Bad start to be good neighbor

The plan to move the IFC homeless shelter from West Rosemary Street to Homestead Road got off on the wrong foot. With its process of crafting a Good Neighbor Policy, it continues to try to dance with two left feet. At tonight’s Town Council meeting, IFC will give a report on progress of the GNP thus far.

When word first got out in 2008 that the IFC planned to move its men’s homeless shelter to Homestead Road, near other social service and rehabilitative housing facilities, nearby property owners wanted their objections heard. IFC pitched the project as a transitional housing facility, not an emergency shelter, and dubbed it “Community House.”

When property owners who would be the closest neighbors to Community House pressed for details, IFC let it slip that there would in fact be 17 emergency beds available nightly, and additional beds for “white flag” nights that make up about two-thirds of the nights per year.

When it looked like Town Council might seriously consider property owners’ request that the emergency beds be removed, IFC threatened to walk away from the deal and keep the men’s shelter on West Rosemary Street, in the shadow of the upscale 140 West Franklin project that was struggling to sell its units. Council approved the Homestead Road shelter.

When property owners asked for assurance that the problems that have plagued the West Rosemary Street shelter would not impinge on neighborhoods near the new site, IFC agreed to craft a Good Neighbor Policy that included input from the community to be affected most.

But it didn’t., a well-organized group in opposition to the emergency beds component of the project, was not welcome at the table. Although IFC contends that the GNP meetings are open, IFC would not allow more than one supporter of to attend. Not just one supporter at a time – one supporter, period. Because the initial meetings were held over the summer, wanted to send a substitute representative to the meetings that the main representative could not attend, and to tape the meetings so that the main representative and other supporters of could be kept in the loop. IFC said no.

IFC packed the committee with supporters of the move to Homestead Road, including keeping the emergency beds. No one from the nearby neighborhoods with concerns about the impact of the emergency beds sits at the table.

How is the GNP going to be able to adequately address the concerns of neighbors who will be directly affected by the shelter? Will the GNP have any teeth? Or will it be like the Code of Ethics the council adopted for itself, one that failed to dissuade one council member from pushing through an ordinance change that would allow her to reap financial gain?
– Nancy Oates

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  1. John Kramer

     /  September 26, 2011

    GNP= Code of ethics.

  2. Terri Buckner

     /  September 26, 2011

    What you are saying sounds like a repeat of what A Better Site says, Nancy. Did you talk to anyone else who sits on the committee or are you simply repeating Mark Peters’ complaints? I believe if you check, you will find that members of the committee, not IFC, determined that recording the meetings would hinder productive discussion and so voted not to allow it.

  3. DOM

     /  September 26, 2011


    Why would recording the sessions hinder productive discussions? I should think they’d want the public to see what they were doing.

  4. George C

     /  September 26, 2011

    Apparently Nancy didn’t bother to talk to anyone on the GNP committee to get their side but here is one member’s view:

    An e-mail to the Chapel Hill Town Council:

    Dear Mayor Kleinschmidt and members of the Town Council,

    I am a member of the committee working to create a Good Neighbor Plan (GNP) for the IFC’s new Community House at 1515 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. As such, I’m writing in response to a “guest column” in today’s Chapel Hill News by Mark Peters, and because a status report on the committee’s work to date is on the Council agenda for Sept. 26.

    I take great exception to Mr. Peters’ characteristics of the GNP committee as a “biased committee that lacks transparency.” He also writes:

    “The project’s developer has stacked the good-neighbor plan committee with its supporters and has limited or denied participation of neighbors who live near the shelter. The last few meetings have been observable to the public, but citizens are prohibited from recording meeting discussions and the drafts documents have not been made available to the public before meeting.”

    These statements are patently not true. Anyone is welcome to attend any GNP committee meeting. Anyone is welcome to take notes of committee discussions. And with the exception of the kick-off meeting in July, committee documents (including drafts) are posted in advance on the IFC’s GNP blog, where they are available to anyone who wants to see them.

