July 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:


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….

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.

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 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:

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?


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.


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.


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.

There’s a thread over on OrangePolitics (“Historic Rogers Road Community Enhancement Plan Development and Monitoring Task Force “) covering the historic ills and vexations of the Rogers Road community.

I plan to discuss some of the comments in a future post but couldn’t pass up this request by Rev. Robert Campbell (who, thankfully, has recently joined that forum to bring his 34 years of Rogers Road experience to the local ‘blog-o-spheres attention).

The Faith Tabernacle Church will have its Back to School Bash on 08-11-07. We give out school supplies to school age children on this date. Drop off your donations at 8005 Rogers Road to show your support to unify this community as well as Orange County for this back to [school] bash is for [all] no matter where you are from.

Love can go far.

Robert Campbell

As this recent Carrboro Citizen article (” Be it further resolved”) by Taylor Sisk reveals, Rev. Campbell is neither a stranger to the Rogers Road community

The sanctuary of the Faith Tabernacle Oasis of Love Church is certainly no refuge for Robert Campbell. Outreach is his calling. For 34 years, Rev. Campbell has been ministering to the needs of a finely knit community on and around Rogers Road of, as Campbell observes, “many faces, many skills.”

or a weak advocate for their cause

Campbell quickly became active in the community. He recalls that things “really escalated in the latter part of the ‘80s, right on into the middle part of the ‘90s, when they really began to start searching for another place to put a landfill, and we spent countless hours negotiating with the politicians—right here in this sanctuary. We had it set up where you had community members that were part of a fact-finding group that came up with ideas, that came up with things that the neighborhood wanted done.”

Tonight, responding to a series of comments, Rev. Campbell provided some context and then suggested how the Chapel Hill/Carrboro community can pitch in to help their neighbors (Rev. Campbell is new to this, I edited his comments slightly for clarity):

We do many things out on Rogers Road promoting the good will of this community. We do not sit back and do nothing.

The good neighbor program has not worked for this part of Chapel Hill. Rather all government agents have over looked this area when it comes to enhancement. Took pave roads some twenty plus years to come to this community. Municipal water – I will go as far as to say the municipality dropped the ball when Robert’s Assocation did the first development in this community.

Someone looked the other way – no water, no sewage, no sidewalks, no real insight for the future. And we are still making excuses. Let us do the right thing now. Let us help make Orange County a better place.

We are to be our brother keeper. Let us look one another in deed, let us be doers of the word and not just hearers and talkers. Let us work together.

With this said, the Faith Tabernacle Church will have its Back to School Bash on 08-11-07. We give out school supplies to school age children on this date. Drop off your donations at 8005 Rogers Road to show your support to unify this community as well as Orange County for this back to [school] bash is for [all] no matter where you are from.

Love can go far.

Robert Campbell
919 -933-6210
1711 Purefoy Dr.
Chapel Hill N.C. ,27516

Simple. Straightforward. Practical. I like it and, after a quick check with Robert to see what is needed most (the results I’ll post here), will be dropping some supplies by soon.

Unedited version follows:

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.

Following up on my post “Election 2007: Early Voting on the Move”, BOE Director Barry Garner responded with lightning speed to my request for further information:

Nothing has been decided yet however the Seymour Senior Center is an option. The board will meet on August 7, 2007 to discuss this. UNC has offered us the student union to hold one-stop early voting but my board was split on the decision at the last meeting. Since the last meeting, we have two new board members so I will have to present to options to them again.

I do not think I can justify the cost of having two sites in Chapel Hill for the municipal election. It is not our goal to undercut the GOTV efforts, however we must find a place that is accessible to all citizens of Orange County.

Due to our current voting equipment, we are unable to have super precincts. Our voting equipment PCMCIA cards can only hold 10 ballot styles and 10 precincts therefore we cannot hold super precincts until the technology is updated.

Encouraging news on the early voting front. A bit disappointing on the super-precinct issue.

Last year I went to Hillsborough to evaluate, from both the technical and “small d” democracy angles, the new models of voting equipment our county was thinking of buying (“May 2nd: Don’t Fear the Reaper, Get Out and Vote”).

I sketched out the composition of precincts in Chapel Hill/Carrboro to the salesman. Would their optical scan equipment would support a super-precinct covering those precincts? No problem, he said.

Maybe we needed to buy the super-deluxe package? In any case, I’ve offered to provide some rabble rousing to get the necessary funds to upgrade the equipment to support a super-precinct for UNC students. If you would like to join the “villagers with pitchforks”, here’s how to contact our local BOE:

Email Director of Elections Barry Garner here.

