Transit report

Looks like Chapel Hill Transit is spending its Christmas money or maybe leftover TARP funds set to expire. According to a report in, the town is shelling out $200,000 — perhaps as much as $300,000, depending on which source you believe — to a consulting firm to determine whether the Eubanks Road Park-n-Ride has sufficient capacity to accommodate growth in the northern corridor, and if not, how to expand.

I’ve always been a fan of hearing the advice of someone who knows what they’re doing before making a big investment, but I also believe in getting good value for my money. To assess whether taxpayers are getting good value for the $200,000 of our money the town is spending, let’s do an armchair assessment.

First, comparables. The town paid $42,460 for a consulting firm to determine whether its Land Use Management Ordinance meshed with the town’s stated vision. At first glance, the price seemed high. But then I realized I wouldn’t read the LUMO tome cover to cover and pay attention to the ramifications of its rules for less than $35,000; the remaining $7,460 is a good price for a 22-page report.

Next, the firm: who it is and what it will do. VHB is nationally recognized planning, design and engineering firm that “move[s] projects forward,” according to its website. It has 800 employees spread out over 18 offices up and down the East Coast, including one in Raleigh.

For $200,000, the firm will conduct a “feasibility study.” Here’s how I think it breaks down:

$500 to visit the park-n-ride lot at its peak-use hour, see how full it gets and ask commuters where else they could park if the lot were full;

$200 to print up surveys and set up a suggestion box to get input from users of the lot;

$500 to read the 10-year plans for Chapel Hill and Hillsborough;

$800 for a couple hours to look over the data and determine whether the parking lot should expand up, down or out;

$1,000 to prepare a concise report, including photos and tables, to present recommendations;

$197,000 — give or take $100,000 — to pay for consultants’ time to make presentations, including supplementary PowerPoints, to advisory boards; respond to their suggestions; go back to the drawing board until all boards and town staff approve; then present final work to Town Council and hope council members “feel” it’s right and like the developer.

Yes, $200,000 to $300,000 is about right.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. John Kramer

     /  September 6, 2011

    The REAL reason they are doing the study:

    Very interesting indeed! Maybe they are paying for the study out of ED funding, ha ha!

  2. DOM

     /  September 6, 2011

    The $42,000 the town spent on the new LUMO critique is the best money we ever spent, in my opinion. It’s high time we cast off our antiquated and arcane development process and moved forward with a clear, systematized method for a more urbanized and transit-oriented future.

    Half-acre lots and 5,000 sq. ft. estates in exclusive ‘neighborhood conservation’ districts (along with a few ‘affordable housing’ units sprinkled here and there) should no longer be the accepted standard for Chapel Hill.

  3. Peter K

     /  September 6, 2011

    DOM –
    You are so right. It’s time local ‘protection rackets’ like Neighbors For Responsible Growth cease trying to cut up different areas of our town into neat little segregated pockets; this only creates a sense of regionalism and divisiveness that discourages interaction of the whole.

    A new urbanist approach is definitely the way to go if we want to thrive and grow as a community.

  4. Elliot

     /  September 6, 2011

    Why should it be necessary to “grow” in order to thrive? Incremental growth demands exponential costs to expand infrastructure. The most expensive school we ever built is the next one. In 1999, Scroggs cost about $9 million. Rashkis followed for less than $15 million. Morris Grove cost about $25 million and the Northside neighborhood school is projected to come in at about $35 million.

    OWASA keeps raising rates to pay for capital expansion and lagging connection fees. When the pipe isn’t big enough to keep adding toilets at the far end, the whole pipe needs to be replaced and the cost isn’t covered by the new customers at the extreme end.

    Growth is destroying Chapel Hill. It is unsustainable. Schools will be the first to suffer and have already begun. So, how’s that SAPFA working for you?

  5. John Kramer

     /  September 6, 2011

    Umm, Elliott, it is the ever growing government’s need to collect property taxes to feed their ever growing agenda. Keep on voting them in and see what you get. Good luck!

  6. DOM

     /  September 6, 2011

    Elliot –

    Trying to curtail growth is like trying to fight gravity. If we don’t plan intelligently for it, we’re going to end up very broken indeed. Whether you like it or not, there are other people just like you who want to experience the Southern part of Heaven too. Are you saying you want to close the gates now that you’re inside the compound? Sounds pretty darn elitist if you ask me.

