Community


According to today’s Chapel Hill News (IFC may delay new shelter), the Inter-Faith Council is looking at a delay while the questions raised by local residents over the last few weeks are resolved.

Inter-Faith Council director Chris Moran said the agency may delay its development permit application amid neighbors’ opposition to a new men’s homeless shelter on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard at Homestead Road.

Despite support from United Church of Chapel Hill, which is adjacent to the site, Moran faced a throng of red-clad protesters as the Town Council reviewed IFC’s concept plan for a 50-bed shelter last week. These neighbors anticipated homeless men loitering, panhandling or causing other mischief around their homes, schools and Homestead Park — basically, the same complaint some downtown merchants and visitors have expressed about the street people downtown.

The council challenged IFC to address these concerns and explain how the agency chose the Homestead site. For example, IFC is seeking detailed crime data from the police department for its Rosemary Street shelter.

That sort of research could disrupt IFC’s initial plan to gain a permit about a year from now and open the doors in January 2012.

“We will probably delay the special-use-permit process,” said Moran. “It would be disrespectful for us to file for an SUP permit if these questions haven’t been answered.”

I asked Police Chief Curran a couple weeks ago for some of the required statistics (here).

I’ve read every email forwarded to the candidates on this issue with an eye towards publishing those questions for inspection by the wider community.

Luckily, Tina Coyne-Smith, one of the concerned citizens that has taken a lead on this issue, prepared a detailed assessment of the neighborhoods’ issues for her presentation to Council last week.

She has also graciously provided a copy (here [PDF]) so that the public, the IFC and other stakeholders can review and respond in a fact-based manner.

The three categories of concerns driving opposition are:

  1. Proximity of the shelter to a park, residential neighborhoods, and daycares, afterschool programs, and schools
  2. Unintended consequences of the shelter that raise safety concerns
  3. Inequitable distribution of human services in NW Chapel Hill incurred by placing the shelter at the proposed site

A few of the underlying issues raised have been answered by Chris Moran in the FAQ he provided earlier here (Q&A IFC Community House).

I also recently asked the Town’s Attorney Ralph Karpinos if the IFC, in cooperation with the police, could rule out who on the list of incidents was not a shelter resident. Anecdotal evidence indicates that folks report their address as the shelter even when they aren’t clients. He responded that this was a question for the IFC.

While I believe there is value in sharpening up the statistics, I also want to protect the privacy of those that IFC serves. Any method the Town uses to get a better grasp of the scope of this potential problem must honor folks right to privacy.

Whatever the outcome of the current discussion, the process used must be transparent, fact-based and use a decision-making framework that incorporates the requirements of the IFC, community-based criteria (as with the waste transfer site selection), the Town’s legal and developmental guidelines along with a strong dose of common sense.

Given the respectful tone established by Tina, Chris and many of the other folks that spoke last Monday, I believe that our community can not only reach a consensus on this particular issue without bitterness but also take this opportunity to work even harder on addressing the problems driving and accompanying homelessness in our local community.

Yonni Chapman, local historian, stalwart civil rights activist, documenter of Chapel Hill’s struggles for peace, justice and equality, after a long struggle with cancer, has passed on.

I last saw Yonni Aug. 28th at the commemoration of Chapel Hill’s new Peace and Justice Plaza. We talked awhile about the possible Board of Commissioner’s decision to site the new trash transfer facility in the Millhouse/Rogers Road community.

Fighting for consideration of social justice in the decision-making process of siting the transfer facility was just one of many local issues that Yonni helped our community address. He reminded us of the historical context, stressed that we cannot move forward if we forget where we’ve been.

From Yonni’s on-line profile

Privileged white child of the sixties. Became a revolutionary in 1969 at Harvard. Moved to Atlanta to do social justice organizing. Attended Atlanta Area Tech and became a Certified Laboratory Technician. Moved to Chapel Hill area. Worked in Hematology at UNC Memorial Hospital. Chair of Employees Forum. Did grassroots organizing in Chapel Hill with Welfare Rights Organization, CH Tenants Organization, hospital and university workers, Rainbow Coalition of Conscience, Jesse Jackson Campaign, Fred Battle Campaign for School Board, African Liberation Support Committee, Medical Aid for Southern Africa, Central America solidarity campaigns, anti-Apartheid movement, etc. Attended graduate school at UNC in history. Thesis, 1995, Second Generation: Black Youth and the Origins of the Chapel Hill Civil Rights Movement, 1937-1963. Dissertation, 2006, Black Freedom and the University of North Carolina, 1793-1960. Expert Witness for UNC Housekeepers Movement lawsuit; organized campaign to abolish Cornelia Phillips Spencer Bell Award at UNC; UNC Campaign for Historical Accuracy and Truth (CHAT); NAACP/Community Church movement to establish a state highway marker to commemorate the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation in Chapel Hill; Town of Chapel Hill/NAACP commemoration of nine local leaders at Peace and Justice Plaza. Member of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). Second Vice Chair, Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP and Chair of History Committee. Cancer survivor. Proud father of Sandra and Joyce. Eagerly expectant grandpa.

