Category Archives: ChapelHill

Free Gas

I asked the Council to look into LFG two years ago and then made it part of my environmental proposals for the 2005 Council campaign. Recently, UNC has suggested using the old 35 acre Horace Williams landfill site to produce clean energy for Carolina North.

Now, from the June 17th Chapel Hill News, comes this Letter to the Editor outlining successful uses for LFG.

Landfill gas projects (LFG) have been around since the late 1970s creating cheap renewable energy to citizens. When landfills decompose they create a gas called methane, which is 23 times more effective at trapping atmospheric heat then carbon dioxide. This gas can remain in the atmosphere for up to 15 years, increasing the speed of global climate change.

LFG projects capture 60 percent to 90 percent of methane released from landfills and help to improve the air quality of the surrounding communities as well as creating more jobs for the community. Each LFG project is equivalent to removing the emission from 14 million cars and will decrease the use of oil by 150 million barrels, which is a nice thing to hear since we have depleting natural resources.

Cost savings have helped companies such as General Motors save more than $5 million per year from their five LFG projects and SC Johnson in Racine, Wis., is saving $1 million per year. Of the 140 projects taking place in the United States, more than 700 landfills can cost-effectively install LFG projects.

Why don’t we do our part in helping the environment and increasing the change in our pocket? More information: 888-782-7937 or — Ronna Fischer, Chapel Hill

Thanks Ronna for pressing forward on local LFG.

Session closed under North Carolina General Statute 143-318.11(a)(6)

OrangePolitics (OP) is covering Council’s (injudicious?) final sprint to hire a new manager.

OP’s Ruby Sinreich commented June 2nd on the quick narrowing of the field to a handful of white males.

Robert Peterson, June 5th, put on his tin foil hat and, I believe with some accuracy, laid out a scenario where one of the three putative candidates is a “ringer” . As he observed What we have here, on paper at least, is a superstar. What better way to insure his getting the position than to pit him against someone mired in controversy and someone with 20 years less experience.

This week, Council will spend 38 hours reviewing and then selecting, with minimal opportunities for direct public interaction, a new Town Manager. Unless, as Council member Mark Kleinschmidt avers with all confidence that if there’s any doubt at the end of the week that we’re not hiring the best person for this job, we will hire no one.”

What role will Chapel Hill’s citizenry play in the evaluation of “what’s best”?

With the limited information before us; the Herald Sun’s Q&A’s of Ragan, Stancil and Sean Stegall – their bio’s ( Stegall,Ragan, Stancil) posted on the town’s manager search site – an article from the News and Observer – some Googled references – one wonders how the greater citizenry is supposed to evaluate these candidates.

They won’t have much of an opportunity this final week as 36 of the 38 hours set aside for candidate consideration are closed, closed, closed.

“The Council will move that this session be closed under North Carolina General Statute 143-318.11(a)(6).”

The Council’s actions to fill this key position with much less public discussion and involvement than other recent issues, for instance the renaming of Airport Rd. to Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., seems counter to our town’s stated desire for maximum governmental transparency. To cap the current process off by cloaking a majority of the discussion behind 143-318.11(a)(6), well, it puts the fine point to folks concerns.

The remaining two hours for public input? The Mayor will be juggling Council and public participation.

I don’t quite understand Mark K’s response to Ruby S’s rushed feeling by saying “I don’t know why you insist on calling it a runaway train” when so many of the search committee’s meetings were ill-scheduled (for reasonable public participation) or closed under 143-318.11(a)(6).

  • 10am, Weds. Mar. 15th, Mar. 22nd, Mar. 29th
  • 10am, Tues. Apr. 4th [CANCELLED], Apr. 11th
  • 8am, Tues. Apr. 18th; Sat. Apr. 22nd (the 1st possible one for me to attend)
  • CLOSED Mon. May 8th 10am ; Fri. May 19th, 2pm ;Tues. May 30th, 9am

Missing an opportunity for greater openness, the minutes of the open meetings were only available at Townhall and not published on the town’s website.

As someone that closely followed the process (as well as one can without easily accessible minutes of the search committee’s meetings), I disagree with Mark’s comment that

“The decisions regarding the development of the selection process were all held in open public meetings–I think there were at least two of those–and there was a public meeting to assist on development of a profile.”