  7. Elliot

     /  September 7, 2011

    I would agree that elected officials have visited this impending disaster on the unsuspecting townfolk. However, it takes a government to say “no” — because the free market has never been able to reign itself in, during periods of exuberance. I don’t blame government, per se.

    It’s our elected officials that are to blame. They are pawns of the real estate industry. They rely on SAPFO and other concurrency legislation to indemnify themselves of the havoc wreaked by their decisions. They claim that the School Board said there was capacity, as another school is funded to accommodate the development that is approved.

    OWASA insists that it is not their job to tell the town council to deny approval, based on water supply. Rather, they must supply whatever the council approves. In effect, using their authority to make sure that there is sufficient water supply, even if that means increasing your water bill to the point where you let your shrubs die and you stop brushing your teeth. After all, we are at least 20 years away from a new reservoir, which would increase our capacity.

    In the meantime, the town council approves new population, based on the assurances from the school board and the water utility that there is ample supply. Each side provides the other with “plausible deniability.”

    The problem isn’t too much government — it’s wrong-headed government.

  8. Elliot

     /  September 7, 2011

    DOM –
    That’s a shallow and empty argument. I didn’t insist that a new home be built for me when I moved into the community. I paid a premium for existing capacity. One family moved out and I moved in. That is sustainable. That is what I propose.

  9. DOM

     /  September 7, 2011

    Elliot –

    Forgive me for being shallow. However, “paying a premium” isn’t always possible for most people. Your statement reminds me of Marie Antoinette’s comment when told that the people were crying for bread; “Let them eat cake.”

  10. Elliot

     /  September 7, 2011

    Well DOM, there are some places that are more expensive to live, than others. Chapel Hill is one of them. Just because people want to move here, doesn’t mean that CH must change into a metropolitan center in order to satisfy the would-be population. As the town is slowly finding out, incremental growth has exponential costs. The school district cannot raise enough money to continue growing, while maintaining a high quality level. Your argument is shallow. It reminds me of the a child who holds his breath or throws a tantrum, until everyone else gives in. I don’t drive a Mercedes. I can live with the reality of economics.

    By the way… Marie Antoinette never really said that.

  11. DOM

     /  September 7, 2011


    Again, my apologies for shallowness but as I understand it, under your ideal scenario anyone wishing to move to Chapel Hill has to be able to pay the premium price for doing so. And what of the “regular” people you will need to serve your various and sundry needs? Like police officers, firemen/women, even lawn maintenance and housecleaning? Do we truck them in from afar every day? Under your scenario, I’d bet you a $4 slice of Foster’s layer cake they sure won’t be able to live in Chapel Hill.

    Now, please excuse me while I hold my breath for your response.

  12. Peter K

     /  September 7, 2011

    Whoa, Elliot –

    You’re something else, man. Let me guess, you live on a large estate lot – but mow your own lawn with your sit-down lawnmower. And you don’t drive a Mercedes – you drive a Prius, with rich Corinthian leather.

    Honestly, you sound like you own the town and want to call all the shots about who lives here and and who doesn’t. Hate to say it, sir, but growth is gonna happen – whether you like it or not.

  13. Nancy Oates

     /  September 7, 2011

    As the town becomes more expensive to live in, we lose diversity. Part of the appeal of Chapel Hill has always been that people who live here work here. Our current mayor campaigned on protecting the small-town feel of Chapel Hill. But if we get rid of the people who work in jobs that pay in the bottom three-quarters of the pay scale, we are reduced to being a Southern version of Scarsdale.

  14. Elliot

     /  September 7, 2011

    Nancy, how do you suggest that they are being gotten rid of? Is it the too high taxes for the new schools that are driving them out? The new schools must be built to accommodate all of the new residents that some seem to desire. So are the new residents’ service demands driving out the established working class?

  15. Nancy Oates

     /  September 7, 2011

    High real estate prices, which will go higher as supply is curtailed, as happens when council quashes smart growth projects like Aydan Court. And high property valuations, which creates a whopper-sized tax bill every year. Senior citizens who own their homes free and clear are moving out because the high property tax bill takes too big of a bite out of their fixed incomes. Chapel Hill voters voted down the real estate transfer tax. And recall that council denied OWASA’s request to secure a bigger share of Jordan Lake water rights so that Chapel Hill residents could have cake, uh, make that rarefied water, or nothing at all. As long as people continue to have more children than it takes to replace themselves, our world population is going to keep growing.

