Chapel Hill Emergency Homeless Shelter Zoning

The Council has asked the Planning Board to develop a range of regulatory options controlling the development and operation of shelters within Town. The range of policy proposals the Planning Board could create include shelter zoning, shelter standards or shelter guidelines – each with their own regulatory weight and requirements.

Guidelines, for instance, are broad directives – more suggestive of what is wanted than what is required – don’t have the predictability of a standard or zone.


Semi-live ‘blogging:

Mike Collins, Planning Board chair – Council discussion already demonstrates the complexity of the process and the need for firm direction from Council

Matt C. – Federal guidelines seemed to be a concern raised earlier, does Planning Board agree with Town attorney’s analysis that Fair Housing requirements won’t be a consideration

Ed H. – Why are there four standards in the finding?

Gene P. (Planning staff) – These four standards are part of any SUP type LUMO text

Mark Peters – neighborhood activists

– lack of transparency – backroom deal – Town picked the site based on IFC requirements without public input

– SUP is not the same as a public siting process – develop shelter standards with specific measurable requirements (Option #3)

– One consideration is the density of human services – shows a map with a small triangle outlining small section of Town with human services facilities

Rebecca McCulloh [read IFC Director Chris Moran’s statement] – IFC representative

– this search has been going on for a decade – three observations/directives: the old Town Hall is no longer acceptable, the services need to be expanded to meet a greater breadth of need (not just emergency shelter but transitional homeless to housed process), the food service needs to be moved to Carrboro.

– SUP hand-delivered to Town this morning. Concern for shelter zoning didn’t arise until IFC proposed site at Homestead

– No reason to put further regulatory impediments to this needed service

Tim Coyne-Smith – neighborhood activist (red-shirt dude)

– calls for Option #3 from memo, endorses use of consultants Mike Collins asked for

– “mockery of process” to ignore application of newly developed siting requirements to Homestead IFC proposal

– “a meeting between Mayor Kevin Foy, Chancellor Moeser,..” doesn’t constitute a public process

– “transparency” is a Chapel Hill value – let’s honor it going forward

– applause yields a lecture from Mark K. – “hold your applause” – it has a chilling effect on discussion

John Walker – neighborhood activist

– “let’s deal with facts”, “thank you”

– there was no public process – a picture in the paper with Foy, Moran, Moeser and Seymour doesn’t equal a public or transparent process

– “no impact study done for this proposal”, “citizens have had to do a lot of work”

– the area where they want to site the shelter is already the highest crime area in Town – that %40 (?) of the crime comes from existing human services in the Homestead area – then says “why move” the highest crime area in Town (existing emergency homeless shelter I presume) to a high crime area

– “please include the public in this process”

Mark K. – the story related earlier about the woman being saved on the corner near the existing shelter has nothing to do with crime this advocacy group attributes to the shelter – John Walker – “replay my words” – he wasn’t implying that this incident had anything to do with the shelter

Donna B. – NCDs are guidelines – “the idea that we can come up with guidelines for every type of shelter” in Town will never happen – “as far as I understand this shelter is not our [the Town’s] shelter” (really?) – we can’t dictate to a developer their site selection then…

Jim W. – agree that it will 10-15 more years before we address this [siting a shelter] again – should apply the standards now or don’t go through the tedious process of creating them – even if the guidelines were finalized would expect that the guidelines would be reviewed before application 10-15 years hence

Jim W. – existing SUP process thoroughly addresses the need for public overview – no need for a “one off” [my words] regulatory environment when we have an existing framework that would address the many concerns already raised

Sally G. – agrees with Jim’s analysis – a “shame that it is only every 10 years” that this issue comes up given the needs our community faces – elected to make these hard decisions and apply the best approach to meeting the whole of the community’s needs – balance the drawbacks against the community good

Ed H. – wanted a broad public discussion but now that the SUP is before the Council (OH NO NOT THE QUASI-JUDICIAL ARGUMENT!!!!) what can the Council really discuss in all fairness – Ralph Karpinos – Town Attorney – responds that it is fine to discuss the wide range of issues that shelters introduce but to steer away from discussing a specific project

Jim W. – what are the guidelines for discussing this issue with the principals involved? Ralph K. – I suggest you tell citizens that they need to introduce factual evidence in a public venue and tell them, if they choose to talk directly to a Council member, that the information provided cannot be used as part of the decision-making process UNLESS it is entered into the public record. [CW: Reasonable given how many folks who want to reach out an sway Council on this issue]

Mark K. – good advice, “keep our minds open”, that’s why we need to introduce evidence in a public forum – Ralph K. – it’s a matter of “due process”

Gene P. – “Where Donna started”, broad guidelines developed over summer by staff but couldn’t see guidelines per type of facility – believes SUP process will address community concerns – supports Recommendation #1

Laurin E. – wants to see what guidelines are available, NCDs are guidelines – “look we have to revisit several of those” – wants to see what kind of standards exist and what kind could be applied within the SUP process