After seeing the range of concerns and responses thoughtfully expressed during last night’s citizen presentations, I’m more confident than ever that our community can pull together, find common ground and work to settle on a permanent home for the IFC Men’s Shelter.

I’m going to continue to post as much material as I can so that there’s another resource that citizens can use to research this issue. Tina Coyne-Smith is sending me her presentation which clearly and succinctly laid out reservations about the Homestead site. I’ll post that soon.

Two long stalwarts of the IFC program, Pastors Robert Seymour (Robert Seymour: UNC HealthCare Ombudsman?) and Richard Edens, both gave compelling and compassionate reasons for siting Community House on Homestead.

Below are Richard’s remarks to Council:

Mayor Foy, Council Members and Fellow Citizens,

I am Richard Edens. For thirty years, I have served with my wife Jill, as co-pastor of United Church of Chapel Hill which is the adjacent property to the proposed location for Community House. We live in the North Forest Hills community on Stateside Drive. I am an almost-daily, early morning, runner through Homestead Park and the Parkside neighborhood. I am also a member of the Inter-Faith Council Board of Directors.

First, I would like to invite fellow supporters of the plan to relocate Community House to stand: colleagues in the clergy and congregational leaders (Mark Acuff – Gathering Church, Bob Dunham – University Presbyterian Church, Jill Edens – United Church of Chapel Hill, Stephen Elkins-Williams – Chapel of the Cross, Rebecca McCulloh – Chapel Hill Christian Church, Robert Seymour – Pastor Emertius, Binkley Baptist, Susan Steinberg — United Church of Chapel Hill, Isaac Villegas – Chapel Hill Mennonite Church; Peter Carman of Binkley and Carl King from University UMC send their regrets) , supportive congregational members, IFC supporters. We rise in support of the partnership of the Town of Chapel Hill, the University of North Carolina and the Inter-Faith Council which resolved a five-year process initiated by the Mayor’s Taskforce to find a new location for the shelter.**

The good news is that we are not here to discuss whether Community House should exist or the need for safe space as people undertake the transformation from homelessness to independence.

We do not believe that having a safe space for children to grow up or for the public to use the park is mutually exclusive with having a safe space for people at a vulnerable time in life engage in this transformation from homelessness to independence. The movement towards independent living whether it is that of a child or any person having to refashion a life requires safe space, sheltered space, for that transformation to occur.

Many of us who have gotten to know the people in the Community House program know them as persons, not statistics or numbers or probabilities or projections. Thus our familiarity with them makes them like family and we are seeking a safe place for our family to grow from a state of dependence to independence.

Community House is a way station on the journey from homelessness to health and independence. It is not a place that shelters the homeless as they remain homeless and neither is it a place to call home where as Robert Frost reminds us, *“when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”* Upon entering the Community House program, a resident is no longer homeless. Their stay, however, at Community House is contingent – contingent on health, on effort, on contributing towards the movement from homelessness to independence.

The journey from being homeless to being at home is fraught with *“many dangers, toils and snares,”* to quote an old hymn. Few people find themselves homeless for one reason alone so it can be a long journey home. As anyone who has ever dieted or tried to stop smoking, it is rarely achieved the first time you try.

Bob Seymour and I ran into each other last week and could not help reminiscing that we were before Town Council almost 25 years ago locating Community House downtown. I always looked upon its location in the center of our community as an indication of this community’s heart – the original safe space. Twenty-five years later, the Town of Chapel Hill has expanded and the downtown is no longer the only center of our community. We move easily from downtown to Southern Village to University Mall to Meadowmont to Carolina North. As Chapel Hill has expanded so has our heart – and the safe spaces our community requires for the health and transformation of all its citizens.

We, clergy and congregational leaders from participating IFC congregations, encourage you to continue the work you initiated through your partnership with the University of North Carolina and the Inter-Faith Council to provide a place in our community for the transformation of all our citizens towards as independent and abundant a life as possible.

I am also here as one of the pastors of the closest property to the proposed location of Community House. We are a community of some 850 adults and several hundred youth and children. On weekdays we have 60 preschoolers in our education space. United Church of Chapel Hill welcomes the relocation of Community House because:

(1) Community House is in alignment with our faith that welcomes the stranger and sojourner, that seeks to increase the love of neighbor and love of God. Or as book of Proverbs instructs, *Remember what your mother taught you: “speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

(2) United Church of Chapel Hill is in covenant with 50 some other congregations seeking the community’s good through the Inter-Faith Council and its programs.

