Power of compromise

In the 1950s, Pres. Dwight Eisenhower said the strength of the U.S. was in its ability to compromise. How far we’ve strayed.

The public hearing on the IFC’s application for a special use permit to build the Community House men’s shelter on MLK Boulevard and Homestead Road continues tonight. The main sticking point of the contentious issue is the 17-bed emergency shelter component of what is otherwise a much-needed transitional housing facility to help homeless men get back on their feet and live independently in the community.

Council member Matt Czajkowski has proposed removing the 17 emergency beds from Community House. The current shelter on Rosemary and Columbia streets would handle the emergency shelter function for the time being until a better site is located, ideally with the county taking greater responsibility for emergency shelter. Czajkowski’s proposal would require the 100 West Rosemary St. shelter to close within four years.

The IFC might not be thrilled with having to find a new site for an emergency shelter – let’s face it, none of us wants to live next door to a homeless shelter. Residents living near the proposed Community House site might not be thrilled with welcoming homeless men, even screened and stabilized homeless men, into the neighborhood, as they have a handful of other shelters for the down and out along Homestead Road. But a compromise from both sides would enable a much-needed service to move forward. And council could turn its attention to any of the myriad other important issues it has to decide.

Nearly a decade after Eisenhower left office, his former vice president, Richard Nixon, was elected president. Nixon believed that America’s strength lay in not compromising. Thus began a shift in values that has resulted in the highly polarized political climate we wallow in today, one that prevents us from moving forward.
– Nancy Oates

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15 Comments

  1. Jon DeHart

     /  May 9, 2011

    Nancy,
    Great post !

    I have been asking for 2 things from Council all along :
    1. Separate the emergency piece from the transitional piece .
    2. Treat IFC as they would treat any other developer . BTW, they said they would .

    Will see the results of both tonight .

  2. Duncan O'Malley

     /  May 9, 2011

    Hear, hear!

  3. Terri Buckner

     /  May 9, 2011

    I’m all for compromise. But pulling the emergency beds isn’t a new suggestion. I proposed it 3 years ago on an OP discussion and others proposed it during the 2010 public meetings sponsored by IFC. Every time, it has been rejected by the most vocal members of the neighborhood opposition. Has that changed?

    As for the proposal to keep the downtown shelter operational after Community House is built, I don’t believe this kind of proposal should be made as part of the special use permit process. To make it work financially and logistically requires planning and coordination. To lay that additional responsibility on an already stretched IFC staff while they are trying to build a new facility and continue their other programs would be extremely burdensome. To allow it to stand as a condition without any ownership would leave a small, but vulnerable population in jeopardy and potentially jeopardize Community House. It’s a lose-lose situation for IFC and the men it serves unless someone takes ownership prior to the compromise being implemented.

  4. Runner

     /  May 9, 2011

    Terri,

    If you claim to have proposed this very compromise before, then please do so again in front of the council tonight.

  5. Terri Buckner

     /  May 9, 2011

    The special use process is about building a new facility. It isn’t about the type and extent of services this community chooses to offer for it’s homeless population. The special use process isn’t the place for such a compromise.

  6. Jon DeHart

     /  May 9, 2011

    The SUP hearing is for what the Council chooses to discuss and take public input .

    The Council may choose items to discuss that the developer does not wish to discuss . I have seen that happen frequently .

    The Council was electected to make decisons, some are tough , some are easy . This is a tough one .

  7. Terri is just one of several folks who have pushed for separating the emergency housing from the rest of the program. It’s come up time after time over the last decade. Throughout the last few election cycles most of the candidates studiously avoided discussing the issue so I can understand why the wider community might not be as informed about that option as needed.

    Terri is right about the logistical problems the IFC will have separating the emergency shelter from existing programs. They will need to staff and maintain two facilities during a difficult transition period. At some point the IFC would be juggling three service facilities – the kitchen, emergency shelter and Community House – with all the attendant increased overhead that will require.

    That is why I’ve been pushing for the County to finally step up in a vital fashion to take on the emergency housing component. The County, of all the local governments, is most clearly obligated to provide this type of service. We have burdened the IFC for too long with this community responsibility. I’m disappointed that our Council has not brought pressure to bear on the BOCC at either Assembly of Governments meetings the last few years or during their one-on-ones – like the most recent meeting March 23rd.