Penny R. – whole conversation was prompted by Community House moving – now that SUP process has started – does the guidelines/standards discussion infringe upon the SUP process applied to the new Community House – Ralph K. – “what should we consider when approaching a special use permit” – what standards are being used to determine findings – it would be OK to develop a set of guidelines/standards and then apply them to the SUPs before them – in other words, it would be fine to discuss these standards prior to weighing the merits of the specific Community House SUP and then apply them

Penny R. – agrees SUP process is sufficient though can also see that it would be helpful to have a broad standard for discussing siting of these type facilities (Option/Recommendation #1)

Matt C. – “this is tantamount to saying we don’t have a” long term plan for human services with Chapel Hill – that we are evaluating each application individually – not within a broader context [CW: Chapel Hill does need a game plan for deploying human services, including not segregating them and excluding them from sites like East54 or Obeys Creek].

Matt C. – need to evaluate “best in class” – “best practice” solutions – why can’t we look at a broad range of solutions for “white flag” shelter facilities in coming to terms with siting this and other shelters

Mark K. – disagrees there is no plan [CW: I disagree – affordable housing is a component of the SUP process but Council has resisted requiring other type of community-oriented services being based in new developments] Argues that there will be a call to apply guidelines sooner than 10 years – prefers guidelines over proscriptive standards which might tie the hands of Council when it comes to making a decision [CW: this supports the concern of the Homestead neighborhood that any requirements developed are not binding – and parallels the “crap shoot” concerns raised by the current SUP process].

Gene P. – Why can’t we provide “best practices”?

Mark K. – of course – we should direct the Planning Board to research “best practices” in developing these guidelines

Sally G. – Mark Peters already pulled together a number of examples of best practices – over the summer the Planning Board could see the applicability of these cases to Chapel Hill

JB Culpepper – Planning Director – using a consultant will delay this process – could take until Fall to find and hire one

Matt C. – observes that Planning Board was directed to do this evaluation last January – strongly recommends use of consultant – UNC-based nationally recognized

Jim W. – calls Mike W. forward , asks if a consultant needed – Mike – “of all the ” work they do this is one project they don’t need a consultant for… Jim endorses the idea of using Planning Board only to develop guidelines – “over last 10 years” the SUP process has provided the rigor required to achieve a fair result ([CW:] this is at odds with what Ed H. called a “crap shoot”).

Gene P. – agrees with Matt C. we need a consultant to steer the course to get relevant guidelines

Roger Stancil – Town Manager – believes staff can do background analysis, pull together materials to assist Planning Board, wait on use of consultancy – Mike W. steps forward and agrees that waiting until Sept. 15th to hire a consultant to help assist in filling in any gaps that they find in their understanding developed over the summer is a good idea – might not need a consultant because the goal to develop standards/guidelines is achieved

Matt C. – “what if any is the impact” of siting emergency shelters? Ralph K. – given the SUP before them it should be part of that discussion instead of a broader discussion of siting a human service facility – “Council will have to sort through this” themselves instead of availing themselves of professional advice OUTSIDE of the SUP process and supposedly independent of the views of either the neighborhood activist or the IFC ([CW:] not sure how that would work within the quasi-judicial process except if it was analogous to a judicial master who consults during a trial process).

Matt C. – asks for a list of sites that IFC reviewed prior to settling on Homestead – list of sites, IFC evaluation criteria, reasons why sites were rejected based on that criteria. Roger S. – “thought criteria was fairly simple” – for instance – did the site need to be rezoned – that caused a few to be rejected immediately

Matt C. – wants an executive summary – Roger S. – you are thinking this is more scientific than it was – it was very broadly based evaluation – kind of like siting Walgreens or Walmart within Town

Penny R. – how long ago was that? Roger S. – before 2006 (when he came)

Mark K. – there have been a lot of places suggested – County rejected, it was supposed to be in the parking lot next to Town Hall, neighborhoods rallied against it

Laurin E. – what about the Police station?

Mark K. – first have to determine where to move the Police Department – would the building be worth rehabilitating – if torn down would we sell or lease land – property is on a ash pile and has limited ability to be built on

Council vote called to have Planning Board to develop a set of guidelines for siting human services within Chapel Hill.

Laurin E. – won’t support if it is only guidelines and not standards – seems to be general agreement with rest of Council that guidelines and standards are the same – Laurin points out that staff drew a distinction between guideliness and standards (the latter having greater binding power).

Council votes to move forward with evaluation of applicable guidelines.






2 responses to “Chapel Hill Emergency Homeless Shelter Zoning”

  1. m Avatar

    Like usual, the town council whitewashed their decision. They chose guidelines over standards with teeth because they want “flexibility”. Standards allow flexibility, but only with the diligence of a public finding. Thus, the ordinance would require the council to write a fictional public finding to overcome the known safety issues with the IFC proposal that come with siting a wet shelter beside preschools and a park.