  16. Elliot

     /  September 7, 2011

    1. High property valuations do not necessarily equate to high tax bills. As valuations increase, tax millages reduce in order to raise the same amount of revenue. Tax bills increase because taxing authorities spend more money. Without the additional valuation, tax rates would rise to make up the difference.

    2. Growth doesn’t pay for itself. If Aydan Court was constructed, taxes would have increased across the board, because the taxes generated there would not address the cost of services.

    3. I agree that people are moving because of high taxes and voters should have passed the transfer tax bill. The people who fought it (the Real Estate industry) are the people screaming for more development, ergo… higher taxes.

    4. In the United States, the fertility rate is slightly below replacement and even more so amongst the demographic profile that comprises Chapel Hill. In other words, mothers here are having fewer children than it takes to replace themselves.

    My original comment on this thread detailed how the cost of building an elementary school has increased of the past 12 years, from $9 million to $35 million dollars. Can anyone really say that they don’t see a problem with increasing the demand for more schools in the CHCCS district?

  17. John Kramer

     /  September 8, 2011

    I don’t see it as a problem that the cost to build schools is increasing. These schools are gold plated, what do you expect? Taxpayers are oblivious to this fact, all they see is “nice schools” LOL

    It really doesn’t bother me. I moved, could not afford the taxes anymore!

  18. Patrick M

     /  September 8, 2011

    Chapel Hill is definitely becoming less and less diverse socioeconomically. The 2009 5-year estimates from the American Community Survey show that since 2000, Chapel Hill added a net 2000-plus households that earned more than $100,000 per year, while only adding a net 100 households earning less than $100,000 per year. The fastest-growing group was households making $200,000 and above. See details here:

    To put it another way, the median income of the people who moved into Chapel Hill in the last decade is probably double that of the median income in the San Francisco Bay Area, the metro area with the highest median income nationwide:

    Ultimately what is going on here is that outgoing lower-income and medium-income households are selling their homes to higher-income in-migrating households. With each Chapel Hill property resale, based on the last deacde’s trend, there is a close to 95% chance that the new household makes over double the regional median income for the Triangle. The lack of new housing supply in southern Orange County means demand and prices are high, and homes appreciate more quickly here because of the comparative scarcity of alternatives.

    What this means is that, as others have noted, moderate-income workers need to move further away (Durham, Morrisville, Chatham, Saxapahaw, but NOT rural Orange, it’s even worse there, see the first link) to buy a home.

    Also, as older households tend to have accumulated more wealth and have higher incomes, it also means Chapel Hill is inexorably pricing out median-income young families and their immediate precursors, young single adults and young couples, and generating a population distribution increasingly heavily skewed towards retirees.

  19. DOM

     /  September 9, 2011

    Patrick –

    Very good comments. Now, I’d love to hear possible solutions to this dilemma. Might they include an urbanized approach, supplying a more varied supply of housing for a greater number of people with less-than-millionaire incomes? Or, as Elliot suggests, do we stop the supply entirely for the benefit of the moneyed people who already live here?

  20. Elliot

     /  September 9, 2011

    If Patrick’s take on the figures was correct, we would have surplus capacity in our old schools, yet we are over-capacity in the schools that we just built. Wealthy retirees don’t have school children, yet CHCCS is in the position where it has needed four new elementary schools in the past dozen years. How will additing more new $35 million schools — at a cost of $65,000 per desk — make Chapel Hill more affordable? (The capital cost does not include the over $125,000 cost per student of providing an actual K-12 education).

  21. Elliot

     /  September 9, 2011

    DOM – There’s an old business joke about how a successful store is able to stay in business with such low prices. The answer is that they lose a little money on each customer, but they make up for it in volume.

    Of course, it is meant to be facetious.

  22. I’m with Elliot and Patrick on this one. There are limits to reasonable growth and Chapel Hill is not obligated to go beyond them to accommodate any level of development.

    The idea that managing growth within our natural resource and the community’s fiscal limits means “no growth” is a true crock – generally something you hear from folks that stand to make a bundle on unregulated growth (they develop then walk away from the consequences).