    I sent the following request to the Council prior to that meeting:

    Mayor and Council, Please consider adding the following items of discussion to your Thursday night joint meeting with the BoCC:

    * County’s role in providing emergency housing for the homeless. Given their State mandated obligation to provide human services, the County needs to be a more active participant in the current discussion on shelter guidelines and providing new or additional space/resources for emergency housing.
    o What near term and long term goals does the BOCC have for meeting that obligation? How can Chapel Hill assist the County?
    o Will the BOCC consider dedicating a bigger chunk of the projected sales tax revenue from a %0.25 sales tax increase to that purpose?
    * County’s role and future plans for providing human services.
    o How can the County and Town coordinate effectively in delivering services to a growing population?
    + How can the impact of Chapel Hill’s current growth policy be aligned more effectively with the County’s plans? Can there be an analog to SAFPO in evaluating the need for adequate human service resources in Chapel Hill?
    o How can the County communicate more effectively their plans for shifting the provision of human service resources around the County?
    + Dental clinic, probation services, etc. moved out of Carrboro

    I understand that your meeting agenda is already packed but given the current discussion of emergency housing services, the possibility of a sales tax referendum, the accelerating demand on the human services safety net, now is the time to clear the air.

  8. Terri Buckner

     /  May 9, 2011

    Jon–determining the extent of the services offered/funded by IFC is not part of the town’s authority. Developers come to the council with the expectation of making profit. So if the town puts burdensome conditions on their plan, they simply raise the sales price on their units. The IFC doesn’t have that choice. If burdensome conditions are added to their plan, they either have to raise more funds or pull out. Providing a necessary human service should not be compared to building for profit. They are night and day different.

    Will–I don’t disagree that providing human services is a county responsibility. But if they were to take this on, some other group would have to lose funding. Which one? Should we cut back on education? The additional sales tax is supposed to be used for maintenance on existing school buildings and economic development. Taking away from either of those needs simply creates a bigger hole than we currently have.

  9. Terri, I’ve been talking about carving out more funding for human services and support of emergency shelter services for a long time. Most recently, I raised it within the context of last year’s and this year’s sales tax referendum. I attended all the public hearings and meetings where the allocation was discussed. My request to Council Mar. 23rd pre-dates the BOCC’s decision to do a 50/50 split omitting human services and, specifically, support of an emergency housing program. I even tried to get the local Democratic party to consider a resolution change calling for a change in that allocation so that funding emergency housing wouldn’t impact other human service programs. Those programs Federal and State funding is already evaporating quickly, we needed to tap a new revenue source to address this long outstanding need.

  10. Terri Buckner

     /  May 9, 2011

    I agree that we need to deal with the problem, Will. But the CH Town Council can’t do it as part of a special use permit. And we shouldn’t hold IFC’s plans for Community House hostage until the sure-to-be-contentious conversation takes place, especially since the first step in the discussion is totally dependent on a public vote.

  11. Terri, we haven’t had that conversation in the last 5-10 years. Having seen this issue develop over the years, it’s apparent that without some kind of critical juncture there will be no forward movement on finding a more satisfactory solution.

    I know Chris Moran and his staff don’t want to pursue a dual-use facility – kitchen and emergency shelter – in Carrboro for various reasons, including funding, but I continue to think that option is one that should be evaluated more closely.

    Donna Bell recently made a plea for greater sensitivity to community concerns in the Sanitation 2 case. She characterized the state of relations, at that time, as a festering wound that needed care and attention. As long as the emergency housing component is part of the SUP, it appears we will have a festering polarizing affect, splitting our community.

    Given the IFC’s commitment to provide a Good Neighbor plan as a condition of the SUP approval, some of these concerns absolutely belong as part of tonight’s SUP discussion.

    Roger Stancil’s memo nails it:

    However, if the Special Use Permit is approved, the onus for successful integration of the Shelter in our community will be on the stakeholders and their cooperative relationship. These elements, such as the proposed Good Neighbor Plan, are a broader, shared community responsibility, not typical of development applications.

    Success or failure rests on a “cooperative relationship”. It’s hard to manufacture collaboration when there is significant distrust between parties.

