December 2006

I’ve been interested in the World War II Japanese Internment travesty since I learned of it as a near tot. Living in Chapel Hill I’ve had the chance to know some interesting folks, Eric Muller for one.

Eric, self-publisher and UNC Law professor is an internment expert. He often posts his research on that, the Holocaust and other WWII related issues over on Fascinating, if at times disturbing, reading.

Today he’s talking Dec. 7th, 1941 and the trail of bread crumbs leading up to the foreseen attack on Pearl Harbor and the collateral damage it caused the Japanese-American community.

Ouch! Obviously stung by Council member Jim Wards comment about “switch-n-baiting”, RAM Development’s VP Casey Cummings delivered a death blow to Council’s request for affordable condo fees for the affordable housing units and a commitment to energy efficiency.


Both requests seem quite reasonable.

What use is it for the Land Trust to “sell” a condo to an affordable housing applicant just to have them priced out by condo and parking fees?

On the energy front, as former OWASA board member Terri Buckner notes over on OrangePolitics

Not a single citizen speaking at last night’s hearing or at the first public hearing on Lot 5 challenged the Council to ensure energy efficiency. There seemed to be an assumption that “LEED certified” means the development will be energy efficient. However, LEED certified is the lowest level of LEED and even at Platinum status there is no assurance that a LEED building will be energy efficient. To get around that problem, the state of North Carolina has adopted ASHRAE 90.1 for all state constructed buildings.

Chapel Hill is not willing to meet the same requirements as NC State? Dang, we usually lead the State in environmental initiative.

As far as “bait-n-switch”, RAM was challenged last year on their original rosy financial projections. Were they knowingly over promising expecting to under deliver to get the deal?

In the most stark example, Grubb’s financing model would produce a 21.77 percent return on its $10.5 million investment in condominiums on the Wallace Deck site. Ram sees only a 2.98 percent return on its $23 million investment there.

“If they’re willing to do it for that,” Harris said, “God bless ‘em.”

Even if the company wanted to, Grubb couldn’t make a counteroffer, Stainback said, explaining that the proposals are considered “best and final offers.”

Two council members asked Cummings whether Ram’s financial model was too good to be true.

He said no projection ever is exactly right but that his company hopes to ride the growing trend of people returning to downtown.

After the meeting, Ivy Greaner, Ram’s managing partner, said the profit margins are healthy enough to sustain the project.

But Ram also is seeking a foothold in North Carolina. The company is willing to make less money in Chapel Hill to get a centerpiece project in the Triangle.

“This is a special town,” Greaner said, in a suitor’s tone. “We love Chapel Hill.”


Town investment up 15-fold. Value of the property discounted. Property moving from public to private hands. I understand Jim Wards sentiments.

Earlier this year, I asked the Carolina North Leadership Advisory committee to do an environmental assay of the highest caliber. It will be interesting to see this phase of Biohabitats’ research.

And kudos to UNC for scheduling two (2) sessions to accommodate the public. Yes, they’re both on the same day 😉 but progress all the same. Well done Linda and crew…

Subject: Carolina North Community Meeting, December 13

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Many of you have expressed interest in Carolina North. I am writing to invite you to a review of the draft ecological assessment recently completed as part of the discovery phase of our planning process.

Chancellor Moeser has said that Carolina North will be a model of sustainability. As one of the first steps to that goal, Biohabitats, Inc. has produced an ecological assessment to inform our planning. We are eager to get your input to help us shape effective plans for sustainable development at Carolina North.

To accommodate different schedules, we will hold two sessions. The information reviewed at both will be the same so attend whichever is most convenient for you.

Both sessions will be on Wednesday, December 13th in room 2603 of the School of Government:

3:00 – 5:00 PM. Parking available in either the Hwy 54 Visitor Lot or n the Rams Head deck.
6:00 – 8:00 PM. Parking available in the School of Government parking deck.

Information on transit service to the School of Government is below.

If you are a neighborhood or community contact, please forward this to your group as well as any others who may be interested. We hope for extensive participation from the community. My apologies in advance to those who may receive duplicate emails.

Although an RSVP is not required, it would help with meeting logistics if you would contact Tiffany Clarke at If you have questions about the review session content, please contact Mary
Jane Felgenhauer at

For Carolina North information, visit our web site at <> . To learn more about our current planning efforts and our consulting team, click on Technical Workshops.

As always, please feel free to contact me if you would like more information. We know there is great community interest in Carolina North and look forward to working with you at this early stage.



