club’s enthusiastic endorsement. Here’s what they said two years ago:

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.

We’ll know by mid-October if the work I’ve done since – on Carolina North, as a member of the Horace-William’s Citizen Committee sub-committee on environment, tracking and publicizing the landfill/transfer site problems on Rogers Road – will secure an endorsement in 2007.

Carolina North: The Next Neighborhood For Responsible Growth Forum

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

The NRG is sponsoring a follow up forum on Carolina North August 29th, 7-8:30pm at the Chapel Hill Library.

The CHPL meeting space is quite a bit tighter so get there early.


Direct link to June NRG forum.

Dear Fellow Citizens:

Please join us for a public meeting on Carolina North Wednesday night, August 29, from 7:00-8:30, in the large meeting room downstairs at the Chapel Hill Public Library. This meeting will focus on the political and
regulatory process surrounding Carolina North, and how citizens can effectively give input.

UNC will propose a plan for Carolina North this October. Come learn how you can act to achieve the outcome that is best for our community. Our panel will include Town Manager Roger Stancil, Planning Department Head
J.B. Culpepper, a Chapel Hill Town Council member, and citizens experienced in public action.

As at our June 4 forum sponsored by NRG, we plan to reserve a large amount of time for questions and discussion.

See you there!

-Mike Collins, co-chair, Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth

The earlier forum was well-attended, as it appears Carolina North is about to get started, I hope our fellow citizens attention is as well focused.

Carolina North: What The Board Heard

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

The July 31st Carolina North community outreach meeting was supposed to cover the same ground as last week’s presentation to UNC’s Board of Trustees. While Jack Evans might have presented the same material, my guess is the community’s reception was somewhat less excepting than the BOTs.

The 4pm session ran to 5:30 and was well attended by more than the “usual suspects”. I’ve attended every session on Carolina North these last few years but understand outside demands and the funky scheduling can make attending a burden so it was nice to see most every candidate – Cam, Sally, Jim, Penny – for Town Council show up.

Some of the answers to the community’s questions were quite telling – in a sense more informative than the session itself.

The disposition of Horace-Williams is going to influence the next 50 years of our Town’s development. We need leadership that is not only aware of the issues but can negotiate well on behalf of the citizenry.

Here’s the complete video I made of the session:

Towards the end of the video you might have some difficulty understanding the questions from folks in the upper bleachers but forge ahead as Jack Evans did a good job of reiterating and responding.

Carolina Innovation Center: Alexandria Equities, the Citizens Partner?

Friday, July 27th, 2007

At yesterday’s UNC Board of Trustees meeting, the Carolina Innovation Center took center stage when Carolina North’s quarterback Jack Evans confirmed it as the first step in Carolina North’s development.

The center will be sited upon the recently vacated Chapel Hill municipal facility.

Jack has written a Sunday column for the Chapel Hill News, a sneak peek which has been published on their OrangeChat ‘blog.

I will be responding to his Q&A in more detail once the column is published.

As part of preparing to respond, I was doing background research on Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc., the private partner in this private-public partnership. Alexandria, as this Triangle Business Journal report notes will OWN and manage the facility.

What kind of partner in this public endeavor would Alexandria be?

If their website is any indication, not so open:

TERMS OF USE

The www.labspace.com World Wide Web site (the “Site”) is a copyrighted work belonging to Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. (“Alexandria”) and its suppliers. Alexandria grants you the right to access and use the Site subject to the following terms and conditions (the “Terms of Use”). PLEASE READ THE TERMS OF USE CAREFULLY. BY ACCESSING THE SITE, YOU AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS BELOW. IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO BE BOUND BY THESE TERMS AND CONDITIONS, YOU MAY NOT ACCESS OR USE THIS SITE.

The FIRST thing one sees on the company’s website, http://www.labspace.com/, is their TERMS OF SERVICE asking you to bind yourself to their conditions.

If you read through the 1182 words, agree to the 12 legal clauses, you’re allowed in, bound, I guess, in virtual chains forged of legalese.

I’ve used the Internet before there was an Internet. I’ve learned a few things surfing the Web.