    If you look at the kind of projects the Town Council has approved of or has looked kindly on of late, the common mantra is high-density, transit-oriented development. Yet the facts belie the hype used to sell these projects – TOD is the new “greenwashing” to slide projects like East54, West140, etc. through. If you’ve been in CH for awhile, you might recall the same kind of touted benefits supposedly accruing from mixed-use villages like Meadowmont and Southern Village. Neither of these projects panned out as per the “sales brochure”.

    Worse, the Council has resisted reviewing whether projects like East54 and Greenbridge have delivered on their promise of higher alternative transit use over traditional.

    As Patrick notes, the kind of housing built in the name of TOD is not affordable for quite a range of folks. The Town had an opportunity to lead the way with West140 but decided, instead, to heavily subsidize luxury condos which seem to be equally split between student havens, out-of-town 2nd homers and permanent residents. Like Greenbridge, without the “affordable” housing component, the project would be under subscribed.

    Given the chance to promote replacement of affordable rental with similar units, many on the current Council opted to not only approve 385 luxury condos on Hillsborough St. for their partner RAM Development, but to twist the RSSC zone, designed originally to encourage 100% affordable housing units, into a spot zone to slide this project through.

    After some public pressure, the Council balked, slightly, at the replacement of Colony Woods with hundreds of substantially higher priced units.

    Every one of these major initiatives has had direct and indirect costs thrust upon the shoulders of local homeowners. In other words, the many residents – a chunk of which live those “1/2 acre” lots – have continued to subsidize a pattern of growth which hasn’t served the whole of this community very well.

    Again, a majority of Council hasn’t been interested in analyzing the success or failure of their “rah rah growth at any cost” approach to managing Chapel Hill’s growth.

    What has been sold as “smart growth” has been anything but… Building a lot of highly dense projects without considering the carrying cost continues to be a bad policy. My hope is that the new comprehensive plan will have the kind of metrics built-in that many who served on the recent Sustainability Visioning Task Force asked for.

  23. Re: subsidies. I understand that all new development, to some extent, is subsidized by the rest of the community. I’m guessing most folks are would agree with me that subsidizing success is not a problem. Heavily subsidizing failure, though, is the problem. Sometimes it seems like our local leadership act like problem gamblers – when in trouble instead of walking away from the table they double down expecting to recoup their loses. It’s one thing if the losses were constrained to those involved, another when they’re passed on to the wider public.

  24. DOM

     /  September 10, 2011

    It’s so tiresome listening to people who continue to wish for a Chapel Hill the way it was, rather than the way it could be.

  25. DOM, did you read what I wrote?

    Elliot, Patrick, etc. are not suggesting keeping Chapel Hill static but, rather, moving us forward in a more inclusive fashion that doesn’t emphasize diminishing diversity (as our Town’s current policies are doing). We are also suggesting a path that is more sustainable over the long term. To do so we need to stop pretending that the consequences of development stop at the property line. We need to recognize that the pattern of growth we’ve so far traced isn’t fiscally, socially or environmentally sustainable. And that there are real constraints to growth and no obligation to take on more than our community can reasonably support.

    What’s tiresome, by the way, is trying to have a discussion with someone who substitutes bland and unsubstantiated platitudes – in your case equating a desire to manage growth in a more effective fashion with trying to roll back the clock – for reasoned and researched commentary.

  26. DOM

     /  September 10, 2011

    Okay, you win.

  27. Patrick M

     /  September 11, 2011

    @DOM- The simplest answer is that our community should be having conversations about where growth SHOULD occur, and what it SHOULD look like. Hopefully the soon-to-start Chapel Hill comprehensive planning process will do some of that. When the defining characteristics of the growth debate are about what SHOULD NOT happen, you tend to get stuff that makes few people happy. On the “things we could do tomorrow to make things better” list, I’d recommend freezing work on all in-process Neighborhood Conservation Districts, which under the current planning rules, pose the greatest threat to long-term affordability of the town because of the amount of development potential they lock up in some areas and how much additional pressure they force to the remaining un-NCD-ed neighborhoods.