    Many town council members repeatedly referred to the mythical “rigorous SUP process”. This process is only rigorous when the council members dislike the project or development. IFC is politically powerful and the town is the leasor and a funder of Community House, so the SUP will merely be the final signature on a blank check. Any “rigor” will merely be theatrical enough to look good during future judicial review.

    Chris Moran’s statement (read by McCulloh – you may want to note that above) is quite rich: “Concern for shelter zoning didn’t arise until IFC proposed site at Homestead”.

    There was no NEED for shelter siting standards until IFC and the town decided that the Homestead Park area is the designated location of all at risk overnight social services in the entire county. Moran continues to selectively leave out important facts whenever he talks about this aspect of the siting.

    Donna B clearly had not read or understood the materials when she argued that IFC is no different than a private developer. Town staff made it perfectly clear that this is NOT the typical developer relationship because the town is LEASING the property, GRANTING community development block grants ($300K granted, $200K pending), and FUNDING IFC with $50K per year in support from town taxes. The town staff made it clear that, for these reasons, the town has every right to require processes over and above the standard SUP process, including a public siting process requirement.

    Also, a key point is that Roger Stancil admitted that the town did not look at multiple spots when it chose the Homestead location. Look for the video on that in the future.

    Another amusing faulty selective memory of Mark K (I love it when the politicians try to rewrite history) is when he said that the county said “no” to the shelter going to Southern Human Services property. The county didn’t say no. The county said that they were going to put a justice facility (the county’s constitutional responsibility) on that property and if the town wanted a shelter there, then it needed to permanently swap the current leased courthouse at the post office for the county land. The town never responded to the county. Rather than admitting that, the town just made up another story. IFC is spinning the same story to pander to the council.

    FROM THE N&O a while back:

    (excerpted quote of article follows)
    Current plans have the Homestead Road site pegged for a new county justice facility, so putting the shelter there instead would require the town to find alternative space for that. The town has discussed providing the county with space for a justice facility in the current post office and courthouse, including the rear parking deck, on Henderson Street between Franklin and Rosemary.

    In a recent letter to Mayor Kevin Foy, county commissioners chairman Moses Carey said the town would have to formally offer the post office site and a consultant would have to study it to determine whether it’s adequate for a future courthouse.

    “If it meets that need, only then can the county consider permitting the IFC to locate a men’s shelter at the Homestead Road site,” wrote Carey.

  2. Administrator Avatar


    My recollection is that the folks supporting the Seymour Center were so bent out of shape about the proposed move to the Southern Human Services property (where the old house was I believe) that it was rejected.

    The County did entertain the idea (in 2007) when the adopted the Homestead Campus Concept Plan with the proviso that the Justice Center also be dealt with.

    At the time I thought that this served as a convenient smokescreen for the real reason for ditching the site. I believe Chapel Hill had some zoning authority, this leverage, over that project.

    Roger indicated (and has before) that the site search was somewhat cursory (as if looking for a site for Walgreens as he put it last evening). The criteria for site selection was based more on what appeared to be practical than addressing the broad range of issues you and others have brought to the fore, the search was somewhat simplistic.

    Matt C.’s request to Stancil for a simple executive overview of the previous searches, the criteria used to select those sites and the reasons for rejecting those sites was on target. I have gone over Chris’ documentation, which makes sense to me and aligns with my recollection, but well understand that if you haven’t been following the bouncing ball over the last decade it might not be very clear.

    On this point I feel for the IFC. After watching them valiantly searching for and locating various spots around Town for these facilities to only have the rules of the game change – the rug pulled out from underneath them – again and again I am amazed of their fortitude in trying to plunge ahead.

    I agree that Donna B. came off very unprepared. When she asked if the shelter was “our shelter”, well, I was flabbergasted. Maybe she was having a bad night?

    As far as a “rigorous” SUP process, the research the Sustainability Visioning Task Force, the local Chamber of Commerce and other concerned local groups has shown that Ed Harrison was being quite forthright in calling Council’s whimsical approach a “crap shoot”.

    To be clear, sometimes the incredible suppleness of Chapel Hill’s SUP process has produced results I’m quite happy with. But with that good (at least from my perspective) has come a lot of bad – including a lack of confidence by citizens and developers that the goals of the Town’s comprehensive plan, LUMO ordinances, design guidelines, etc. will be met in the end.

    The arbitrary feel of the current process – the lack of predictability – has been more of a hinderence than an asset.

    Finally, I agree that the distinction between standard and guideline was deliberately obfuscated by Mark’s rhetoric (a tactic he’s borrowed from Foy).

    STAFF made the distinction on purpose – standards carry regulatory requirements, guidelines are policy objectives which can be easily dispensed with (see how easily Council perverted the RSSC zone as one example).

    Mark, if the IFC moves the “white flag” component off Homestead would you accept that site?

    I ask because, to me, this is the biggest impediment for moving forward.

    Given that Carrboro won’t take on the shelter or kitchen, I’d like to see a cooperative effort made by Chapel Hill, Orange County and the IFC to identify a site for a dual-use facility.

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