Chancellor Thorp on HWA Closure: Not until we have to…

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

UNC’s Chancellor Holden Thorp takes a postion (“Carolina North: A Glass Half-Full Perspective”) on Horace-William Airport’s closure.

One of the most vexing issues, though, has been the future of Horace Williams Airport. As you know, it occupies the heart of the Carolina North acreage. It’s the flattest part of the tract and, therefore, the best place to build Carolina North. So we have to close it.

Now, I realize it doesn’t take a lot of analysis to figure out that closing the airport is important for the future of Carolina North. But figuring out HOW to close the airport . . . that’s another story.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to this. The AHEC program is an extremely important asset to this University and to our state. Our doctors, nurses, other health professionals, and our MedAir pilots are as committed public servants as you will find. The work they do and the service they provide are fundamental to who we are as a university. And we are telling them that we have to close their airport to build Carolina North.

I have analyzed all the options, and I’m convinced that we really do have to close the airport to make Carolina North all that it must be. I’m equally convinced that we should fully support the airport authority authorized by the General Assembly as the best way to pursue creation of an airport in Orange County. It gives the county zoning authority, and it turns over the siting and development to a public body with greater expertise than we have.

For AHEC and MedAir, I think a move to RDU for the short-term is workable. But for the long-term, we owe it to our doctors to appoint the airport authority to see if there’s a better alternative.

We have said all along that we wouldn’t close Horace Williams Airport until we had to. With today’s challenging economic climate, we anticipate that funding for initial Carolina North construction likely will be delayed. Our state appropriation for planning and infrastructure for the Law School relocation to Carolina North is frozen, at least for now. And Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc., our partner for the Innovation Center, has put new projects on hold, although they have affirmed their interest in our project.

So, as I posted last night, the University maintains their stance that closure is contingent on Carolina North’s building projects moving forward.

I am disappointed that Holden continues to maintain that the only path to serving AHEC’s needs involves a new general aviation facility. This fixation makes no sense at this point and counters UNC’s own consultant’s recommendations to move AHEC to RDU.

Holden is “convinced that we should fully support the airport authority authorized by the General Assembly as the best way to pursue creation of an airport in Orange County. ”

Sure, the airport authority, with the sovereign powers the State granted it, is probably the best way to get an airport built in Orange County over local residents’ objections.

Where, though, is his concern for the Authority’s other duty – to factually justify the necessity of a general aviation facility? The Authority’s duty to “support the missions of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill or the University of North Carolina Health Care System” has to balance against the significant local impacts, the $60-100 million price tag, the infrastructure costs shoved onto local residents.

I applaud Holden’s willingness to engage the community in the discussion via his ‘blog. I wish other local officials took a lesson from him.

I already left him a comment on his post. I hope folks weigh in with their thoughtful and considered input.

Hat tip to Fred Black for highlighting Holden’s comments.

Morris Grove Elementary School

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

Mia Burroughs is reminding folks that they have until October 31st to help name the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools (CHCCS) newest elementary school out on Eubanks Road, near the Rogers Road neighborhood

The newest school is located adjacent to the former Morris Grove elementary school, a school created to serve the educational needs of the local black community.

The Morris Grove school was created in the late 1800s by Morris Hogan, son of a female slave and her owner. A farmer and local statesman, Hogan put his own land and money into the one-room wooden schoolhouse. The state paid the salaries of two instructors, who, depending on the decade, taught six, seven or three grades.

Patrick Winn, Chapel Hill News, Feb. 10th, 2007

Morris also had a long-standing passion for education as a passport to a better life for his own and other black children. Yet in the late 1800s, the Orange County school board had few funds for school construction and operation. To fill the void, the board sanctioned the opening of many simple, usually one-room, segregated schools that were built and operated by local individuals or groups.

Morris won permission to create the Morris Grove Elementary School, using his own land and funds, at what is now 402 Eubanks Road. It is remembered as a simple frame structure with only pump water, outdoor toilets and a Spartan interior heated by a wood stove in cold weather. Instruction for six grades was taught by one teacher. The school probably stayed in operation from the 1880s to the 1920s, until tax-based public schools took over. All of the Hogan children and some of the grandchildren attended it.