    @Elliot- I should have been more specific. You’re talking about where we are now, I’m talking about where we will be in 2020-2025. We are on a long-term path to the situation I describe. Right now we are going through a process in the local community where a middle-income family with children that moves out of a house in Chapel Hill is most likely to replaced by a much higher-income family with children. In the long run, however, there will likely be a pivot point where a wealthy household without children is better able to afford that resale home than even a wealthy family with parents in their 40s or early 50s.

    @Will- Respectfully, you and I talk about goals in a similar way but we couldn’t be further apart on recommendations. There are only two sizable infusions of affordable housing in Chapel Hill in the last several years and they are Greenbridge and East 54’s OCHLT units. The gentrification of Chapel Hill is not driven by new buildings, but by the resale of existing units, which dwarf the new units for sale every year.

    As to your assertions about other projects that have been in the community longer, while I know of no studies on Meadowmont, Southern Village is a considerable success compared to conventional suburban development in terms of VMT and substituting non-motorized trips for auto trips. Peer reviewed literature with details at link below:

    Short story: if you could take the 54 million conventional suburban houses in the US and drop them back onto the earth tomorrow into places like Southern Village, 14% of us demand for gasoline would disappear overnight.

  28. Patrick, Southern Village has not succeeded by the original standards set forth for the project – the ones that were used to “sell” it. I like a lot about SV but transit uptake cannot be the sole measure of “success”, so I’ll stick to my assertion.

    Greenbridge, given the risk profile of its affordable housing, is also not a success. If you look at the demographics, who actually got units, then, once again, the project failed to meet the originally touted benefit. East54’s contribution could have represented a larger infusion but the OCHLT couldn’t handle the higher volume of units and the Council was salivating for the in lieu monies. Again, compared to what could have been but wasn’t (and the same risk profile as GB), East54 is not an affordable housing success story.

    By most measures, the most affordable housing is the housing folks already have – that’s why we need to consider tax policy as part of our affordable housing policy.

  29. Patrick – do you have any data on car trips that East54 has displaced? My sense is that has increased trips rather than reduce them…

  30. Terri Buckner

     /  September 11, 2011

    What both Will and Patrick are discussing are their individual understandings. The problem with that approach is that each of them have certain beliefs they are entrenched in. In the absence of any defined growth goals, it’s virtually impossible for people with different beliefs to look at the same data and not see exactly what they want to see. The community planning process currently violates at least items 6 and 7 in Donella Meadows Dancing with Systems guide to systems thinking.

  31. Patrick M

     /  September 11, 2011

    The income data from the Census is what it is-data from one of the most reliable sources available that shows that Chapel Hill is increasingly replacing lower-income households with higher-income ones. The research finding that the average Southern Village household drives 17 miles fewer each weekday than the average household in Lake Hogan Farms comes from a peer-reviewed journal. There are no “beliefs” or “understandings”- entrenched or otherwise, in these pieces of information.

    I don’t see Will disagreeing with my point that Greenbridge and East 54 have provided the lion’s share of affordable housing units added to the local stock; Will’s point is that he believes these outcomes are inadequate *despite* providing affordable units because he is using a measuring stick of a more preferable outcome as he defines it.

    @Will, to my knowledge, no such studies have been done on East 54 travel and its impacts like the Southern Village work. I can tell you from the NC 54 corridor study work that something like 83-85% of the travel on NC 54 between Fordham Blvd and I-40 is not generated within those two points.

    I’m not sure what unfulfilled goals of Southern Village you are referring to, or to any demographic issues of people living in Greenbridge units. If you have some data to bring to the table on either, particularly the latter, I’d be interested in seeing what it shows.

  32. Patrick, Southern Village has fleshed out to some extent but it is not lived up to the full spectrum mixed-use village concept presented during its approval process. For instance, many of the folks living there don’t work there…

    Transit uptake/automobile use reduction cannot be the only yardstick used to determine success. The study you referenced, “Travel behavior in neo-traditional neighborhood
    developments: A case study in USA”, comes with many caveats. For instance, self-reporting bias and the role of students walking to school skewing the result set. The researchers do a good job of outlining how their “beliefs” shaped their findings.