Or call or mail.

Board of Elections
110 E. King St
P.O. Box 220
Hillsborough, North Carolina 27278

Telephone: (919) 245-2350
Fax Number: 919-644-3318

Orange County Commissioner Mike Nelson reports that:

I have just been told that the Director of the Orange County Board of Elections is recommending that the one-stop, early voting site in Chapel Hill be moved from UNC to the Senior Center.

I’ll be checking into this. If true, this decision needs to be revisited. In the recent past, the UNC site has been extraordinarily popular with students, staff and folks who live and work near downtown Chapel Hill. It would be a real shame to make it harder for these folks to vote.

Mike, it would be more than a shame.

Since the early ’90’s I’ve concentrated my Get Out The Vote (GOTV) efforts on campus and the student population (not always so successful as evidenced by the municipal turnouts in ’99, ’01, ’03, ’05). The Morehead Planetarium has been a great location servicing not only the student community but folks working/living on and around campus.

The polling location at Morehead won’t be available due to construction but surely the Board of Elections and UNC can work out an alternative – maybe the lobby of UNC’s Memorial Hall? Besides being centrally located, like Morehead Planetarium, most everyone knows where Memorial Hall is located, some parking is available and folks working Downtown will still have easy access.

If not Memorial Hall, maybe the Student Center, the dining hall or some other public and well-trafficked area.

Unfortunately, the campus super-precinct I’ve long lobbied for will not be available this year either. Another shame it seems as if the bulk of my pre-election GOTV effort goes into identifying which of many precincts a person has to vote at…

The Elections Board

  • Billie J. Cox – Chair
  • Henry (Hank) Elkins, Jr. – Secretary
  • John J. Felten – Member

will be meeting next Tuesday, 4pm 4:00 pm at the board of election office 110 E. King Street in Hillsborough [MAP]
if you would like to personally weigh in.

You can contact Director of Elections Barry Garner here.

Or call or mail.

BOE contact information:

Board of Elections
110 E. King St
P.O. Box 220
Hillsborough, North Carolina 27278

Telephone: (919) 245-2350
Fax Number: 919-644-3318

Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Two years ago I ran for Town Council on a platform emphasizing innovation, creativity, responsibility and community involvement ( Campaign 2005 ). In the two years since, I’ve continued to participate in local affairs – praising the good and working to prevent the bad in process and policy.

But today’s campaign platform, like that of two years ago, isn’t built on correcting our current Council’s mistakes but upon a foundation of specific, measurable, verifiable measures to enhance our residents future and preserve the charm that has made Chapel Hill a “Southern Part of Heaven”.

Why run? As a member of several Town advisory boards, a close observer of our governmental process and an activist interested in improving upon our Town’s successes, I have become more and more concerned as our leadership strayed from some bedrock principles of good governance.

As a member of Council, I will promote policies that speed the wheels of progress, that increase the level of citizen participation and that will set a new course for Chapel Hill’s Council.

What, specifically?

In the next four years I will work hard to make sure our Town’s fiscal policy doesn’t continue to be dictated by political expediency. Transparency, openness and inclusiveness will be first and foremost in developing our Town’s budget.

We can’t borrow from tomorrow’s seed corn to pay today’s debt. We can’t dip into our children’s college fund because we’re not willing to tighten our belts. We must build our financial foundations on sturdier grounds than the expectation that next year will always be better than this year – that housing values will forever escalate, that sales tax surprises are right around the corner.

We are entrusted with our citizen’s hard-won dollars, not “units” to be extracted as needed, and every action we take must reflect that recognition. When we negotiate and then take on a new burden on our citizens behalf we owe them a regular and accurate accounting. We should err on the side of caution and not become so obsessed with grand dreams so as to dispense with good sense and good policy.

Affordable housing should mean housing – square footage on the ground. We cannot continue our Town’s addiction to payments in lieu. We must be prepared to accept housing when it becomes available – to be nimble and flexible in adapting to current conditions.

And while affordable housing is important, affordable living must be our first and foremost goal.

Our town has adopted policies that are driving diversity from our community. In our rush to support gold-plated condos and a caviar lifestyle we’ve forgotten that our Town’s historical constitution and strength is born of a wide cross-section of interests and means.

Affordable living necessitates policies that encourage folks to stay awhile. We need a new attitude that supports our long term residents in keeping their homes and our newest residents in their desire to move from transitional housing to homes.

Leadership does not mean going it alone. Our community is blessed by many resources, our citizens being a source of strength and talent we cannot continue to ignore. We must not wait for them to come forth but nurture their involvement – and take their counsel even when it goes against our initial impetus.