Doug Eyre, Chapel Hill News, Nov. 17th, 2006

Naming the new school Morris Grove would not only honor a slice of our community’s history but serve as an excellent educational reference point for students. Even in the supposedly progressive environs of Chapel Hill, we’re still working to bridge historical divides.

And only knowing where you’ve been can you get where you are going.

Please cast your vote in favor of Morris Grove by answering this CHCCS online survey.

Trash Talk: SqueezeThePulp Led Online

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

Though I’ve quoted many relevant comments from OrangePolitics, a watering-hole for local pols, the “other” local forum, SqueezeThePulp has been popping with online commentary for months.

Here’s one of the more active threads Proposed Orange County Landfill Transfer Station Survey which led off with this David Richter open letter to the Orange County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) and elective councils of Carrboro and Chapel Hill:

An open e-mail and appeal to each of elected leaders of Orange County, Chapel Hill and Carrboro:

Proposed: Eubanks Road and the surrounding areas should be removed as a proposed site for the Orange County Landfill Transfer Station from further consideration for now and for the foreseeable future.

Dear Elected Leaders:

I am asking each of you to take an immediate public and personal position on the above proposal. There was a column in the Chapel Hill Herald on Tuesday, 2/13/07 and the Chapel Hill News, 2/14/07 that talked to all the reasons why Eubanks Road should not be the site of the new Landfill Transfer Station. However, the simple fact is that the Rogers Road community was made a promise in 1972 on placement of the Orange County landfill on Eubanks Road. When the landfill was filled to capacity, the Rogers Road community would no longer be subject to Orange County waste facilities and activities. We should not quibble on technicalities or wording. That was the spirit of the promise.

We can talk about how that promise was already broken, but that would not be useful or productive. If the transfer station is located on or near Eubanks Road, it will clearly be a break of the promise and an act of intentional or unintentional “Environmental Racism”. This promise and the decades of contribution by the Rogers Road Community override all the other considerations of cost and expediency. As our current elected leaders, you are responsible to fulfill that original 1972 promise assuring the integrity of our local governments, adhering to the values of our community and just plain doing the right thing.

I am asking each of you to respond to me by March 1^st . The response should be a Yes or No to the above proposal. I will compile all the responses and report it to the local papers. I will also feedback all the responses to those who did respond. Besides each of your names, I will place one of the following entries with no caveats:

– Yes (for the proposal)
– No (against the proposal)
– No position
– No response

I appreciate your attention to this issue and look forward to your responses and a positive result. Thanks.

David Richter

Commissioner Moses Carey responded to David

Mr. Richter;

I am certain that you have followed the process the County is using to make this important decision about the location of the Transfer Station. Our efforts to communicate with the area residents and consider all available sites have been reported in local papers. Additionally the issue of a “Promise ” has been discussed in this community for many years. While you may not be familiar with those past discussions, you may consult the archives of the news papers to become updated on those discussions.

The BOCC has a process to make a decision on the Transfer Station site and I trust we will adhere to it. That process includes listening to area residents and weighing all available information before making a decision. The views of the Towns on the currently considered sites is the next bit of information we will receive for discussion at our march 1st work session during which the public may listen, but not speak. You may wish to attend to be further informed.

However, it would be premature and unethical in my opinion for any elected official to respond to you as you have requested prior to considering all information which must be considered to make an informed decision on this matter.

I look forward to seeing you at our meeting.

and David responded to Moses

Commissioner Carey:

Thank you for responding to my e-mail. I do appreciate your time and consideration. However, I am baffled by your response and disagree with your rationale.

1) I do agree that we have an ethical problem but disagree where the ethical problem lies. Regardless of whether people agree on the reality or the interpretation of the “promise”, it is an undeniable fact the Roger’s Road community has lived with the Orange County Landfill for over three decades in their back yard and all the resulting negative impacts to their quality of life. After three plus decades the fact that Orange County Board of Commissioners is even considering the same area as the site of the Transfer Station is of itself unethical. It is time to look else where to solve Orange County’s waste problems.