(3) The 24 year history of Community House is time-tested and is positive.

(4) When United Church was located on Cameron Ave, the Inter-Faith Council operated out of a house on Wilson Street which backed up to the playground of our church school and that of the Chapel Hill Daycare Center. Community House had its origin on the floor of the Fellowship Hall prior to the move into the Old Municipal Building. We lived together with people and families seeking assistance over 25 years without incident in a downtown historic district neighborhood.

Our familiarity with the IFC, Community House and those seeking assistance through Community House has not made us fearful. Our hope and prayer is that Community House will continue to restore people to health, to independence and to life in community. Our hope and prayer for our community is that we find that creating spaces for growth and change of differing populations are not mutually exclusive but the goal of healthy communities.

Chapel Hill’s best self has always acted with a generous and expansive heart. As Olympia Snowe said recently, “History is calling.” History is calling. Continue the tradition of living into our best self. Expand the heart of Chapel Hill. Thank you.

Richard Edens,
United Church of Chapel Hill

Big thank you to all the volunteers, including many, many UNC students who turned out this morning to help Orange County Justice United do a survey of the Northside and Pine Knolls areas in order to:

  • Position community priorities in the public eye,
  • Build relationships and get support for their social justice agenda by residents and institutions in the Northside neighborhood
  • Document housing issues and community infrastructure in disrepair

Orange County Justice United

is a broad-based, multi-racial, multi-faith, multi-issue, strictly non-partisan citizens’ power organization dedicated to making change on social justice issues (affordable housing, healthcare, education, living wages) affecting the lives of low- and middle-income residents in Orange County.

The organization is partnered with 30+ local churches and social support institutions in promoting their agenda.

Also, thanks to Delores Bailey and Empowerment for providing facilities and logistical support for today’s effort.

There are a lot of questions (and comments) about the potential relocation of the IFC Men’s Shelter to the corner of Homestead Rd. [MAP].

At last night’s WCHL 1360 candidate forum [MP3] I talked about how, if elected to Council, I would use an approach like the one I helped develop for siting the new Orange County trash transfer station; in conjunction with the community, staff, the IFC and technical experts develop objective, measurable, community and technically based criteria to apply to site approval that complements the Town’s existing planning process.

Using a facts based approach should help the community focus on the relevant issues, create a framework for discussion of issues that by their nature are necessarily subjective and reduce some of the tension that has arisen from misinformation (some of which continues to be promulgated).

Along those lines, I have requested crime statistics for the Homestead area for the last year, as many of the emails candidates and Council are receiving refer to incidents I wasn’t aware of (not reported in the press, by staff to Council, etc.). Based on these citizen emails, it appears that this area is already having difficulties that are not being adequately addressed.

Until I get the statistics, here’s a great tool that the Daily Tar Heel’s Sara Gregory developed for visualizing incidents.

In addition to the questions and answers the IFC’s Chris Moran provided earlier, Chris has also provided the following time-line, including proposed expansion and relocation of needed services, to the community to set the context for discussion:

  1. The Inter-Faith Council (IFC) has enjoyed a strong partnership with the Town of Chapel Hill for 24 years through the use of the Old Municipal Building (OMB) to house current Community House operations (residential facility and the Community Kitchen);
  2. Project Homestart, a HUD/Orange County sponsored transitional housing program for homeless families, officially opened in April 1998 on the Southern Human Services Center campus in Chapel Hill;
  3. In 1999, Chapel Hill Mayor, Rosemary Waldorf organized an IFC Relocation Taskforce;
  4. Since 1999, the IFC, the Town of Chapel Hill and partner agencies have been searching for a permanent location for our men’s facility without success;
  5. In 2003, HUD funding ended for Project Homestart; a community planning group announced a reorganized HomeStart plan for homeless women and children; and single women residents moved from the OMB to HomeStart campus;
  6. In January 2004, the Mayor of Chapel Hill and the President of the IFC co-convened a community process to address homelessness and new facilities;
  7. IFC/Town 2004 goals included:

