Just don’t tell

As I listened to the debate, during the Town Council’s last business meeting on June 21, over guidelines vs. standards pertaining to the Planning Commission’s request for clarification on how to proceed with the section on shelters in the Land Use Management Ordinance, something Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt tossed off caught my attention.

At the start of the discussion, several citizens objected to the lack of public participation in selecting a site for a new homeless shelter. The Homestead Road site had been presented as a done deal, they said. Council member Matt Czajkowski asked town staff once again for a list of the sites it had considered before selecting the controversial Homestead Road location, the criteria used in determining which was the best site, and the pros and cons for each site considered. Town manager Roger Stancil said that the process had not been that scientific.

Kleinschmidt ticked off three reasons why other sites had been rejected years earlier: the sites were owned by the county, and the county said no; they were not convenient to public transportation; or neighbors objected to the location long before the project got to the special use permit phase.

We can check off “motive” for why the Homestead Road location was not discussed publicly before the selection was announced. IFC administrators, having weathered neighborhood objections to other sites, finally found one that seemed just right. So this time, they were savvy: They secured the support of former Mayor Kevin Foy and former Chancellor James Moeser, and made sure a smiling Foy and Moeser flanked them as they announced the selection.

You can hardly blame them. Homeless shelters are easier to support the farther they are from where you live. But I believe, perhaps naively, in transparency: If Homestead Road truly is the best place for the shelter, public input would make the decision to build it there easier to accept by the neighborhoods it would impact most.

People want to be heard. And if you shut them out, they are likely to dig in their heels all the more. Expect even deeper entrenchment as the SUP process moves along.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. Terri Buckner

     /  July 7, 2010

    We don’t have public processes for siting any facilities unless they are of a certain size. Why should we break with policy for this particular facility? Can you name the last public facility other than the landfill that was subjected to public participation for its siting?

    A very good mother once told me that you should never ask your child a question that you already know the answer to. It just sets the child up to lie to you. In this instance, why ask this or any neighborhood to give input on siting a facility that we all know they will object to? You should only ask if you intend to listen. And if the town intends to deny this permit because the neighbors object, then we end up with a facility that has no possibility of ever being sited in this town.

  2. The IFC (like it or not) is legally a private institution. It has its stakeholders that can choose whatever process it wants for its development site selection (just like Roger Perry et al). We have witnessed that process over and over again through the years and they are now telling us this is the best choice available to them. The process has already been more public than other private institutions. While some may *want* the process to be more public, the nature of the institution in question certainly does not require that.

  3. Anon

     /  July 7, 2010

    @james –
    the IFC shelter is not a truly private business. It depends on both Town and County funds to survive. I’d agree with you if it were a private business but it’s model depends on government funding, thus the government approving it and financially supporting it (the Town) has a special obligation .

  4. Runner

     /  July 7, 2010

    The IFC leadership is touting the proposed shelter on Homestead Road as a 52 bed transitional facility whereby individuals can learn skills to become self-sufficient. However, they are not openly discussing the secondary purpose of this shelter.

    When the Community House on Rosemary Street closes, it is expected that the Homestead Road shelter will also serve as the primary drop-in shelter for Orange County’s homeless population during “White Flag” days.

    That means that the Homestead Road shelter has to potential to be filled above the 52 person limit with drop-in homeless 2/3’s of the year. As currently planned, the Homestead Road shelter will be the only homeless shelter in the county.

    Chapel Hill should allow the Homestead Road site to serve its primary purpose of providing transitional housing to 52 individuals, but not allow it to also become the drop-in homeless shelter. Chapel Hill and Orange County need to find an alternate site to serve the needs of the drop-in homeless.

  5. Jon DeHart

     /  July 7, 2010

    The big difference between IFC and other developers is who pays for the process . I don’t know the exact dollars but the town had helped pay for IFC .

    Can’t say they are like any other developer when we are paying for the sup with town dollars .

    I am a supporter of IFC and we should help, We just need a better site. We need actual public input and effort .

  6. Terri Buckner

     /  July 7, 2010

    If you don’t know the amount of funding, then please take the initiative to find out. The amount of funding from Chapel Hill is predominantly wrapped up in the facility cost for the Rosemary St site. The county money is less than $50,000 a year.