Feb. 27th, Council discussed some exciting options like “a website with questionnaire for public comment” and a process structured so the “Community to meet with all finalists“. But, sadly, these proposed mechanisms for community outreach were subsequently discarded (the public commentary) and watered down (this week’s two-hour, Mayorally-filtered, candidate meet-n-greet).

Direct citizen commentary was limited to the regular 3 minute slot.

By the Mar. 6th meeting, OP poster and local personnel expert Anita Badrock (VP, Smithers and Associates) suggested two possible “processes” for selecting candidates. As she observed:

I recognize that we have a culture of openness in our community that the Council wants to respect, but I believe the citizens would understand and be better served by a process that would allow the best qualified candidates to confidentially explore this career opportunity to the maximum extent possible. Many of the most highly qualified applicants are probably the kind of professionals that aren’t unhappy with where they are currently, but are excited and intrigued about the possibilities and opportunities that exist in Chapel Hill. That’s the type of person that probably would not want his/her current employer to know (s)he’s looking.

As someone that’s hired their share of sensitive workers, I also recognize the need for some discretion.

Unfortunately, the concern for candidates confidentiality out-weighed public necessity and the more citizen-interactive options, factored into Process #2, were soon to be dispensed with.

As per Process #1, 30 or so folks – Council members, staff, the local political “usual suspects” (former Council members, business folk, the Chamber, etc.) – were “interviewed” to develop a candidate profile. These interviews constituted, I guess, a surrogate for the public feedback via website or a general solicitation for written/oral comments.

In another blow to timely transparency, it was only recently that the candidate profile was published.

Ruby is on to something when she remarks that the Council

has set-up this entire process without actively engaging or even encouraging the public’s input in a meaningful way (ie: before we were down to a choice between 3 straight, white, males). I’m not saying we should be sitting in on confidential meetings or anything, but it really shouldn’t surprise the Council if most Chapel Hill residents don’t even know this is going on, and rest of us are annoyed about how it’s going.

I’m concerned this is becoming a trend rather than an anomaly…

The Council was elected to make decisions. NC statute and local ordinances require minimal public participation in one of the hardest decisions a Council will make.

Only a growing Chapel Hill custom of transparency – part of what folks seriously or sarcastically call “Chapel Hill values” – obliges the Council to widen participation – to cast sunlight into the deepest shadows of the decision-making process – to reach beyond conservatively expedient approaches – in selecting a person, if recent history serves, that will have more influence on our community as any ephemeral elected Council member.

This week, to echo Ruby, the citizens of Chapel Hill will have a chance to see if Council continues a growing trend away from greater transparency and participation or if their behavior is an anomoly in their pell-mell rush to fill this key position.

7:30am Wake Up Call for Downtown Partnership Members

Are you an early morning person? Interested in Downtown’s evolution? Like to interact with political heavy-hitters? Chapel Hill’s Downtown Partnership, a confederation of UNC, Town and business interests, is looking for two new members.


The Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership has two available board positions beginning July 1, 2006.

The first is a Town of Chapel Hill appointed position. It is a three year term, running July 1, 2006 – June 30, 2009. Eligible applicants are downtown property owners that contribute to the Municipal Service District Tax. Town Council will appoint this position on June 26, 2006.

The second is a CHDP board appointed position. It is a one-year term, running July 1, 2006-June 30, 2007. Anyone can apply for this position. The Board will appoint this position in June 28, 2006.

To apply for either position – please go to and link onto the link at the bottom of the page for the application. The application should be sent to the Town Clerk’s office ASAP.

Liz Parham

Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership
308 West Rosemary Street, Suite 202
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
(919) 967-9440 office
(919) 967-9475 fax

They’re soliciting two members though the terms of Fine, Perry and Alexander, at least based on the website are up. Also, UNC representative Suttenfield is moving on to greener pastures.

[ UPDATE: ] Via Liz Parham – UNC has appointed Steve Allred and Linda Convissor to replace Nancy Suttenfield and Roger Perry.
Continue reading 7:30am Wake Up Call for Downtown Partnership Members

Council’s Conflict of Interest? Maybe just a slight edge….