Finally, when we call on others to do what’s best – environmentally, social justice, human services – we must lead by example and not resort to “do as I say, not as I do”.

Why boot the incumbents?

In the last 18 months, we’ve seen some of our Council become so enamored, even obsessed, with their Downtown development plans, that they’ve wavered from their obligation to maintain our Town’s sound fiscal foundations.

Delay is a matter of course for this Council. Just two weeks ago the Council received an independently conducted technology assessment that called for a number of innovative, cost reducing, improvements that I, other concerned citizens and our now disbanded citizen-led Technology Advisory Board had made more than 5 years ago.

And rather than make key structural and organizational changes in the way our Town functions, they pushed off to tomorrow what needs to be done today.

As we know, delay costs. In some cases, delay costs dearly.

Over the last few years, while the Council has maintained their policy of citizen comment on the issues before them, they have become partially deaf to critiques of their plans. Nothing sounds so sweet as the chorus of “yes, yes, yes” but paying attention to the “nayes” can strengthen any policy. Add to that recent examples of political gamesmanship and imprudent streamlining of public hearings to see how citizen discourse and debate has taken a backseat to winning their way. Public policy has suffered.

Though potentially ego bruising, integrating citizen feedback can only make our government work better.

Beyond ignoring professional assessments from the professors of UNC’s Kenan-Flagler business school on the Lot #5 development debacle, this Council has stood quietly by while the Mayor dispensed with the Horace-Williams Citizen Committee (HWCC). The HWCC, of which I was a member, stood poised to make additional, substantive, contributions, from am informed citizens perspective, on UNC’s Carolina North project.

Some Council members appeared worried, that they couldn’t control the outcome of this committee’s work.

Certainly an independent and non-political analysis might yield answers that this Council didn’t want to hear but, again, that leads to poor results. Results, for instance, like the Lot #5 money-pit, underwritten by our residents, carrying a quickly escalating citizen borne commitment of $20 million – a project whose primary beneficiary is a private development company.

Yes, the Council does sometime listen. Candidate Hill took my suggestion to make Lot #5’s affordable housing more family friendly and ran with it. And the Council, after years of lobbying by folks like myself, did decide to invest in community-owned networking infrastructure to meet the economic and social demands of a new century. Yet, in-spite of assurances to the contrary, they have yet to involve the community in this vital community serving project.

What of the Downtown Parking Task Force, on which I served? Trying to resolve some of the parking misery in our Downtown district, this committee did some of the best work I’ve ever seen any board perform over the 7 years I’ve closely participated in Town affairs. Members of this task force were eager to continue – to help with the implementation of a number of no-cost or low-cost improvements to make our Town center more inviting, more friendly.

While this groups practical advice was put aside (for now we hear), the committee’s recommendations to reduce the cost of parking became, perversely, a call to raise parking rates Downtown.

“What’s the matter with raising prices by ‘two units’?” as one Council member asked. “Units”, it appears, is how the current Council sees our citizens and visitors hard-earned dollars.

Again, political gamesmanship, closing ranks, trying to bolster this year’s incumbent candidates prospects, overrode good and fair public policy. At least the work of that committee hasn’t been added, as one long time resident and board participant commented, to the “stack of dusty reports” generated by our advisory boards that litter Townhall.

One incumbent Councilmember, Bill Strom, recently complained that he couldn’t work with the Orange County Board of Commissioners to set policy.

He has had eight years to work on that issue, and so many more, how would eight more years of Bill or four more of Cam and Sally, benefit our community? I expect a flurry of proposals this Summer from our incumbents and my question to them will be simply “Why are we just now hearing about this? Why wait?”

The trend is set. These few of many examples show a Council that has lost their way.

Over the next few months I look forward to, once again, meeting with our citizenry, to discuss how our Town can maintain its charm while becoming not only an even better place to live but a sustainable, growing, vital and creative community that will lead others by example.

[UPDATE:] As one reader notes, I’ve also created content hosted elsewhere, notably on youTube and Google Video.

Content includes the Weaver St. lawn dance protest, a “fly by” animation of what the Town’s Lot $$$5 downtown development debacle, the District 15B Superior Court forums and Rev. Campbell on the Rogers Road trash transfer station issue.

I’m particularly fond of this post (“Downtown Development Initiative: The Debate”) covering a veritable “who’s who” of interested parties supporting or criticizing the Lot $$$5 development effort.

Want to hear how not to negotiate on behalf of the citizenry? I published the sounds of seduction in this post – “Downtown Development Initiative: Listen and Learn How Negotiations Went Awry”.