    Mr. Peters was invited to participate in the GNP committee by Chris Moran – and by myself. I had several email exchanges with Mr. Peters urging him to participate in the committee; I am happy to provide copies if you would like them. In addition, I’ve posted email updates on the committee’s work to a neighborhood email list to which both Mr. Peters and I subscribe. Finally, I sent out a broad appeal to our neighborhood (North Forest Hills), again through the neighborhood email list, asking for a volunteer to serve as alternate if I couldn’t attend a meeting. Two people (but not Mr. Peters) responded. Mr. Peters has had every opportunity to participate in the committee either as a full member, as an alternate, or as an observer. To date he has chosen not to attend a single meeting. In addition, any other resident of North Forest Hills is more than welcome to attend, although to date none (except for an alternate) has.

    If Mr. Peters were to attend a committee meeting, he would see that the members represent a wide range of opinions and express them freely. We spent two lengthy meetings hashing over our meeting protocols, during which we vigorously debated the pros and cons of video or audio records of meetings (among other issues). For a number of reasons (not the least being expense and practicality), the committee ultimately decided against video and/or audio recordings, but the written minutes in my opinion are quite thorough and extensive. In addition, in response to Mr. Peters’ complaint that United Church is not a “neutral” location, to date we have met in three different locations, all well publicized in advance and close to the site so as to be accessible to anyone from the neighborhood who would like to attend.

    Andy Sachs of the Dispute Settlement Center has done an excellent job facilitating the meetings. These meetings are not run by Mr. Moran or the IFC staff; Mr. Moran and IFC staff are there as resources. Except for a brief report on the status of Community House at the beginning of each meeting or when specifically called upon to respond to a question, Mr. Moran and the IFC staff have very little input during the meetings.

    Everyone participating on the committee is committed to and serious about our responsibility to craft an excellent Good Neighbor Plan, because we care about our town, our neighborhoods, and the men who will be served at Community House. To date each of us – volunteers all – has devoted almost 12 hours to this effort in meetings alone, plus additional time to read and comment on various draft documents.

    While committee members are giving our time, our energy, and considerable thought to this process, Mr. Peters sits on the sidelines, lobbing complaints. Once again, I urge him to come to the table and struggle with the rest of us as we respectfully debate, disagree, and finally resolve many vexing and difficult issues in a good faith effort to do the right thing for our community.


    Eleanor Howe, Good Neighbor Committee Member

  5. Terri Buckner

     /  September 26, 2011


    Participants in A Better Site have a well documented practice of taking statements out of context. The email George posted gives concrete evidence of that assertion. Recording feeds that inexcusable practice and would have a dampening effect on debate if participants have to always be concerned that their thoughts were subject to exploitation.

  6. Mark Peters

     /  September 26, 2011

    Here is our response to council:

    Mayor and Council,

    Attached are the emails that Eleanor Howe and I exchanged. Our position on following open meeting law is crystal clear in those emails.

    As I stated on September 12th, with so few members with a personal stake and with so many members from organizations that financially support the developer as well as handpicked members who supported the shelter (such as Mrs. Howe), it made no sense for us to attend the meetings unless there was an accurate and immutable record of exactly what was said. These meetings are mandated by town resolution convened for the purpose of creating a public document and, as such, should follow NC open meeting law.

    Mrs. Howe states “Anyone is welcome to attend any GNP committee meeting”. However, as I told you on September 12th, that was not true for the first meeting (or at least that is not what we were told). Prior to the meetings, we asked “Will the public be allowed to observe the meetings?” and the developer answered: “The meetings are designed to get advice and good ideas for a Good Neighbor Plan from an active advisory committee and we believe that discussions will be most productive if limited to participating members.” (emphasis added) (email from Chris Moran on 6/29/2011 11:58 AM – Page 6 of this pdf)

    Mrs. Howe states that “committee documents (including drafts) are posted in advance on the IFC’s GNP blog”, but this is not true. The notes and agendas on the website talk about drafts being discussed, but there are no draft documents on the website and there never have been (see the attached snapshot of the developer webpage).

    The “expense and practicality” arguments against following open meeting law are not applicable because we are merely asking to be able to record the meetings. There is no expense associated with that and recordings can be done in a very unobtrusive manner.

    We have stated that we would come to the table if the transparency issues were quickly addressed. At the same time, we would ask that the developer appoint the constituencies which we have documented as lacking on

    We look forward to discussing this tomorrow night with you.