    • creating a comprehensive food program in the IFC’s Carrboro building to offer a wide range of support services in partnership with other agencies for hungry persons and those at risk of homelessness
    • identifying a new site for Community House and moving to a more suitable facility
  8. Another IFC/Inter-Governmental Work Group was formed in 2006 to find new locations for IFC facilities including a request for county land at the Southern Human Services Center;
  9. On May 5, 2008 former Chancellor James Moeser and Mayor Kevin Foy announced a new partnership and gift of land for relocating Community House to MLK Blvd.;
  10. Moving forward, the partnership will be even stronger as it includes UNC participation and support;
  11. The land (50-year lease for Community House operations) will allow IFC to have a facility that will be better suited to meet resident needs;
  12. While close to the Orange County Southern Human Services Center and accessible to a major bus line, the location also provides a private setting where 50 men can enlist in a program that will restore health, well-being, learning skills, confidence and opportunities for independence;
  13. This new program will allow formerly homeless men to become productive members of the community;
  14. In the absence of finding a suitable location for the Community Kitchen, the IFC intends to consolidate its food programs (named FoodFirst) for member households at its 110 West Main Street facility in Carrboro unless a more desirable location is found;
  15. The IFC, local congregations and our various partners request that the Chapel Hill Town Council move forward with the Special Use Permit process and next steps to make Community House’s relocation a reality for the men that look to the IFC for support and new opportunities for regaining their independence. They’ve waited long enough!

September 1st, the Orange County Board of Commissioners will once again review the progress of siting a new trash transfer site within the county (agenda here [PDF]).

The good news is that the “Plan B” option I pushed for in 2008 (here and here), utilizing Durham’s transfer site until Orange County sorts the site selection mess out, is firmly established on the agenda.

The bad news is that the Millhouse/Rogers Road community is under new assualt from “Option D” (here).

“Option D”, like Mayor Foy’s poorly considered suggestion to use property adjacent to the Town Operation Center on Millhouse, suggests using county land north of the old landfill on Millhouse.

Where and when was this option introduced?

I’ve asked BoCC Mike Nelson to clarify the genesis and integration of this new last minute twist on the troubled trash transfer site debate.

As some of you folks know I’ve been involved – as a citizen – fairly deeply in the attempt to create a successful agreement between UNC and the Town managing growth of the massive Carolina North project.

The Carolina North project could either contribute greatly to or severely diminish the quality of life in Chapel Hill.

To succeed we need a comprehensive agreement that we all can live with. It needs to be fair, not shifting significant costs onto local residents. It needs to manage impacts so that water, air, noise and traffic concerns don’t spill over into the wider community. It needs to meet the needs of the University while honoring the community in which it thrives. It also has to have understandable consequences, demarcated trade-offs and a compliance regimen that UNC will follow.

I’ve attended almost every forum, meeting and public hearing. Suggested improvements in both process and content, more than a few which have been incorporated into the CURRENT draft.

When Council started the final phase of the process, the creation of a binding legal contract between the Town and UNC governing some period and extent of development on the Horace-William’s Airport tract (Carolina North), I took the firm position that their schedule was too aggressive, the amount of work clearly underestimated.

Unlike a traditional development zone, once the agreement is signed the Town – which is us – will be bound not only to the agreement’s stipulations but the supplementary addenda – most notably UNC’s Carolina North Design guidelines [PDF] (which envisaged 8-story buildings lining Martin Luther King Jr./Estes).

There are many moving parts to the agreement – each serving a vital function: protecting the environment, maintaining nearby neighborhoods’ integrity, providing a flexible and transparent process to manage UNC’s growth, etc.

I argued then, as I do today, that the schedule – which has become even more arbitrary (no money to build) – would severely limit the Council’s and wider public’s ability to review and digest the final agreement.

I knew that the bulk of the work would be rushed at the finish line with the public short-changed in the end.

Many of the meetings I would start my comments by pointing out that the public was ill-served by the continuing trend of providing key documents late, incomplete or not at all. As recently as last Thursday’s “public” information event (more like window dressing) the revised development agreement was not available until nearly 6pm (for a 7pm session!).

The information session reviewed a version of the agreement, completely reorganized and extended, with folks who had no opportunity to have read it (I had my laptop and was scrambling to both read the new revision and find out if my prepared questions had any relevance anymore).

Worse, I had to guess on where to find the correct revision (it is here [PDF], not available as a markup or clean version as noted on Monday’s agenda here) [I notified staff later that evening – the problem still exists as of 4:30pm Sunday].

How can Council hold a public hearing on a development agreement that is unavailable to the public 24 hours prior?

They can’t but they will.

Unfortunately, with key underlying studies delivered nearly a year late, with the development agreement still in flux, informal public input not only not fully integrated but cut-off, my prediction of a rush to failure was all to correct.

Council is poised to adopt an agreement incorporating hundreds of pages of supplementary material that they and the Town Manager have not fully read (watch June 8th’s Council meeting) , that is not – as of June 15th – finalized and that continues to have several substantial points of contention – including major traffic issues and costs essentially amounting to a yearly fee of up to several hundreds of dollars per homeowner.