The number of new visitors to CitizenWill.org has ramped up of late (maybe because I’ve had time to post again?).

For folks new to this ‘blog I’ve added an improved archive page that will reveal, at a glance, what local, state and national topics I’ve covered these last two years.

Besides CitizenWill.org, I’ve maintained my 2005 Chapel Hill Town Council campaign site, the ironically named Will Raymond Stands and Delivers, and a personal ‘blog WillVerse.

I’ve even been a guest author on the local on-line political salon OrangePolitics.

There’s some overlap between various incarnations, though each has a variety of unique postings.

Over the next week or two I will be tinkering with the innards of each to upgrade the plumbing and freshen the look. In the end it will be the same content, different wrapper. I expect the %40 (and growing) number of folks subscribed via RSS will not even notice.

Town information officer Catherine Lazorko opened up the flood gates today not only quickly responding to my request for the draft economic strategy report (Not Just Real-Estate: Chapel Hill’s Draft Economic Development Report) but this follow-up report on the meeting with the Council sub-committee on economic development.

TO: Roger Stancil, Town Manager
FROM: Dwight Bassett, Economic Development Officer
DATE: July 18, 2007
SUBJECT: Quick Report – Council Committee on Economic Development – July 17, 2007

The Council Committee on Economic Development met with the town manager and economic development officer to discuss existing goals and the proposed economic development strategy and objectives for Chapel Hill. Attending committee members were Mayor pro tem Bill Strom, Council Members Mark Kleinschmidt, Ed Harrison, and Jim Ward. Staff members present were Town Manager Roger Stancil and Economic Development Officer Dwight Bassett.

I presented copies of economic development strategies from other communities relevant to Chapel Hill. The plans included Clemson, SC (college town); Austin, TX (sustainability); Blacktown, Australia (general framework); and Toronto, Ontario (focused quality and knowledge economy).

Having familiarized myself with the Town’s current planning documents, I have concluded that there is need for a framed retail market analysis which shows leakage, weaknesses and regional market gaps in terms of population centers. Discussion centered on this need and how this can be accomplished without creating a new demand for retail development by national chains, and how we might frame this for local business development.

I presented the Committee members current goals for economic development from the Comprehensive Plan and other documents as well as a draft of an Economic Development Strategy Statement and proposed goals. Committee members requested that these goals should include wording about being proactive, nurturing development, green development, sustainability, diversity, and locally-owned businesses.

Questions were raised about how the Town can help create more opportunities for locally-owned businesses. I suggested adding that to the market study, or creating an additional study through the Small Business and Technology Development Center in conjunction with UNC. There are barriers to developing local businesses which need to be identified and overcome.
The Committee requested that I give information about the boundaries of economic development at a future meeting so that priorities could be discussed.

The Committee plans to meet again at the end of August to begin finalizing this Statement and Objectives.

The discussion of national chains is what must’ve prompted Councilmember Mark Kleinschmidt’s “involuntary scowl” (H-S).

Isn’t Trader Joes a national chain? Folks round Chapel Hill are going nuts waiting for their new Eastgate location to open.

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.

First we have the N&O’s local property, The Chapel Hill News, jumping on-board the new media train – with video, their OrangeChat ‘blog – maybe in response to some citizen efforts and new outlets like the Carrboro Citizen.

Now, the N&O’s Leah Friedman takes it to the next level, reporting a scant 3 hours (3:05pm to be exact) after the Cindy Sheehan event with audio and video to boot!

Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan stopped in Carrboro today and had lunch with about a dozen supporters and Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton.

Sheehan was invited to Carrboro by the Grassroots Impeachment Movement or GRIM, which wants to impeach President Bush and Vice President Cheney. The group dined at Panzanella, known for its use of local ingredients.

“I’m holding elected officials accountable,” Sheehan said to a horde of media before she sat down for lunch.

Audio, video and still photographs here. Well done Leah.

The tools of new media journalism, to wit a video capable digital camera, are cheap and effective and should be part of any newsprint journalist arsenal.

By the way, the Carrboro Citizen’s Kirk Ross weighed in at 12:52pm, just 13 minutes after CitizenWill did.

I hope they cover this year’s elections in a similar fashion.

Where is the Herald-Sun? Falling further and further behind…

Chad Johnston just posted this over on OrangePolitics.org about this weekend’s Peoples Channel fundraiser (July 21st, Horace-William’s House, 6-8pm):

Hey folks,

Just wanted to give an update on this really cool event! Food and drink will be provided by:

  • Benjamin Vineyard, Anathoth Community Garden from Cedar Grove,
  • Cane Creek Farm Pork,
  • Yugela’s treats,
  • Matthew’s artisan chocolates,
  • Sari Sari Sweets,
  • The Farmer’s Daughter,
  • Curryblossom Creations (Vimala’s food) [Vimala’s food!!!! Absolutely delightful Indian].