    Mark Peters

    There were 3 attachments:
    1) emails noted
    2) Howe’s email to council on 5/8 in support of the project
    3) Snapshot of ifc gnp blog proving that there are no draft documents on the site

  7. Mark Peters

     /  September 26, 2011


    A recording is the best remedy for anyone who believes that they were taken out of context. You can prove that you were taken out of context, as well as a number of other maladies when more than 2/3 of a committee comes in on one side. In fact, that is why we want the right to follow NC open meeting law and record the meetings, just like town council, just like the planning board, like the BOCC, like the Aldermen. Given the biased committee, it offers us the ability to point to an accurate record if our concerns are dismissed or if some misrepresents what we say.

    In fact, before the elected bodies started using Granicus and podcasts, I was recording to make sure that we had an accurate record for educational advocacy and for the PTA Council. You can see evidence of this at

    You accused use of taking statements out of context. Please prove your accusation. You can ask Katelyn Ferral of the Chapel Hill News to confirm that we used a recording of the shelter information session to prove that a correction was necessary for a published story regarding the topic of identification (which remains a sticking point).

    You state “I believe if you check, you will find that members of the committee, not IFC, determined that recording the meetings would hinder productive discussion and so voted not to allow it.”

    That is the funniest and most absurd thing that I have ever read. I tell you what, let’s get a group together to see if there should be open meeting rules for a committee that is clearly acting in an advisory capacity to council. I’ll invite 13 abettersite people and 2 people running for town council. You can invite one person. We will close the meeting – no alternates, no neighbors, no public, no recordings. In that closed meeting, we will vote to decide the rules for how this is going to be discussed and I will create the draft rules that are the starting point for that discussion. How does that sound? You game?

    That is exactly what IFC did. Exactly.

    Watch the town council excerpts from May 9th regarding their direction on the good neighbor plan. Then look at who was invited and how it was implemented and see if it complies.

    I would also be curious to know if you think that NC Open Meeting law and Public Records Law are things that we should keep or get rid of. You ever used Granicus?


  8. Mark Peters

     /  September 26, 2011

    The town council excerpts are posted on

  9. Nancy Oates

     /  September 26, 2011

    I wanted to sit in on the meetings as an observer and to take notes so I could blog about the progress. When I learned that was not going to send a representative to the meetings, I contacted Mark Peters and volunteered to share my notes with him. He forwarded to me emails from Chris Moran that said observers and note-takers would not be allowed.

    I would hope that any expenses incurred at these meetings (snacks, etc.) is being paid for by taxpayers, not the IFC. Just as a Realtor serving cookies at an open house is not going to sway you to buy the house, it does create an atmosphere in which you are more receptive to or feel a vague sense of obligation to listen to what the Realtor says. The IFC providing snacks and beverages at the GNP meetings does the same thing. If the meetings are being sponsored by taxpayers, then what goes on in the meetings ought to be open to the public.

  10. DOM

     /  September 26, 2011

    “e-mails from Chris Moran that said observers and note-takers would not be allowed.”

    So even the press is not invited? That certainly isn’t a positive step in my opinion.

  11. Terri Buckner

     /  September 26, 2011


    Since there is not the slightest chance that you and I will ever agree on anything about this process, why don’t you tell us what it is you want? The Good Neighbor Plan committee was put together with the mandate to develop a plan to submit to council. Now I appreciate process as much as you do, but I have to note that the process you yourself are using is seriously flawed. Everything you do and say is directed at obstructing/derailing the process. If you can’t work within the purpose of the committee, you have personally disqualified yourself to sit on the committee, even though as I understand it, you have had plenty of opportunity to attend and take notes and even serve as a alternate for your neighborhood.

    What is it you really want?

    Nancy–I know you enjoy humor and want to have fun with this site. Boiling this all down to who buys the cookies has me rolling on the floor. Hope that was your intent.
    Your (current) complaints are all directed toward the process used to form the committee and proceed with the charge of the committee. Now I appreciate process as much as you do, but I have to note that the process you yourself are using is seriously flawed. You are obstructing at every opportunity. That behavior is

  12. Terri Buckner

     /  September 26, 2011

    Ooops–looks like some of my re-write got included in the last post. The last four lines should not be there.