The School of Government is served by numerous bus routes, including the FCX, HU, V. S and the RU. The U and G are available for the early session only. Please check the Chapel Hill Transit site at <> for details.

Linda Convissor
Director of Local Relations
CB# 6225

We lost that argument when we passed parking lot#5 as designed.

One of the chief criticisms of the new Downtown Development Initiative (DDI) is that the Lot 5 building is setting a poor precedent for what is yet to come…


Councilmember Jim Ward tried to put the brakes on Council’s pellmell acceptance of “the new deal”. Failing that, he went ahead and proffered a friendly amendment to not only require LEED Silver certification but to meet NC State’s governmental building standards with the ASHRAE 90.1 %20 energy efficiency requirement.

Councilmembers Strom and Kleinschmidt, working against character and on behalf of “the deal”, watered down Jim’s request leaving RAM Development’s VP Cummings to deliver the final smack-down.

In spite of those environmental, financial and social concerns, Council went ahead and approved the next, and probably final, stage of the project.

Not more than an hour later, during a discussion of UNC’s requested modifications to their development plan #3, Chapel Hill Councilmember Jim Ward aptly describe the fallout from setting that precedent.

Now is not the time, it was about three agenda items ago was the time. You just..and others…just said fine with parking lot #5, which is going to have no energy savings. I think we lose our credibility when we pass that and say, “you guys have to do better than us” but our project is fine – it’s so SOP [standard operating procedure].

I don’t think we have any credibility…put your money where your mouth is…

We lost that argument when we passed parking lot#5 as designed.

Thanks Jim, I know it was tough getting crushed by the Lot 5 Jagannath.

There’s been a small discussion over on SqueezeThePulp about the declining efficacy of local media outlets in covering our community. I suggested that new media outlets will soon move into this long fallow territory – intensively covering local events – to the possible detriment of traditional news outlets.

It appears that Carrboro is the center (once again) of local innovation.

Monday, the Carrboro Commons launched to fill the gap:

As we launch the Carrboro Commons today, we too feel the need for an introduction — sort of a 5W’s on us: the who, what, why, where, when and how.

In short, we are a new newspaper blog for this special place. Whether you call it “the Paris of the Piedmont,” “The People’s Republic of Carrboro,” “Karmaboro,” or just plain old Carrboro, if you’re a resident, you know that Carrboro is unique. And with apologies to Stephen Colbert, compared to Chapel Hill, we think Carrboro is “uniquer.”

That’s why we believe that Carrboro is an under-served media population. From everything Carrboro folk are telling us, this is a town that needs, wants and deserves a quality news, feature and A&E source.

More via the inimitable Paul Jones.

Got this interesting article today from Consumer’s Union:

…analysis of fresh, whole broilers bought nationwide revealed that 83 percent harbored campylobacter or salmonella, the leading bacterial causes of foodborne disease.

That’s a stunning increase from 2003, when we reported finding that 49 percent tested positive for one or both pathogens. Leading chicken producers have stabilized the incidence of salmonella, but spiral-shaped campylobacter has wriggled onto more chickens than ever. And although the U.S. Department of Agriculture tests chickens for salmonella against a federal standard, it has not set a standard for campylobacter.

Our results show there should be. More than ever, it’s up to consumers to make sure they protect themselves by cooking chicken to at least 165° F and guarding against ­cross-contamination.

Chicken is my dominant source of protein (had a great Elmo’s chicken hoagie, in fact, this evening). I like BBQ, hamburgers, steak but really can’t replace my chicken intake with comparable amounts of beef. And then there’s Mad Cow (which I’m sure a few folks are already convinced I have…).

At home I’m not worried. We buy local, and, in any case, Ellie will nail those bugs.

What about my regular restaurant rotation? Fear Mediterranean Deli’s chicken souvlaki or Bad-a-Wings great boneless chicken wings?

I went to this evening’s Council meeting fully expecting to be steamrolled.

Yes, the negotiation team has worked years on “a deal” but not “the deal”. Since Nov. 20th, no real new details have been forthcoming.

I’ll be posting the video of tonight’s action tomorrow, so I’ll reserve detailed critiques until then…

Just a few quick comments, then:

  • Jim Ward’s description of how his “love was lost”, switch-n-bait and his solid reasons for opposition
  • Bill Strom and Mark Kleinschmidt watering down an amendment to the resolution to hold the the Town and its partner, RAM development, to the same energy efficiency requirements as we’re asking UNC to…
  • Laurin Easthom’s itemized list and request for specificity. Other Council members “response” to her request…
  • RAM’s VP Cummings shooting down reasonable condo fees for affordable housing and Leeds Silver + %20 energy efficiency
  • Mark K.’s remarks that paying reduced fees will make folks feel like second class citizens. Heck, if I made the commitment to move my family into a 850′ unit in what will generally be an expensive place to live, I’d be happy to deal with the tension of paying affordable condo fees.
  • The comment that the negotiations haven’t been rushed. True enough. Rushed has been the education and time for citizens to digest this radical right turn.