Now if food wasn’t enough to entice you, check this out!

Local artist Tama Hochbaum will be present to talk about her work, “The Way I See Us: Family Portraits” currently hanging in the Horace Williams house.

AND, Alan Toda-Ambaras will be playing cello…if you don’t know Alan, you’re in for a surprise! Here’s a bit from his bio:

“Alan’s performances have gained enthusiastic reviews. In Paris, he “touched the public and the jury” (musique.france2.fr). The Washington Post noted that Alan “has the poise of a seasoned performer” and “showed off his strengths convincingly in the demanding repertoire.” And another critic declared that Alan’s playing “proved remarkable by any standard. . . . Toda-Ambaras is worth seeking out and hearing.”

And I might add, he’s only 16!

So come on…eat some great food, drink some wonderful wine, and support local media and arts!

Hope to see you there!

Chad Johnston
The Peoples Channel

For directions and more information, look at my Friday the 13th post “Broadcasting Localism: A Peoples Channel Fundraiser”.

[UPDATE:] More from the CarrboroCitizen.

[UPDATEx2:] Some photos of the event..

Peggy Misch wants to make sure everyone knows, in spite of what the local press says, there is no Sheehan rally at Carr Mill Mall. Just a simple lunch with Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton and some folks from GRIM ( Grassroots Impeachment Movement).

It appears Cindy is interested in lending her weight to the movement to boot Bush out of office.

The original scuttle-butt suggested there would be a rally on the Weaver St. lawn, but fears of another backlash quashed those plans.

How sad that a visitor of Sheehan’s nature can’t stand under the broad branches of the sheltering trees of the Weave’s lawn to tell her story and make a call for action.

This is NOT a rally on the privately held Carr Mill parking lots.

Peggy Misch, not attending a protest rally.

Other non-protesters at a non-rally on Carr Mill’s private property.

Cindy Sheehan, welcome to Carrboro/Chapel Hill

Maybe there was no room under the tree? Whoops, doesn’t appear so…

For several years I’ve called on the Town to hire a professional economic adviser. When I renewed the call during my 2005 campaign, many of the other candidates adopted (or co-opted) the idea.

I suggested we hire someone with experience in developing an economic strategy that encompassed more than Downtown redevelopment or saw economic benefits beyond those derived from commercial and residential real-estate.

For many years our Town’s elected folks ignored policies that would encourage job, entrepreneurial business and cottage industry growth. Their lens, if focused at all, stayed firmly on traditional areas. Worse, they continued some policies – like the business privilege tax – that actually act as a disincentive.

I was somewhat worried when we once again hired a former consultant from Town manager Roger Stancil’s past. With the hiring of Dwight Bassett (Two Years Later Town Hires Economic Development Officer), we at least had filled this important position. Dwight’s background had been mainly focused on Downtown redevelopment projects and developing other traditional avenues of economic activity.

I was concerned then, and still am, that we will miss out on using our Town’s unique pool of talent to develop our economic strength using a new paradigm. For instance, leveraging our commitment to deploy a municipal network to attract low environmental impact, highly distributed employment opportunities paying better than average salaries.

This week we get our first glimpse of Dwight’s thinking in the following DRAFT report. Today’s Herald-Sun has this to say:

Bassett also passed around economic development strategy statements crafted by officials in Austin, Tex., Clemson, S.C., Toronto and a town in Australia that represent different approaches to planning. The resulting exchange of ideas demonstrated that Bassett’s collaboration with town officials will need some time to gel.

While he and the committee agreed that several areas of the town could be better developed to maximize business and slow “leakage” of retail traffic to other municipalities, Kleinschmidt’s face crinkled into an involuntary scowl when Bassett introduced the concept of a “lifestyle center” such as a mall or big box outlet that could single-handedly draw business to an area.

The committee also discussed potential targets for a retail makeover, including University Mall, Eastgate Shopping Center, downtown’s West End and the interchange of I-40 and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Kleinschmidt agreed that leakage must be stopped, but added, “KFCs and Wachovias … that can’t be it. That can’t be right.”

The committee agreed, however, on the basic point that a market analysis is needed to determine the best course for developing Chapel Hill’s economy.

Hey, is that the same market analysis I called on 4 years ago? Hey, at least the Council is starting to get around to it.

The report is available here in its original format [WORD] and below the fold slightly reformatted for the ‘net.

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