    I support the IFC’s Community House program and am completely in accord with the IFC’s proposed procedures for managing that aspect of the program. And while I don’t agree with a number of ABetterSite’s proposed stipulations (like managing the mail), I do agree with them that the IFC hasn’t satisfactorily worked out the logistics or mechanics of managing an emergency shelter population at that location.

    Just like this year’s unfortunate reverse scheduling of the shelter guideline discussion after the Community House proposal, promising a Good Neighbor plan after approval does not serve the goal of transparency and certainly doesn’t bolster confidence in the integrity of the process.

    What, specifically, are the agreed upon stipulated procedures? How are points of conflict worked out? What enforcement mechanism manages expectations? How are rules loosened or removed or toughened? Is there a stricter probationary period that eventually loosens if projected problems don’t arise?

    UNC made a number of pledges for Carolina North that the Council allowed to be determined later. That turned out to be unfortunate as UNC and the Town now disagree about the scope of the conservation commitment. Along with that, UNC moved forward on a Corps of Engineers application without partnering with the public on a significant site change. In spite of encouraging rhetoric during the creation of the development agreement, UNC now acts like the community is an afterthought in that process instead of honoring its prior commitment to make the community a vital partner.

    What does that have to do with the Community House Good Neighbor plan?

    It demonstrates that a certain level of detail and specificity must be agreed to up-front to avoid back-end disappointments. This is not IFC’s problem but Council’s. Sticking points, like how clients will be moved back and forth to the facility in a way, should be spelled out now and not left for another day.

    As far as Matt’s compromise, if Council does guide the IFC to maintain the shelter Downtown, it should also spell out, specifically, what resources it will provide to make sure that option is successful.

  12. Terri Buckner

     /  May 9, 2011

    Apparently the ‘neighbor group’ isn’t too keen on compromise either. They claim that 4 of the sitting council members (Penny R, Mayor Kleinschmidt, Matt C, Ed Harrison) stated in a campaign survey 4 years ago that they have a fixed position on the site selected, and that others may have participated in the site selection. Sally Greene, Matt C and Jim Ward all said they were aware of the decision due to sitting on the council at the time that ex-Mayor Foy announced the site. Now the members have to vote on the continued participation of the 4 accused and the 3 who said they had not participate in the site selection (Matt C was dinged twice). Laurin, Gene, and Donna are the only ones who didn’t get voted on. Gene Pease was absent for health reasons.

  13. I guess I would’ve been dinged also…

  14. Terri Buckner

     /  May 9, 2011

    Interesting to hear Matt C wanting to use the special use permit process to control operational aspects of Community House. In the past he has been the council member who has questioned the continued use of special use permits.The IFC counsel is suggesting that the town has more latitude in stipulating operational aspects of Community House through the lease rather than the special use permit.

  15. Terri Buckner

     /  May 9, 2011

    Nothing new from the IFC or the opposing neighbors. Matt C challenged the faith community to step up and take responsibility for the emergency shelter component. Mark Chilton spoke as both mayor of Carrboro and a professional realtor. Jim Ward is suggesting quarterly reports by the IFC on the Good Neighbor Plan rather than the proposed annual report. Donna Bell wants to make sure neighbors have a role in writing the Good Neighbor Plan. The underlying discussion is about how much structure to put in the SUP. For example, should it say “no walk ups” or should it say that overnight guests must be bused in from Carrboro.

    Matt is emphatically and repeatedly asking that the approval be given without the emergency facility. He feels that if they approve the emergency component that there will be no leverage to bring the county, the faith community, or whoever into sharing responsibility for caring for the homeless community. He doesn’t appear to think the other council members will support him because he also wants to make sure that the details for getting individuals to and from the facility are spelled out in the certificate of occupancy. He also wants the IFC to promise to move out of the Rosemary St facility no more than 1 year after the new facility is completed. Since the IFC is governed by a board, they cannot answer the question at this time. However, the IFC lawyer says they are in that facility by the town’s grace and the council can dictate their departure at any time. But it is the IFC intention to move as soon as possible. (There is a great deal of tension between the lawyer and Matt.) Laurin wants to know the consequences to IFC for breaking the conditions of the lease. The town lawyer is saying those consequences will need to be spelled out in the lease.

    Adopted Resolution A (approving the SUP), 6-2 (Matt and Laurin opposing)
    Adopted Resolution C (requirement & stipulations for Good Neighbor Plan with modifications), 8-0 (first progress report will be due in September)

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