This is the first major issue I’ve come out against folks – Cam, Sally, Bill – that I’ve strongly endorsed in the past. The experience has been interesting….

For anyone interested, here’s the latest datasets for my Powerpoint (ugh!) presentation:

I’ve already tweaked the elevations again in GE using altitude. I believe I’m either going to have to go back to 3DS to fine tune the data or import the same topology that the model was developed against into GoogleEarth (GE).

I believe the Planning Department (Gordon Sutherland and company) might have better models of Granville Towers. Mine are envelopes of the actual structure, height based on the testimony of RAM’s designer (who provide comparable elevations for Granville, University Square, NCNB Plaza).

Also, I understand that the Mar. 2006 RAM Development Planning documents included a 3DS model of their development. When I get my hands on that, I’ll go ahead and update the Downtown.

Please feel free to use the material. If you should get the topology %100 before I do, please send me a copy ( campaign AT ).

The Downtown Development Initiative is a steamroller (in more ways then one). Check out this summary of comments from Nov. 20th’s public hearing. A little light and less nuanced than the opposition comments I recall. Good thing there’s a video record on-line.

So why introduce the following bias?

Potential Advantages of the Project

-Mixed use adds life to downtown
-Residents downtown year-round desirable
-Will stimulate other private development
-Residential development is the key to revitalization
-Will visit cultural facilities, businesses, increase tourist dollars
-Need diversity of pubic spaces and flexibility for uses
-Proposal could be a model for other developers
-Project embodies sustainability principles: economic, environmental, social
-Improves quality of life
-Reduces dependence on automobile
-Improves ability to work where live
-Helps prevent sprawl and retain rural buffer
-Removes surface parking
-Provides significant public open space
-Improves tax base
-Commend LEED certification and energy efficiency
-Improves public safety downtown
-Provides affordable housing
-Consistent with Downtown Small Area Plan
-Is right place for a taller building
-Downtown needs a multiple use center to attract people
-Quality of the design is high
-Public art will be center stage
-Supports vibrant, walkable, liveable community
-Economically a good deal for the Town
-Indirect public benefits make deal even better
-It is the right place for the project; keeps out of neighborhoods
-Will provide more people downtown to sustain retail downtown uses
-If we want to retain the rural buffer, we need more density in Town of Chapel Hill
-Thanks for keeping the affordable housing in the proposal

Concerns Noted Regarding the Project

-Make design fit in with Chapel Hill
-Financial risk too great for the Town
-Wrong place for this development; put in neighborhoods?
-Ruins spirit of Chapel Hill
-Principle of revenue neutral investment not being met
-Take more time to consider project
-Latest “magic bullet” that will not improve quality of life
-Will units be quiet and have firewall construction?
-Will it be family housing?
-Incorporate solar technology and be a model for energy conservation
-Is commitment to local businesses being met?
-What happens if the developer goes bankrupt?
-99-year lease is too long
-Buyout of rights in 50 years could be a concern for Town down the road
-Make sure underground parking is well-lit
-Make sure condominium association dues are reasonable for the affordable units

More questions about the Town’s and RAM’s Lot 5 development (DDI) plan?

Well, there’s been a dearth of specifics, so there should be a wealth of questions.

Add to the throng of “those who want to know” Council member Laurin Easthom.

With tonight’s pre-vote presentation on DDI looming (not a public forum)), Easthom weighs in with her questions in what is the most public analysis by one of our elected officials of the “new” RAM development deal.

She’s not against development but is looking for solid answers to questions that should’ve been answered over the days since Nov. 20th:

There undoubtedly has been much written and discussed about the redevelopment of Parking Lot Number 5. Here are my feelings. I think that redevelopment of this site for residential and commercial use is important for being an impetus for more good redevelopment downtown in the future.

More here.

The Town’s stale site (as of 12/04/06) on the Downtown Development Initiative (DDI).

Lot #5 Downtown Development RAM building design based on Nov. 20th public hearing proposal . The model is in proportion and the proper height. It wasn’t until I laid out the model that I realized how large a beast we have here…

Looking North towards Lot 5 Dec2

Lot 5 Hovering above Baptist Church Steeple Dec2


Making some progress on a GoogleEarth visualization of downtown.