One thing I’ve learned? A company that throws legalistic mumbo-jumbo in your face and demands your acquiescence before entry is either woefully over-staffed with paranoid legal talent, in some kind of trouble, been burned by bad PR, has no sense of customer service or some kind of witches brew of all those reasons and more.

Maybe Alexandria just needs a ticket on the Cluetrain express?

Yes, there could be quite legitimate reasons for raising the Web wall but, at least based on this not so friendly “Howdy Do”, I have to wonder what kind of partner Alexandria will be….

Carolina North Forum: Another Perspective…The Video

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

June 4th, 2007, several local grassroot organizations sponsored a forum on Carolina North (Carolina North Forum: Another Perspective”).

It was an opportunity for folks within our community to ask questions and contribute suggestions on how best to address the challenges and potential rewards of UNC’s overflow campus.


Direct link to movie.

Mike Collins (pictured above with Julie McClintock), the Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth’s (NRG) “go to guy”, wrote a a nice column outlining that night’s goals for the Chapel Hill News

Imagine…

Imagine a thriving research community in the heart of Chapel Hill — a home for innovative technologies and business opportunities, a model of sustainability, self-sufficient, self-powered, a place of the future on a footprint small enough to preserve the surrounding 700 acres of woodlands and streams. One that merges seamlessly into the surrounding community, accessible by a number of transit modes, and with green spaces and amenities that draw citizens from everywhere.

Or…imagine a development the size of five Southpoint shopping malls, traditional buildings with massive parking lots, gridlock as people fill the roads on their way home to northern Orange, Alamance, and Chatham counties. Imagine more and more days with air pollution advisories. Imagine water shortages and increased taxes brought on by poor planning and lack of foresight.

I appreciate the following sponsoring organizations letting me lend a small hand to broadcast this interesting and informative forum to a wider audience.

Thank you.

Sponsors of the Carolina North forum included:

UNC BOT Chairman Perry: Carolina North “…before it’s too late”

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

They say history has a way of repeating itself.

The trustees, led by new chairman and Chapel Hill developer Roger Perry, are full steam ahead on the project. Final trustee approval is expected in September, with a plan to be submitted to the town by the end of October.

“The time of talking about Carolina North is over,” Perry said. “It is time to do something. It is time to get it on the ground before it is too late.”

N&O report from today’s UNC Board of Trustees meeting..

No more “time for talking”. Does that mean that the July 31st Carolina North community outreach meeting is just for show?

[UPDATE:]

As some of you know, I try to attend many of the local meetings that influence public policy. To date, I’ve been to most every Carolina North community outreach stretching back to 2005. I attended several of the UNC-LAC meetings and have watched those and the ones I missed. Arguably, UNC’s BOT meetings are as important to setting local policy – a shame that they don’t release a video or audio record of their deliberations.

I have had an opportunity to hear a little bit more about this morning’s BOT meeting and it seems that the N&O missed a little nuance.

It appears Roger Perry was asking the UNC staff to stop talking and start moving. I don’t know if that makes much of a difference in how that negatively affects community input – same effect, twice removed – but at least it is more polite than telling the community to shut up and go away.

Again, I wish I could’ve attended to hear the BOT for myself. I wish UNC would make a timely online record – including publishing minutes – available so folks like myself don’t have to wade through others interpretations.

[ORIGINAL]

Two years ago, when I proposed a framework for a more collaborative process between UNC and our community to work through Carolina North’s issues, several local political insiders told me I was naive and acting the fool.

Sure, I knew the history of our Town’s interactions with the University – that any discussion would have to involve five distinct parties – our local elected leadership, UNC’s Moeser administration, UNC’s Board of Trustees, local activists and Carolina North’s promoters. No doubt, that’s a lot of folks to corral.

A few months after the 2005 election, UNC did create a new framework – the UNC Leadership Advisory Committee (UNC LAC) – comprised of many, not all, of the community elements I had proposed. At that time I threw what little political capital I had behind the new UNC LAC process calling on our elected leadership to leave history behind and begin anew.

Enthusiasm didn’t equal abandonment of common sense. I was quick to point out (“Chafing: Prevention and Treatment”) when UNC started to fall back on old habits.