Worse, the current draft agreement is peppered – just like a lousy credit-card deal – with “to be determineds”.

Without a firm contract and the time to adequately review it, the public continues to be ill-served (heck, when you buy a house you get at least 3 business days to back out after signing – and that contract has legal boilerplate that is well-established, one house instead of 3 million square feet of development and an established legal framework to protect your rights).

Why Council is insisting on adopting an agreement that is unfinished and unread? Why not limit the term from 5 to 8 years, the scope to 800,000 to 1,000,000 square feet to protect the public’s interest in maintain our quality of life? Why the rush?

Please contact Council here and ask them to grant the public fully 60 days to review a complete and finalized agreement.

Seems like the municipal elections are officially on. Kevin bowed out as mayor. Mark bowed in. Laurin, not surprisingly, ready to go again. And now Penny.

I ran with Penny in 2007 and welcome her 2009 run.

She did her homework, was firm in her convictions, eloquent and handled some rather nasty rebukes by two of the incumbents with grace and good cheer.

I’m hoping that this year, unlike the 2007 campaign where the incumbents orchestrated an issues shut out, will be a year in which the rather substantial problems before our community get not only a fair hearing but elicit specific proposed remedies by the candidates.

Here’s Penny’s announcement:

I am proud to announce my candidacy for Chapel Hill Town Council. While running in the 2007 council race I was honored to meet many folks that live and work in Chapel Hill who share my love for this beautiful town. Chapel Hill has a bright future, and I believe I would be a positive addition to the Town Council as they guide us through the next phase of growth. As a small business owner raising a family in Chapel Hill, I represent the unique perspective of the average everyday citizen. In the coming months I look forward to talking to the people of Chapel Hill to gain an understanding of their priorities, needs, and concerns. I can best represent Chapel Hill by ensuring that everyone has the chance for their voice to be heard as we shape the future of our town.

A couple meetings tonight that folks may want to check out.

First, a meeting on Northside and the corrosive effect burgeoning development, taxes and shrinking opportunities is having on that traditional community.

From today’s Herald-Sun:

Local activists united to address what they view as “historic discrimination, rising property taxes, and development that threaten communities of color in Chapel Hill” will share alternate visions for collaborative sustainability and social change at 6 tonight.

United with the Northside Community Now (UNC-NOW), St. Joseph C.M.E., NAACP, and EmPOWERment Inc. will host a community meeting at St. Joseph C.M.E. Church, 510 W. Rosemary St., to discuss the impact of local development on historically African American neighborhoods.

“It is important that we come together as a community to be the voice of righteousness and justice in the face of the injustice and racist environmentalism that is threatening our neighborhoods,” the Rev. Troy F. Harrison of St. Joseph C.M.E. said in a news release.

Second, at 7pm, the second Town-sponsored community outreach on the Carolina North development agreement.

A Public Input/Information Session on Carolina North will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19, in the Chapel Hill Town Council Chambers of Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Carolina North is a proposed satellite campus of UNC-Chapel Hill. It is expected to be contained within about 250 acres of the Horace Williams Tract’s 1,000 acres and be built in phases over the next 50 years, as proposed. The property lies just to the north of Estes Drive adjacent to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The Thursday session will provide an update on the status of UNC-Chapel Hill’s
Carolina North plans and a description of issues being addressed by policy-makers and Town/University staffs. These issues include the following: design standards and public art; police/fire/EMS facilities and services; school site; recreation facilities; greenways, connections; historic, cultural features; stormwater management on site; water use and reclamation; energy conservation, carbon credits; Solid waste management; remediation of landfill; stream buffers; trees, landscaping; sedimentation; neighboring lands, compatibility, buffers; noise, lighting. A public comment period is scheduled.

This meeting will be aired live on Chapel Hill Government TV 18. Additional informational sessions on Carolina North have been scheduled for 1 to 5 p.m. March 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. April 1.

For more information, contact the Town of Chapel Hill Planning Department at (919) 968-2728 or carolinanorth@townofchapelhill.org.

Additional material is posted online at www.townofchapelhill.org/carolinanorth.

Tonight presents an excellent opportunity to not only get information but to help steer the discussion on what should be part of the development agreement which will codify the community’s expectations.

Watching the folks who formed PRO – Preserve Rural Orange – in response to UNC’s foray into airport building and Orange County’s crazy siting of the trash transfer station on Hwy. 54 has been encouraging. From a small group of concerned citizens, they have developed an activist organization that puts the “pro” in PRO.

These are long term issues but, so far, they’ve done a great job rallying other concerned folks from across the county to address these significant issues.