    Greenbridge, East54 and West140 will provide the lions share of new affordable units – which is a real shame and represents an unhealthy focus on a particular type of unit. These units come with risks that the Council chose to ignore. The preferable outcome, as you put it, would to have housing stock with less fiscal risks, that addressed the expressed need for detached units (which was reiterated in the Town’s last round of affordable housing outreach) and a stronger OCHLT which could manage more stock. Without even factoring the missed opportunity at West140. the negative impacts of Greenbridge on Northside and surrounding areas – based on the OCHLT’s difficulty in accepting 30% of the units at East54 and the many folks who expressed a different preference than East54/West140/Greenbridge offers, the outcome is much less than optimal.

    Finally, as far as the demographics of Greenbridge (and possibly West140). Jim Ward directed staff to produce a report on who got those units and whether the Town was meeting its expressed goals or was simply providing housing for “grad students” (his words). To my knowledge, staff didn’t publicly respond. I’ll send Jim an email and see if he ever got a report.

    Terri is correct, though, that as long as we use different yardsticks or scopes we will continue to have difficulty discussing these issues.

  33. Terri Buckner

     /  September 12, 2011

    How can any new development that offers 15-20 affordable units but that pushes out low/middle income residents of 50+ units in the surrounding neighborhood be considered successful? Again, you have to look at the metrics. If you look at a narrow slice of the issue (is there a demand for the affordably priced units in any new development) rather than the big picture (what impact have these new high priced developments had on the overall stock of affordable housing), you are making a vacuous argument.

  34. Patrick M

     /  September 12, 2011

    Please provide any documentable evidence of new development in Chapel Hill pushing out adjacent residents. As far as I can tell, you have no metrics.

    We have had this conversation before where you bring up comps from places like Greenbridge raising property taxes but appraisers don’t comp condos against single-family detached homes, they draw a mile radius around the property and comp physically similar properties first, not those closest by geography. With that being the case, the sales of existing single-family homes at higher and higher prices in places like the Carrboro Mill Village or the Ransom Rd area near Cameron-McCauley are more likely to raise comps for Northside even if Greenbridge was never built.

  35. DOM

     /  September 12, 2011

    Since when does “affordable housing” have to be about home ownership? A majority of people in urban areas rent where they live and are perfectly happy and a lot more flexible to do what they want. It seems to me that the town of CH is simply perpetuating an obsolete model in offering a subsidized home purchase. What makes a lot more sense in my opinion is providing a lot more affordable rental housing specifically set aside for lower income residents (that excludes students).

  36. Patrick, most recently UNC-NOW, along with UNC’s CounterCartographers, the Marian Cheek Jackson Center and Northside/Pine Knoll’s SOS did an analysis of property values in the areas adjacent to Greenbridge. As Council showed a willingness to approve high levels of development within the Downtown core and along Rosemary St. land values began to take off. There has definitely been an expanding effect to that policy – accelerated by the approval (and building) of projects like Greenbridge and West1540.

    As might be expected, the valuations are not driven by housing values but by land values.

    The Town’s own Downtown Small Area plan revamp [Downtown Development Framework and Action Plan PDF ] ( shows how land values drive overall valuations in the adjacent neighborhoods and, essentially, how upside-down the relationship between structure values and land values has become.

    The Town’s consultants, Kling Stubbins , pointed out that these areas are ripe for redevelopment. As Patrick has pointed out previously, the Northside NCD (and the NCD process in general), has served to slow down conversion of residential to commercial purposes. That said, the land valuations, especially along the north side of Rosemary St. – which is already zoned for commercial – are trending as if that conversion will eventually happen. When West140 and Shortbread Lofts come online, you can expect an even steeper acceleration

    Now, depending on your perspective, what your goals are, this trend might be seen as a “good thing” – that we should just get out of its way and let Downtown become an oasis of high priced condos, student havens and a few crumbs of affordable housing (going to grad students, politically connected owners, young professionals from out-of-town).

    As Terri reiterated once again, depends on the framework you’re making decisions under – your worldview. I’d like to see an approach that promotes a mix of goals – getting folks out of their cars being one, helping folks who have contributed decades of their lives to improving Chapel Hill stay here – that addresses some long standing issues before us.

  37. DOM, you might want to consult the fairly recent market survey the Town commissioned ( [PDF] ) and the very recent Affordable Housing Strategy outreach ( ) to get a sense of what kinds of units folks want.

    While there is a demand for rental, the expressed interest in folks is for housing that “transitions up” – with preferences towards townhouses and detached dwellings.