  13. Mark Peters

     /  September 26, 2011

    DOM, “So even the press is not invited? That certainly isn’t a positive step in my opinion.”

    When we reported this issue to town council before the first GNP meeting, Greg Childress from the Herald Sun read our email to the town (apparently reporters routinely read those emails) and called me. During our conversation, he asked if he could attend the meeting. I sent him the email chain with IFC (on and read for him the parts which indicated that the meetings were closed. It will be interesting to see if Greg discloses this part of the story. I wonder if he called IFC that day to ask if he could attend.

    So Greg did not attend because the first meeting was closed.

    I am not certain that reporters have been invited or have attended (or been allowed to attend) since the first closed meeting. Maybe someone should ask them.

  14. Mark Peters

     /  September 26, 2011


    You said “Everything you do and say is directed at obstructing/derailing the process.”

    Could you please count the number of times that we asked for open meeting law to be followed in the email chain between abettersite and the shelter developer posted on and report it here? Do you acknowledge that the meeting invitee list and details were withheld by the developer until 1 business day before the meeeting?

    You also said “even though as I understand it, you have had plenty of opportunity to attend and take notes”. If you look at our petition materials in the agenda item for tonight’s meeting, you will clearly see that we documented two situations where the meeting notes from neighbors being in mediation with IFC resulted in an inaccurate record. A person can be a great meeting moderator and a great note taker, but one person can’t be both at the same time. Even Andy Sachs admits that doing both can be problematic in those materials.

    I took notes in our mediation and look at the result in the petition documentation. Notes are worthless. My notes indicate that a very important point was made and the moderator does not explicitly recall, so it is left out. There is no substitute for a recording. A stenographer would be a close second, but even then, a recording is usually kept to back up the record where stenographers are used.

    I would still like a response to my earlier question: “I would also be curious to know if you think that NC Open Meeting law and Public Records Law are things that we should keep or get rid of. You ever used Granicus?”


  15. Terri Buckner

     /  September 26, 2011


    I would still like a response to my earlier question: What is it you want?

    As for the open meetings law, I think Chris’ response to you is accurate: “The IFC is not a public agency and the Open Meeting Laws have no application to these meetings. Towns and county governments are required to comply with the Open Meetings Laws and when the plan goes back to the Town of Chapel Hill for review those protocols will be in place.”

    I also note that you were invited, you were told that an alternate could attend in your absence, and that observers were welcome but would not be invited to participate in the discussion. That’s quite different than your claim that ‘even the press was not invited.’

  16. Mark Peters

     /  September 26, 2011

    I am not aware of anything that legally prevents IFC from adhering to open meeting law. Nor am I aware of anything that prohibits the town from requiring IFC to follow open meeting law in their resolution. This committee is operating in an advisory capacity by town mandate and should be following OML.

    The town attorney never told the council that they were prohibited from requiring IFC to follow open meeting law. I interpret this to mean that such direction is at the council’s discretion. The council should apply their principles where they legally have the discretion to do so. But they left this loophole and chose not to act on it during the last meeting. So it will be interesting to see if town council members believe in transparency or are willing to sell out to appease a powerful political entity.

    Terri, if you read the emails, you can see that we asked over and over about who could attend the meeting and we got evasive wording that said NO. Show me in the email chain where IFC says something like “yes, your alternate can attend at the same time”, “yes, you can bring an obsever”, “yes, the public can attend”. The emails indicate that observers can attend if IFC invites them, but only after the first meeting.

    IFC told us we could have an alternate only when we could not attend: “A Better Site may send alternate representatives when its appointee can’t attend scheduled meetings.”

    In response to your question about what we want, I think it is pretty clear – we want the developer to do what the council asked, which is have balanced and open meetings. So fix the balance, fix the openness.

  17. Don Evans

     /  September 26, 2011

    The IFC’s budget includes a large chunk of public money. The organization every year appeals to the Town Council to give it more public money. The town very generously ponies up several hundred thousand a year.

    So it seems to me that an organization that is quite willing to accept taxpayer funding should be just as willing to have the public — which helps pay its bills — in on the deliberations for spending that money.