Here’s Laura Streitfeld’s report on yesterday’s visit to Greensboro’s waste transfer facility.

To read and listen to WCHL 1360 AM coverage of Orange County Commissioners’ visit to the Greensboro Waste Transfer
Station, click on the link below: WCHL report.

Visit to the Greensboro Waste Transfer Station

Yesterday morning I visited the City of Greensboro’s Waste Transfer Station, on a trip planned for new Orange County Commissioners. I rode in a van from Hillsborough with commissioners Pam Hemminger, Bernadette Pelissier and Steve Yuhasz, Orange County’s Solid Waste Director Gayle Wilson and Solid Waste Planner Blair Pollock, and reporters from the News and Observer, WCHL 1360 AM, and a student reporter and camera person from UNC. When we arrived at the station we were joined by Bonnie Hauser and Susan Walser of Orange County Voice and Forrest Covington, who is working on a video project with Bonnie Hauser. While at the site I took photos and video, and attached are two photos, one of a truck dumping trash inside the building and the other of trailers parked outside, with petroleum tanks in the background. Steve Yuhasz speaks with Jeri Covington in the second photo.

City of Greensboro Environmental Services Director Jeri Covington talked with us and answered questions about the city’s landfill and waste management history and the transfer station’s financing, construction and operations, then took us for a tour inside on the floor, where operations were slowed down for us to walk around. Like the proposed Orange County station, the two-story Greensboro station is entirely enclosed. Inside there was a thick dust in the air that clouded some of my photos, stirred up by the wind blowing in and by the constant motion of trucks and earthmoving equipment driving in and out, dumping and pushing trash across the floor. The smell was not as strong as I anticipated, but walking through the dusty interior I did get a vivid picture of how traffic, noise and airborne particles from an entire county’s waste would affect the ecosystem and watershed in southwest Orange County.

In selecting a site, Jeri Covington noted that they looked for property close to the interstate and near rail lines in an industrial zone. As we saw on our drive in, the station is close to an I-40 exit and and surrounded in all directions by petroleum tanks which Covington called “tank fields.” When it was built in 2005, the Greensboro facility’s cost of construction was $9 million, and the cost of the ten acre property, which Covington said was too small, was over $800,000. She described the station’s funding as a “hybrid,” explaining that they receive funds from city taxes and from tipping fees for taking trash from outside municipalities and companies. At the Greensboro station, garbage is dropped from the upper floor into tractor-trailers below and hauled to the Uwharrie Regional Landfill in Mt. Gilead, North Carolina.

The visit and the van ride were both informative. On the way to Greensboro I spoke with Pam Hemminger, and learned about her background, school board experience and new role as a commissioner. Riding back, Gayle Wilson and Blair Pollock shared their expertise on a broad array of waste management and recycling issues, answering Steve Yuhasz’s and my questions. Wilson discussed the future of the county’s collection centers on Bradshaw Quarry Road and Ferguson Road, one or both of which could close if a collection center were built on the Howell property near the proposed transfer station.

My purpose in visiting the station with the commissioners was to bring back information that would be useful to county residents. Photos, video and a description of the Greensboro station visit will be posted soon on the Preserve Rural Orange website. At our upcoming meeting on March 1st, I look forward to sharing more with you about recent developments in the waste transfer issue. Please feel free to contact me with questions or comments at: info@preserveruralorange.org

I knew that the final siting of the solid waste transfer station might devolve into an “us vs. them” debacle – pitting neighbor against neighbor. Orange County is no stranger to inter-community bickering caused by waste-related issues.

From the beginning, as I made contact with leaders of various organized groups – the Rogers Road community, Hillsborough’s Orange County Community Awareness, Highway 54’s Orange County Voice – I asked that they look at those concerns they have in common and work together as a united front. Fortunately, the folks involved across the county, coming from different perspectives, have found common ground and, essentially, joined together to confront the challenge of managing our solid waste responsibly.

One example ? CEER’s Neloa Jones desire to mitigate community impacts as expressed in her Nov. 17th statement read to the Orange County Board of Commissioners:

Good evening Chairman Jacobs and Other Members of the Board.

My name is Neloa Jones. I am a resident of the Rogers-Eubanks Community, co-chair of the Coalition to End Environmental Racism (CEER), and a member of the Roger-Eubanks Neighborhood Association (RENA).

For 36 years, the Rogers-Eubanks Community has hosted two municipal solid waste landfills, two construction and demolition landfills, a hazardous waste collection site, a recyclables sorting and packaging facility, a mulch/compost site, and a 1/3 acre leachate pond that even the county believed threatened our groundwater.

For these reasons, my community certainly empathizes with ANY community that might also become a host community for solid waste, and I am here tonight to ask that the county GUARANTEE certain provisions and compensation to the community asked to host the waste transfer station.