    I’ve lobbied for creating more rental through a variety of mechanism – including making the Town’s private/public West140 development an all rental facility like Raleigh’s Carlton Place – but, so far, the majority of Council has focused on making it easy to build high end condos over alternatives.

  38. Terri Buckner

     /  September 12, 2011

    Uh, I didn’t bring up comps, you did. I don’t believe that tax values alone are responsible for the gentrification in this town.

    The point is that you can’t change one part of any system without affecting other parts. That’s what the TC (and BOA) approach to affordable housing has done. The towns have embraced the concept of high density urban development without putting any feedback mechanisms in place to determine if the theory/approach was working here locally. One of the measurement criteria should have been whether density in new developments is having an adverse impact on surrounding neighborhoods, such as long-term home owners being unable to afford their current homes. If those metrics were in place, then perhaps the differences you and I have would have a chance of being attributed directly rather than being speculated on.

    Read the Dancing with Systems article. Donella Meadows was a really smart woman and her systems work has been seminal to the environmental and smart growth movements.

  39. Patrick M

     /  September 12, 2011

    Terri, I’ll ask again: do you have any resources to share that demonstrates that Greenbridge displaced 50+ residents in an adjacent neighborhood? If so, let’s see it.

    Will, I scanned the Counter Cartographies website and the Jackson center and can’t find anything. If you can locate it, again, I’d love to read more.

    Finally, a simple question to Will and Terri- if development in the core of Chapel Hill were halted, in your opinion, would the affordable housing issue largely be solved?

  40. Patrick, I’ll look for their presentation.

    Also, I didn’t suggest halting all development in Downtown’s core instead I suggested we encourage a different mix like Raleigh’s Carlton Place (here’s my 2007 post on CW about it Raleigh’s Carlton Place: A Downtown Affordable Housing Commitment Worth Emulating ).

  41. Terri Buckner

     /  September 12, 2011

    Where did I say that Greenbridge pushed 50+ people out of their homes? I made a generalization and you are turning it into a specific for your own personal satisfaction. I wrote about systems theory and you want to justify a project that you supported.

    The fact is that no one, not you and not me, has any evidence or made any attempt to gather evidence on the impact Greenbridge, Southern Village, Hwy 54, etc. would have or has had on surrounding neighborhoods. Everyone is operating in a vacuum. The other fact is that anecdotal evidence shows that Northside is being developed out of it’s historical place in this community. To me, that loss is significant and cannot be justified under any conditions.

    You can continue to argue the negative that in the absence of specific evidence to the contrary, it is impossible to attribute the gentrification of Northside to Greenbridge and Rosemary Village so therefore we should continue building high density developments. But that’s the equivalent of saying we have to have proof that triclosans create antibiotic resistance before we regulate them. What proof would suffice if you are a plastics manufacturer? By the time the concrete proof is available and not be hushed up by the lobbyists, people will have died and we will have undermined the value of broad spectrum antibiotics to prevent future infections. Oh well, too bad. No going back. They solved one problem and created a bigger one.

    Provide me with data showing that any high density, high market rate development will NOT have a detrimental effect on the PEOPLE who live in surrounding neighborhoods. If you can’t, then your theory is built on sand.

  42. Patrick M

     /  September 12, 2011

    Terri, Will and I have been talking about specific projects. You made a statement using numbers and told me to go look at metrics, so I assumed you were addressing Greenbridge, the one of the two projects that is not next to a golf course. Thanks for clearing up that your comment is a hypothetical not grounded in local conditions.

    You continue to miss my key point, which is that if you take away Greenbridge, Rosemary Village, and 140 West Franklin, etc., Northside would still be under nearly identical market conditions that promote the out-migration of low-income households and in-migration of higher-income households (or 4-students-to-a-house households) because demand for living in Orange County is very high and the change in supply of housing stock is very low from year to year.

    And we’re not in a vacuum on outcomes. Look at my original post and see how much faster rural Orange is becoming a land of 6-figure earners than Chapel Hill/Carrboro. The latter have three attributes that rural Orange generally does not:

    1. More development/permitting on an annual basis; greater housing stock elasticity
    2. OCHLT homes built via development review
    3. Significant quantities of higher-density, multifamily housing

    If you want less expensive homes, you need to build more units.

    Will, thanks for the links, I’ll take a look.