Here’s some data if you want to either visualize Chapel Hill within GoogleEarth or want to start fresh with a re-import. Small caveat on the GoogleEarth import – don’t turn on the terrain as I still need to tweak the elevations to get the right output.

If anyone manages to adjust the terrain before Sunday, please consider routing the changes back my way….



Hope to have Granville Towers and RAM’s Lot 5 proposal by Sunday. And, with any luck, a decent flyby to demonstrate the visual impact of the 104′ leviathan.

I believed the Town’s web site covering the Downtown Development Initiative would be updated after Nov. 20th’s public forum. After ten days, I finally sent in a formal request.

Here is Town Manager Stancil’s response:

Dear Mr. Raymond:

Thank you for our email message at 10:49 am on Dec. 1 to the Manager, Mayor and Town Council in which you requested that we “publish the remaining reports, discussions notes, comments, etc. that went into forming the “new deal” over the Summer”.

To the extent that there are documents related to the negotiations that took place this past summer which are public records under North Carolina law, we will be pleased to make them available for copying.

We are in the process of reviewing the staff files to determine what materials are public records and can now be released. However, it will not be possible to complete this work and determine what documents can be provided until next week.

Your message also states that “the final deal is set and the public still doesn’t have those details.” As the Agenda materials for the Council’s Dec. 4 meeting indicate, the Council is being asked to consider whether to authorize the completion of a Development Agreement to be brought back for the Council’s consideration in early 2007.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Roger Stancil

Town Manager

Thank you Roger for getting back before close of business.

CitizenWill readers, I apologize for not moving more quickly on my request for further information.

This Monday (Dec. 4th), Council will take up the composition the Roger Road Area Task Force, I posted on earlier, and the possible future annexation of the eastern side of Rogers Rd.

If you’re interested in working with the Rogers Road community to correct these longstanding problems, Monday would be a great time to turn out and let your views be heard.

Click images to expand.

This is still very raw, but I thought I’d put out this demo to stir some thought within the community. Visualization tools like GoogleEarth (GE) can help remove some of the difficulty in assessing the visual impact of new development.

Our town’s planning department has the raw data needed to create a GoogleEarth representation of our town which I plan to massage and then release into the public domain for other citizens to elaborate on.

Why GoogleEarth?

While GE is a proprietary tool, the datasets it uses are exportable. So, Google owns the tool, not the data.

Our planning department should be creating GE or NASA Wind World representations of Chapel Hill as a matter of course – it would help both them and the community create a common visual-based framework for development discussions.

The free and OSS tools used:

GE has a movie making module but that requires an upgrade to GE Pro at $400 per year (not quite ready for that…)

The Rogers Road community has taken it in the chin for way too long. The promises extended these residents when the landfill expanded into their backyards have never really been fulfilled. Decades old problems with sewage and other infrastructure continue to persist.

Finally, a structured process is being developed to deal with some of Chapel Hillian’s closest neighbors:

11/30/2006 — The public is invited to an open house from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, at the Faith Tabernacle Oasis of Love located at 8005 Rogers Road to discuss planning for the Rogers Road area.

In the coming months, the Town of Chapel Hill will launch the discussion to begin the process of drafting the Rogers Road Small Area Plan, which is expected to involve intensive community participation. The plan would provide a vision and guidelines for the future development of the area, including the Greene Tract, and take a detailed look at the impacts of providing public services, especially sewer, and of developing an affordable housing site.

The Greene Tract is jointly owned by Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County. In 2002 the Chapel Hill Town Council adopted a concept plan for the Greene Tract which stipulated that about 18 acres of the 170 acres in the Greene Tract would be set aside for affordable housing and about 86 acres would be set aside for open space.

The Chapel Hill Town Council is soliciting residents to serve on the Rogers Road Small Area Plan Task Force. The composition of the task force, to be approved by the Chapel Hill Town Council, will include residents from the Rogers Road area, elected officials from Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County, non-profit housing representatives, and other citizens of the greater community.

Planners anticipate that the Town Council will appoint members to the task force in January 2007, with the first meeting to be held shortly thereafter. The process to develop the Rogers Road Small Area Plan may take approximately 17 months to two years. Residents interested in serving on the task force are encouraged to call the Chapel Hill Planning Department.

Anyone unable to attend the open house may contact the Town of Chapel Hill Planning Department to express their views, to gather more information, or to apply to serve on the task force.

Contact Frost Rollins at (919) 968-2728 or e-mail

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