    Park sites, the new public works facilities, the senior center–none of these were subjected to public site selection processes. Opponents to the MLK site are using this argument as a red herring for NIMBYism.

  7. Jon DeHart

     /  July 7, 2010

    I am still researching, that is why no dollars were posted . Only posting facts or my opinions .

    From what I was told it was more than 50 k from the town that was budgeted as part of the sup process for the new site .

    I am personally fine if the site was located on County land, same area of town, beside the Senior Center . Or in a corner of the park and ride lot , again same part of town . Both of these sites are similar distances from my home .

    For me it isn’t NIMBY, it is about helping people who need to be helped. If someone is a sex offender, they would not be able to stay there legally because of the proximity of the pre schools .

    I have personally served food at the current food kitchen over 24 times over the last 4 years through service at my church, OUMC . So, I know a little about IFC .

  8. Bill

     /  July 7, 2010

    I wonder how many of the folks who are okay with the proposed location live within a half mile of it? Come on, posters! Fess up.

    This is another Landfill siting jam-it-down-your-throat move by our oh so liberal progressive local governments.

  9. Frank

     /  July 8, 2010

    “This is another Landfill siting jam-it-down-your-throat move by our oh so liberal progressive local governments.”

    What is it about Fox News people who don’t realize that some of the things they’re parroting are sexual innuendos? I know they have sex… there are lots of them. First, we have the self-named “tea baggers”, and now everything is being jammed down everyone’s throats? It’s disgusting, really.

  10. Bill

     /  July 8, 2010

    Does “force feed” meet your PC requirements?

  11. Mark

     /  July 12, 2010

    Everyone should read the staff memorandum at http://chapelhillpublic.novusagenda.com/Bluesheet.aspx?itemid=850&meetingid=80

    and check out http://www.abettersite.org

    The staff makes it perfectly clear why this is NOT your typical private developer property. Donna Bell clearly did not read the memorandum before making her comments at the meeting.

    The town approved $300,000 in community development block grants with another $200K pending for the new shelter. The town is leasing the land to IFC. The town found the site using only IFC’s criteria. The town funds over $50K per year in direct and indirect support to IFC in their current building and this does not include fair market rent on the building.

    The town attorney concluded that these reasons allow the town to require whatever public process it wants.

    From the memorandum: “Should the Town be a party to the application or in the chain of title to the property as lessee from the University as proposed in the case of the property under consideration, we believe that the Town could potentially influence the process procedurally or substantively. The Council could choose to condition its assumed roles as lessor or provider of grant funding on the applicant agreeing to certain terms. For example, the Town could make a condition of its further funding or participation as a lessor, that is, party to the development, a requirement that the Shelter developer agree to a public process above and beyond the process required for a Special Use Permit.”

    Also, this accusation of NIMBYism is totally bogus. The Homestead Park area already hosts thet town’s only at risk overnight social services – The women’s shelter and the Freedom House drug detox.

    The county didn’t say no to the town. The county told the town that they have a constitutional responsiblity to build a justice facilty and that they would consider swapping the current courthouse downtown that is leased from the town with the SHSC land. The town never responded, so the county never responded. Mark K’s position that the “county said no” is pure town-protecting spin.

  12. Mark, the County did propose a horse trade on the properties and the deal didn’t go through for various reasons, including, I believe, some rather stern push-back from the SHSC’s neighboring Senior Center patrons. That still doesn’t abrogate the County’s share of responsibility in providing adequate emergency shelter. It’s kind of incredible the contrast between the loud whinging over the County’s lack of support for the Library and the dead silence over the lack of progress and cooperation by either County or Carrboro in meeting this vital need.

  13. Runner

     /  July 13, 2010

    1. Would the IFC be willing to provide the 17 extra “drop-in Homeless” beds without the quid pro quo of Government funding or free land from UNC?

    2. Would UNC and the Town so readily sheppard through the new facility without the “drop-in” homeless shelter services added to the “Home Start” facility?

    By providing the “drop-in” homeless services, the IFC is doing what a lot of businesses do, they are taking the $&!# work to pay the bills. I just wish they would be more straight forward in their communications with the community.