    When the IFC stops taking taxpayer funds, it can close its deliberations to the public.

  18. DOM

     /  September 26, 2011

    “When the IFC stops taking taxpayer funds, it can close its deliberations to the public.”

    Until it does, public meetings should be mandatory. I can’t believe the town council has not insisted on it.

  19. Mark Peters

     /  September 26, 2011


    Good points. This project has $2M in committed and pending public support in the form of free state owned land, $650,000 in CDBG and HOME grants approved by Chapel Hill, interest free loans from NC HFA, and possibly other sources. These were documented on a slide at the March SUP hearing.

    That was a point I was going to make more strongly in the CHN column, but ran out of space. Folks should read the article at the end of

  20. Terri Buckner

     /  September 26, 2011

    Don’s response demonstrates how bad information gets passed on and why all documentation is subject to writer interpretation. You can reference Mark Peters’ website or you can go to original documents and find that “Individuals who are not members of this Committee are welcome to observe Committee meetings. Observers attending Committee meetings must behave consistently with the Committee’s protocols.” (scroll down to the link for Final Adopted Protocols)

    As for alternates, it is clearly stated that alternates may attend and participate in the absence of the primary representative.

    The process seems very clear and very consistent with other advisory groups I’ve sat on.

  21. DOM

     /  September 26, 2011


    So if the public is “welcome to observe,” why not record the meetings to make them available to anyone who could not attend? (btw, I noted that cost was mentioned in one of IFC’s e-mails; in reality the price of an audio cassette or two per meeting would be less than $5.)

  22. Anon

     /  September 26, 2011

    Funny that one side wants to record the meetings at its own expense so everyone can have proof of what was said on video and the other side (Terry) doesn’t recognize the hilarity in saying what is being said did not happen …. I have not heard a reasonable reason why anyone can’t come and record the meetings

  23. Mark Peters

     /  September 26, 2011

    You are right Terri, you can go to the website and see what CURRENT rules are.

    But you are missing the HUGE fact that the website was created 7 days AFTER the first closed meeting. And that document you reference? Approved DURING the SECOND meeting on August 22nd, according to the document itself. Thus, those rules did not apply to the closed meeting where the rules were being made with a 13-1 ratio, and perhaps not to the second meeting, either.

    I have said this all along. The first meeting was closed. The subsequent meetings were apparently progressively opened up in terms of who could attend to observe (but may not have been opened at all if we hadn’t objected). No recordings have been allowed by anyone at any meeting.

    DOM, Note that if an attendee makes a recording, the cost to the developer is zero.


  24. Terri Buckner

     /  September 26, 2011

    OK, now you guys are getting really silly. Two anonymous writers are asking why a group of volunteers wouldn’t want their deliberations to be recorded. I hope I am not the only one who sees the irony.

    And horrors of horror–a group of volunteers got together and wrote their own operating rules. Oh my, what is the world coming to!

    On a more personal note, I can tell you that being recorded is intimidating. I used to teach in televised classes, the OWASA board meetings are recorded, and every comment made to the BOA and CHTC is recorded. I always feel like I have to be extremely careful in what I say. That isn’t productive for brainstorming, especially for individuals who aren’t used to it. It dampens communication, especially when you know there’s at least one person who is very likely to misinterpret every mis-spoken word.

  25. Terri, I’ve been quite clear in my support of the IFC’s Community House part of this project, as Mark knows well. But I disagree with the IFC’s handling of the GNP process.

    “What’s past is prologue”, and the checkered past of how the Community House came to be sited on Homestead Rd. has certainly set the stage for Mark and his neighbors request for the highest level of transparency. I’ve been observing the back and forth on this issue for years – the emotions stirred have certainly colored the dialog between all the parties involved. There has been a “hardening of hearts” which has made negotiating an acceptable plan quite difficult.

    Under these conditions alone, why wouldn’t you want the clarity of an audio recording? Beyond that, recording the meetings opens up the discussion to a much wider audience and doesn’t carry the kind of emotional baggage of the “he said, she said” conversation we’re still witnessing.