Following up on my earlier post on RAM Development’s “425 Hillsborough Street” 335 condo megaplex, today’s HeraldSun reports:

Foy acknowledged that a good prior experience with the town might give a developer a slight edge.

“If we’ve had a good experience in the past, then we might know we can negotiate in good faith,” he said.

Someone that you trust – someone that delivers – usually does have an edge in business.

But our town leaders have responsibilities that transcend “business as usual”, as Foy acknowledges:

Mayor Kevin Foy said Friday he hasn’t seen plans for the project, which is being called 425 Hillsborough Street by the developer. But, he said, the plan will be judged on its merits alone and the town’s handling of an application will not be affected by the official relationship with Ram Development.

“We view every development through the prism of what’s best for the town,” Foy said. He added that the town will judge the developer’s project against the town’s Comprehensive Plan, which describes where growth should occur.

The project’s expanse, as reported by the HeraldSun, is greater than that reported in the New & Observer:

According to the Ram concept plan, the new development would have 390 multi-family units on 15.6 acres. The site, just north of the university campus, currently holds 111 rental units, most of which are occupied by UNC students.

That’s quite an increase in density. Luckily, the plan will require a rezoning – putting it squarely before Council and local citizens.

The article also mentions the problems with Lot #5’s development

Recently the town sent a letter to Ram indicating the Lot 5 project wasn’t fully meeting expectations for the redevelopment of that town site

and quotes out-going Town Manager Cal Horton:

Horton said Ram’s performance wouldn’t impact the town’s handling of an application on the Hillsborough Street project if the developer chooses to submit a formal proposal.

“In our process, every development stands on its own,” he said. “There are many occasions when we work with people who are doing multiple developments. This situation is pretty ordinary.”

The current Council hopes that ceding prime public properties to RAM Development (for, what I believe, less than their longterm value) will spur a downtown economic renaissance (a rebirth that’s proceeding apace without RAM’s help). Taxpayer monies have and will continue to flow into this project. Further, the Council is closely partnering with RAM in the overall design of their $90+ million buildout.

And, then, as the downtown development plan nears kick-off, RAM proposes what has been reported as the largest condominium development in Chapel Hill’s history? A development that will surely benefit by its proximity to the same project Council is partnering on?

Ordinary? Try unprecedented.

Council’s Conflict of Interest?

RAM Development, our town’s partner in an increasingly troubling downtown development project, is now looking to build the largest condominium project in Chapel Hill’s history. Sited along Hillsborough Rd. on the current Townhouse Apartment parcel, the project would include 335 condos in 6 story blocks.

Without a site proposal, it’s hard to envision how such a massive development couldn’t harm the Bolin Creek watershed, create an incompatible juxtaposition with nearby charming historic residential areas and pressure the already difficult Hillsborough/MLK transit corridor.

Considering Council is knee deep in on-going negotiations involving RAM’s design for downtown’s Lot #5 behemoth (next meeting June 19th, 2PM), what leverage, if any, does RAM have in getting approval for what I expect to be one of the more controversial developments in town’s history?

CHAPEL HILL – Townhouse Apartments, a wilting, close-to-campus haven to UNC-Chapel Hill students for four decades, may be demolished to make way for one of the biggest condominium projects in town history.

Ram Development of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., wants to build 335 condominiums stacked six stories high and 22 townhouses on the 12.5-acre site by 2010.

The company has a contract to buy the 111-unit complex between Hillsborough Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, less than half a mile north of Franklin Street.

The sale is to close next year. Meanwhile, Ram is to submit preliminary site plans for the project, simply called 425 Hillsborough St., this month, said John Florian, the company’s vice president of development in Raleigh.

News & Observer, June 15th, 2006

Townhouse Apartments

How low can Moeser go? Transit, transportation and parking lots.

[UPDATE:] Please excuse the draft of this post, with broken links, that was earlier erroneously posted.

During my 2005 Council run, I was advised by “folks in the political know” that my optimistic call to UNC to put their 2003 Carolina North development plans aside and start anew would fall on deaf ears. “Don’t waste your time. You set the bar too high. Too ambitious a challenge.”

That plan, with its many deficiencies – 17,000 parking spaces, unimaginative design, lack of transit opportunities – was neither worthy of our world-class University or of the charming Town it occupies.