One of those old habits was UNC’s Board of Trustees proclivity derailing, at the last minute, the careful negotiations between UNC’s administration and our local governments.

Over the last year, the BOT did show a few symptoms of using the LAC process more as a public relations smokescreen than a new start on a truly collaborative process. For instance, when they introduced a surprising and disappointing fixed timeline before the LAC had completed their primary discussions.

Concern about the BOT was not limited to those longtime citizen watchdogs who have been participating in UNC’s new community outreach process. Jack Evans, UNC’s leader on Carolina North, has expressed his frustration with the BOT commenting one time that the Board wasn’t interested in reading a 15 page summary of the projects guiding principles.

UNC’s Board of Trustees was definitely a wild-card but the inclusion of BOT member Roger Perry was supposed to make sure there would be no surprises.

Then again, Roger Perry has tried to shut down discussion before, as I noted last September after this HeraldSun 09/27/06 report

UNC trustee and local developer Roger Perry said his sense was that UW-Madison officials essentially tell the community that the university’s mission requires it to do a certain project, and then everyone goes to work on preventing negative impacts, without trying to stop the project in general.

He said he’d like to get to that point in Chapel Hill, and that it can be somewhat “insulting” when someone not connected to UNC says they really aren’t convinced the university needs to do what it says it needs to do.

I said then

Roger Perry and the rest of UNC’s Board of Trustees absolutely must address the glaring absence of any reasonable, documented, calculable return on investment before I, a single North Carolina citizen taxpayer, will be convinced of the soundness of their plans.

So, as of today, UNC has approved a building design without producing solid documentation on the taxpaying publics return on their investment. We have a firm start date but little firm understanding of the local fiscal, environmental and transit impacts.

And, as some suspected, we have evidence that UNC’s Board of Trustees are not, possibly never were, interested in working through these key issues with community participation.

[UPDATE:]

Carolina North, when fully developed, will rival today’s Hillsborough in size. I believe it will loom larger in environmental, social and economic terms.

Finally, as far as Roger, from what I’ve observed he is a patient man. Developers often are. If he’s frustrated with the pace, well, that’s forgivable. To use his new role to make haste, though, to an endpoint yet determined, well, that is neither prudent or supportable.

Carolina North: Not So Innovative Location for the Innovation Center?

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

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.
(more…)

Carolina North: What Next?

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

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.

Carolina North Forum: Another Perspective

Monday, June 4th, 2007

Local activists Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth are holding a forum this evening to discuss their and other local folks views of UNC’s Carolina North project:

In cooperation with a series of sponsors and collaborators, NRG will host a community forum on Carolina North, the proposed UNC research campus planned for the Horace Williams tract in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. The forum will take place the evening of June 4, 2007, at the Chapel Hill Town Council Chambers at 7:00 p.m. Forum topics will include a review of the most recent discussions and developments, and what these might mean for our community. Our panel will consist of community leaders who have been involved in the Leadership Advisory Committee discussions and other activities concerning this issue. The forum will include presentations from the panel and a question and answer session for citizens.

Click here for forum details.

Groups sponsoring tonight’s forum include:

What? No Chamber of Commerce sustainability folks?

Mike Collins, the NRG’s “go to guy” wrote a column on tonight’s event for the Chapel Hill News

Imagine…

Imagine a thriving research community in the heart of Chapel Hill — a home for innovative technologies and business opportunities, a model of sustainability, self-sufficient, self-powered, a place of the future on a footprint small enough to preserve the surrounding 700 acres of woodlands and streams. One that merges seamlessly into the surrounding community, accessible by a number of transit modes, and with green spaces and amenities that draw citizens from everywhere.

Or…imagine a development the size of five Southpoint shopping malls, traditional buildings with massive parking lots, gridlock as people fill the roads on their way home to northern Orange, Alamance, and Chatham counties. Imagine more and more days with air pollution advisories. Imagine water shortages and increased taxes brought on by poor planning and lack of foresight.

There’s a fairly developed thread discussing the forum, its participants and other ephemera over here on OrangePolitics.

This will be a great opportunity to hear different perspectives on Carolina North.

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