    As far as “the process seems very clear and very consistent with other advisory groups I’ve sat on.”, you probably recall the discussions of making audio recordings of the Tech Board and all other advisory board meetings to promote openness and transparency. I even offered to buy the Town digital recorders to facilitate that effort.

    Like Mark, in the absence of official efforts to post audio and video of critical meetings, I made many recordings myself and posted them on youTube/GoogleVideo and elsewhere.

    We both pushed for both the Council and Planning Board meetings to be video-taped and rebroadcast via the ‘net (for some reason, the Town is still dragging its feet on the Planning Board). Our own OWASA meeting is recorded for posterity.

    UNC, to promote the highest level of transparency, recorded some of the Carolina North outreach meetings, Carolina North advisory meetings and all of the development agreement negotiating meetings. UNC’s checkered history of transparency and community involvement on Mason Farm Rd. and Main Campus served as a troubling prolog to the Carolina North process. I lobbied hard for UNC to try a different tack with Carolina North making the argument that their effort would be well-served by going the extra mile in capturing an immutable record of the Carolina North proceedings.

    As an involved citizen, these records serve a critical function in helping to better understand an issue. I’ve reviewed what material exists on the GNP and would really like to hear some of that discussion to flesh out my understanding.

    Finally. the best argument for conducting these meetings as per the open records law is that the GNP is a critical deliverable mandated by the SUP ( ).

    Every other part of the SUP discussion is covered by open records laws. Every Council discussion of the SUP was recorded (while, unfortunately, the Planning Board and other advisory boards wasn’t).

    To anyone observing the Community House approval process, it was clear that the GNP was going to be contentious. As a critical component of the approved SUP, why wouldn’t you want a concrete record?

  26. Terri, our responses crossed in the aether…

    Maybe I’m way off base here, but I don’t think of the GNP meetings as JUST a group of volunteers sitting around brainstorming but as a group of interested parties negotiating a contractual agreement that is part of the Town’s SUP approval. This is more than a set of principles. Both sides agree this is a negotiated framework for dealing with potential issues at Community House.

  27. Mark Peters

     /  September 26, 2011

    Terri, regarding your statement “And horrors of horror–a group of volunteers got together and wrote their own operating rules. Oh my, what is the world coming to!” you need to watch the 8 minute video on which contains council excerpts directing IFC on this matter. Or watch the whole thing on Granicus. Your understanding of the GNC is way off base.

  28. Terri Buckner

     /  September 26, 2011

    No Mark, my understanding isn’t off. You have a chip on your shoulder or as Will puts it, your heart has been hardened against this process. At every turn you are there turning every single move into some deceit. You are treating this committee as if it is the enemy. This committee is a group of volunteers who are doing something that is brand new for this community. They deserve some leeway instead of being used as the latest Better Site whipping post. It isn’t my decision that they not allow recording; it’s theirs. Why can’t you just respect their feelings?

    You’ve made your feelings on transparency very clear to the members of the committee, the public, and the elected officials. At this point, you really need to step back and wait to see what the final product looks like. It will not be enacted if the council agrees with you that the process was flawed or the rules are insufficiently rigorous.

  29. DOM

     /  September 26, 2011

    Terri –

    After reviewing the material, I think it’s fair to say that Mark may have a chip on his shoulder. But if you take a look at the back-and-forth on the e-mails between him and Mr. Moran, there’s a sizable chip on his shoulder too. The main point here is that those meetings should have been open and their content open to the public because this is obviously a public project since we’re footing most of the bill of development and construction.

    Finally, the fact that I choose to remain anonymous should have no bearing on the relevance of my argument.

  30. George C

     /  September 26, 2011


    As far as I know the Planning Board meetings have been recorded video/audio for the last year or more. What happens to those recordings I don’t know but we were asked to take the roll in order that each member could be identified since the nameplates are hard to read with the fixed camera that was being used.

  31. George, sorry my comment didn’t parse well. I meant put them on the ‘net.

  32. George C

     /  September 26, 2011


    Thanks for clarifying. I suspect (but don’t know for sure) that the delay in implementing a lot of these things might be due to the fact that about 10% or more of the Town’s Staff positions have gone unfilled in order to meet budgetary goals. Goals and how to achieve (pay for) them might certainly be worthy of discussion as part of CH2020.