2) I do not understand what process you were referencing in your response. I was unable to retrieve any process with a search. If there is a documented process please point me to it. However, in the last posted minutes of the Solid Waste Advisory Board meeting of 11/2/06 it seems there is no current alternative Orange County site list or search of a site in progress. In fact it is my understanding there is no official criteria for a Transfer Station site in place. The minutes clearly promote the Eubanks Road site for the Transfer Station as the path of least resistance. As far as I can tell, Eubanks Road is the “ONLY” site within Orange County under consideration. Please tell me if I am wrong and if so I apologize and where can I find the list? It is also important to note that any “process” leading to an unethical result is far from appropriate.

For our elected leaders to stand up at this time and be counted is not unethical; it is the right thing for them to do. I urge them to be counted, if not through an e-mail to me (I am just a single citizen speaking for myself) then through other venues. I also urge the Orange County Board of Commissioners to take the ethical path and instruct the Solid Waste Advisory board to take Eubanks Road off the table and find another site for the Transfer Station regardless of the convenience factor. After all, the Rogers Road Community has been living with the “inconvenience” for a long time.

David Richter
Carrboro

Yes, SqueezeThePulp snide, nasty and tough at times with a few dust ups that drown the signal out with noise (like the crappy tit-for-tat that Fred Black and Mark Gill had in the middle of this transfer station discussion) but it does serve a locally online community that Ruby’s OrangePolitics doesn’t.

And that online community, on the Rogers Road issue, led the way.

Trash Talk: Aarne Vesilind’s History

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

I mentioned this before, but on the cusp of tonight’s meeting I’d like to remind folks of Aarne Vesilind excellent overview in the Chapel Hill News (Feb. 21, 2007) of some of the history of the Eubanks landfill.

Before the early 1970s, Chapel Hill was using a small landfill owned by the university for the disposal of its solid waste. This landfill was rapidly running out of space and the university wanted to close it, so a search commenced for a new landfill site. The Town Council decided to buy a piece of land to the north of town for the new landfill.

Abutting this land was a vibrant black community, the Rogers Road neighborhood. They did not want the landfill so close to their homes and went to Mayor Howard Lee for help. The mayor talked them into accepting the decision and promised them that this would be the one and only landfill that would be located near their neighborhood, and if they could endure this affront for 10 years the finished landfill would be made into a neighborhood park.

Most importantly, they were told that the next solid waste landfill for Chapel Hill would be somewhere else and that their area would not become a permanent dumping site. The citizens of the Rogers Road neighborhood grudgingly accepted this deal and promise and then watched as the Orange County Regional Landfill was built near their community.

Although Lee acknowledged making this promise, this was never found on any written document. In addition, the people who lived in the Rogers Road neighborhood were told that the LSC was not bound by promises made by former elected officials.

The fact that the Greene tract was too small to afford a long-term solution continued to be a source of encouragement to the Rogers Road neighborhood, but late in the process and well after the public hearings, Eddie Mann introduced a new site, named OC-17. This site abutted the Greene tract and the Rogers Road neighborhood and included a large tract of land in Duke Forest. The LSC quickly approved OC-3 and OC-17 as the new landfill site and the decision went to the LOG for its approval.

The vote in the LOG was 6-3 in favor of the selected site. Two of the negative votes were by the representatives from Carrboro. Even though Carrboro ought to have had a clear, selfish motive for choosing this site, the two Carrboro representatives, Mayor Mike Nelson and Alderman Jacquelyn Gist, argued that the promise made by Howard Lee to the Rogers Road neighborhood should be kept.

He closes with this observation:

The question in front of the people in Orange County now is whether to continue along their path of least resistance and least cost and place yet another solid waste processing facility in the Rogers Road neighborhood, or to thank these people for all the years that they have had to endure the presence of the landfill in their community, and to tell them once and for all that they have indeed done their part.

Complete column here.

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