UNC needed to rethink the initial parameters of this mega-project,to craft a new collaborative development process, to tap their incredible on-campus talent and to assure the local community that our local values would be honored – our zoning authority respected.

Six months later, UNC has set aside their initial RTP-lite development plans, created a new community outreach group (the Carolina North Leadership Advisory Comm.), committed to following the town’s zoning authority and participated diligently (with a few continuing missteps) in the recasting of Carolina North’s design and development principles.

Maybe my optimism wasn’t so misplaced.

Buried in today’s June 9th, 2006 letter to Mayor Foy from UNC’s Chancellor Moeser are some new positive commitments from UNC.

Continue reading How low can Moeser go? Transit, transportation and parking lots.

Hedgehog & Fox: Mayor Foy Honors Robert Brown

Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy wrote a nice piece for the IndyWeek on friend and local civil rights activist Robert Brown.

I’m not sure whether Robert Brown was a hedgehog or a fox, but I know that he thought about it. He probably had an opinion, although I never asked him which he thought he was. Robert was a thinker, an informed thinker who read widely, and would off-handedly refer to something like Isaiah Berlin’s The Hedgehog & The Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy’s View of History…

Thanks Kevin for reminding me of Berlin’s essay and Brown’s works. Continue reading Hedgehog & Fox: Mayor Foy Honors Robert Brown

I Heard That Lonesome Whistle Blow…

How lonesome is that whistler? Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on Garcetti v. Ceballos appears to have closed the door on public employees, at all levels of government, safely reporting governmental malfeasance.

I’ve asked a Council Member what this ruling means for Chapel Hill and our town staff.

Do we need additional employee protections to encourage reports of willful misconduct?

Applying to the Downtown Parking Citizen’s Committee

I proposed a downtown parking task force both as a citizen and a candidate for Council. Working, shopping and living (near) downtown for many years, I have seen the parking dynamic shift as development, transit and demographic trends progressed.

Currently, I believe the key parking problem is not supply but allocation of existing resources.

I have some ideas on how we can craft a partnership between town, university and private interests so that we can improve the “downtown experience” without having to pave over more of our vanishing natural downtown areas.

Here’s my request to Council asking to join with other stakeholders in working towards a more sustainable, healthier and friendlier Chapel Hill downtown.

Mayor and Town Council,

During the 2005 election, I proposed forming a downtown parking task force to pull together both public and private stakeholders to solve some of our parking allocation problems.

It was great to see Council Member Cam Hill’s call on April 10th for just such a new task force to review public parking downtown.

I want to join this new Downtown Parking Citizens Committee to help create a sustainable solution to our downtown parking issues.

May 8th, Council formed the Downtown Parking Citizens Committee charged with analyzing existing parking conditions; reviewing conditions in light of the goals of the Comprehensive Plan, Downtown Small Area Plan and the Downtown Development Initiative; proposing plans to mitigate existing parking problems and developing strategies to implement the proposed plans.

Staff also recommended that the committee “consider appointing citizens who work, shop and visit downtown…”

I’ve seen the downtown parking dynamic change over 27 years. I’ve regularly shopped, visited and PARKED downtown for two decades. I’ve worked downtown for over 5 years (and, luckily, have a reserved spot). Day in and day out, school in and out, morning, noon or night, East to West End, I’m quite familiar with the vagaries of finding parking downtown.

Besides the hands-on experience, I’m conversant with the various plans – Comprehensive, Downtown Small Area, Downtown Development – studies (like the LSA [parking(PDF)] [mobility(PDF)] and prior citizen group efforts), ordinances and LUMO restrictions that influence the existing parking dynamic. Further, I’ve read and reviewed a number of key transit and transportation studies and proposals – from town, from NC-DOT, from the University – that should inform any proposed solutions.

Finally, I believe I have some new ideas on how to form a collaborative proposal that brings Town, University and private business efforts into alignment to not only help solve some of the more intransigent of parking issues but to also to add flexibility into our overall parking/transit approaches.

Thank you for your consideration,

Will Raymond

If you’re interested in improving the “Downtown experience” and want to participate on a task force with a constrained and strategic mission, fill out an application and email it to the town’s Town Clerk. Additional Town Clerk contact information.