As suggested in the U.S. EPA Waste Transfer Stations manual, these provisions and compensation might include independent third-party inspections and video monitoring of the facilities, eliminating 3R fees, “funding for road [and] utility improvements,” and “financial support for regulatory agencies to assist with facility oversight.”

Unfortunately, for its 36 years of service to the county, the Rogers-Eubanks Community has never received ANY compensation. We consider this treatment to be unjust and immoral; we do not want another community to receive similar treatment.

For many Rogers-Eubanks residents, our community represents the legacy of ex-slave ancestors who attempted to prosper as they established a community. It represents the legacy of ancestors who wanted to preserve the land to live on and pass to their children and their children’s children.

Our ancestors never envisioned a community blighted by pollution, deflated property values, and the loss of business opportunities. They never envisioned a community blighted by buzzards and vermin, the stench of garbage, and contaminated water. NO, as a member of the Rogers family–FIFTH-generation–I believe that this IS NOT what my ancestors envisioned. As CEER and RENA members, no, we cannot stand by and watch another community destroyed and its quality of life sacrificed. We hope the people of Orange County and our local governments will use the lessons of the past and probe their consciences so that they do what is right for Orange County. Finally, we should ensure that as we look to waste-to-energy and other waste disposal alternatives, we do not bring more technology and waste facilities to Eubanks Road.

The troubled News and Observer posted this reminder:

The Chapel Hill Historical Society will present The History of Print Media in Chapel Hill and Carrboro on Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m.

The featured speakers will be Don Evans, an editor and writer at The Chapel Hill News for three decades, and Kirk Ross, former managing editor of the Independent Weekly and co-founder of The Carrboro Citizen.

“Our event will look at the history of newspapers and print media in our towns and will surely spark a discussion about the future of newspapers here,” said Chapel Hill Historical Society Chairman Terry Barnett.

The program is free and open to the public and will be held in the lower level of the Chapel Hill Museum, 523 East Franklin St. Parking is available in the museum lot [MAP].

Chapel Hill has been blessed over the years with a variety of media outlets. Their evolutions and declines, reformations and restorations a harbinger of what comes next in journalism in the on-line age. Don’s (and formerly Kirk’s) Chapel Hill News has a ‘net presence via OrangeChat. Kirk is a pioneer – creating a newspaper, the Carrboro Citizen, on-line first then moving its content to the quaint dead tree distribution network.

Unfortunately I have a previous engagement on Sunday. This should be an interesting presentation where, I’m fairly sure, some curious back-stories of Chapel Hill will emerge.

[UPDATE]

The Daily Tar Heel’s Emily Stephenson chimes in here (DTH ‘blogs). A story on yesterday’s poor turnout here.

[ORIGINAL]

Earlier today (Nov. 19th), UNC’s Board of Trustees approved the draft Carolina North design guidelines making the proposal official UNC policy.

This evening, the first in a series of informational/public feedback sessions on Carolina North was held. With the creation of the Carolina North development agreement well on its way, the Council’s explicit call to advisory boards to attend, if possible, and the aggressive schedule to meet next July’s commitment, I expected a fairly full house.

Crowded house? Not the case.

The meeting started with roughly two dozen citizens in attendance. By the time Jack wrapped his presentation covering UNC’s design intent the group of interested citizenry was down to 19. At the end of the Dr. Owen’s presentation, covering the development agreement process, only 17 non-staff/non-press folks remained. Of those, eleven were drawn from the “usual suspects” ( Fred Black, Joyce Brown, Fred Stang, David Godschalk, George Cianciolo, Lynne Kane, Mike Collins, Loren Hintz, Ed Harrison, Bob Henshaw, me).

Disappointing! As Carolina North’s development director Jack Evans noted this evening, the formal process for approval has begun. The first phase of Carolina North is on its way.

Chapel Hill residents need to wake up and show up.

Every resident will eventually be affected by Carolina North’s development. At least 5 advisory boards will be consulted on both the outline and details of the development agreement. Community groups like the Friends of Bolin Creek and Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth (well represented this evening) could play key roles in shaping the discussion.

There is quite a bit of work before the community. If we follow Pal Alto’s trajectory, the development agreement – which is, as Dr. Owens pointed out again this evening, essentially a binding legal contract – could swell to 200+ pages over the next 8 months (that’s 25 or more pages of detailed legal requirements per month – a heavy responsibility). Those pages will dictate development over a long period. Once set, unlike zoning ordinances, the ability to tweak conditions requires mutual agreement. Mistakes could be difficult to correct.

The community has a tremendous opportunity to shape the outcome at Carolina North. Both UNC and Chapel Hill’s Town Council agreed to involve the public at every point in the process. But, so far, Chapel Hill’s citizens have not turned out.

The negotiations between UNC and the Town will continue to accelerate. The momentum is building rapidly. My concern is that by the time citizens go into reactive-mode – recognizing missing elements in the plan, trying to wedge in protections beyond those outlined – the inertia will be too great and the time too short to significantly change course.

Now is the time for public concern. Now is the time for community involvement.

Because of the extensive impacts Carolina North will have on this community over the next several decades, I’ve asked Council to “bang the drum loudly”, to go beyond simply inviting the public into the process. We need to seek out folks, develop multiple avenues of engagement and draw them into the discussion. That said, at some point it comes down to whether our citizens want to shoulder their part of the burden and work on behalf of folks that will live here decades hence.

My previous posts tracking requests for information, feedback and general commentary to our Town staff and elected folks seem to be fairly popular.

I’m going to continue to post correspondence which might be of public interest.

The Town’s Technology Board (now defunct) was the first advisory board I regularly interacted with. The first meeting I attended was about six years ago (I was a lowly citizen then, not a member). I presented the group what I called a “technology manifesto” of proposed technology enhancements for the Town.

The “manifesto” outlined five major areas for improvement including cost saving initiatives, use of open source software, adoption of open standards, broadening community outreach via the Internet, tracking both the planning process and other relevant Town business processes, publishing Council and Town Manager emails, what is now called social networking sites for direct interaction between citizens and Town, WIFI to bridge the digital divide, public fiber infrastructure as an economic development differentiator, website accessibility, etc.

It was quite a list. The Technology Board seemed a bit stunned (or maybe bored) but, even so, they did me the courtesy of listening as I outlined my plan of action.

I continued working on those items when I became an official member of that board. Some of the initiatives have moved forward. Others languish. None have been completed.

One issue I brought forward was on-line video of Council and other important advisory board proceedings. Because of the sketchy minutes many advisory groups kept, I also wanted audio of all board proceedings.

When the Town lagged in their effort to put Council meetings on-line, I took it upon myself to upload (here) as many as possible. Finally the Town contracted with Granicus (which uses Microsoft’s proprietary technology) to do the same.

Now we have video (here) which is easily accessible for those folks running Winblows. Mac and Linux users are kind of cut out (see the problem with not using open standards?).

Anyway, long windup to another in a long line of re-requests. In this case, online video documenting the proceedings of our Planning Board (pretty common elsewhere, important when minutes lag Council approvals or don’t adequately capture debate).

Last week the cable-customer supported People’s Channel presented their annual report. As part of that report, they expressed an interest in doing more coverage of governmental events.

I sent this to the PC’s Director Chad Johnston Nov. 11th:

Hey Chad,

I’d like to follow up on Kevin’s comments last night.

I’m not sure if you are aware of my several year effort to get Council to broadcast advisory meetings, but I believe this is what Kevin was referring to.

In terms of priority, I have asked that the Planning Board be the first in line. As you know, the Planning Board’s decisions have significant impact on the community. Many other communities already broadcast their deliberations.

Do you think TPC could assist the Town in that effort?

Thanks

Here’s what I asked Mayor Foy the same day:

Kevin,

Since you brought the issue up last night. As you know, I’ve been calling for more extensive coverage of advisory board proceedings for years. Priority one, I believe, is broadcasting and posting video of all the Planning Board sessions. This is quite common elsewhere. Planning Board’s decisions have significant impact on the community. Beyond their process, which we could do a much better job explaining, zoning issues as a whole seem somewhat opaque to the wider community.

Televising their proceedings would go a long way towards involving our community at a point where their concerns can have the most impact.

I hope you will put this on a fast-track with Chad and company.

Thank you

To date I’ve had no response from either Chad or Kevin. I’ll update folks should I hear from them on what I think would be an excellent improvement to our governance process.

Gerry Cohen, Director of Bill Drafting for the North Carolina General Assembly since 1981 and former Chapel Hill Council member, maintains a fantastic ‘blog Drafting Musings.

While he usually covers the vagaries of NC’s legislative sausage-making, luckily for his readers he also veers into interesting back-stories of local and state events.

Today he posts the presentation he gave at the annual Capitol Beat opening reception on the “buffalo nose and other tall tales”, one which involves North Carolina’s Reconstruction era 3rd House.

…the Third House was located in the west side of the first floor In 1868, during Reconstruction, an office and a makeshift bar was set up in the West Hall Joint Committee Room by former Union General Milton Littlefield. Due to its regular use by many legislators and officials under General Littlefield’s dubious influence, the room became known as the “Third House” of the legislature.

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