Table talk

John Ager is a member of the Planning Board and co-facilitated the recent Central West Focus Area meetings. Here’s what he has to say:

A fundamental challenge lies at the heart of the “Central West Focus Area” debate. This area contains some of the town’s oldest and loveliest neighborhoods. No one is surprised when the citizens living there turn out in large numbers to protect what they have. But Estes Drive and MLK Jr. Blvd. have become major arteries heavily used by citizens from all over town. And as Carolina North moves from concept to reality, there will be a need for services and amenities on or close to that intersection. It is unreasonable for decisions about growth and change in the area to be dominated by nearby homeowners.

I’m one of the two Planning Board members who helped facilitate the four recent meetings. I was disappointed but perhaps not surprised to discover many of the residents consider developers to be untrustworthy, and interested only in maximizing their profit. There was much talk of limiting developer representation on the steering committee because they have a “financial interest.” It’s clear to me that every homeowner also has a financial interest.

In fairness to everyone who attended the meetings, there were also many residents who view developers differently, and understand that change is inevitable. The proposed developments will certainly increase the volume of traffic on both MLK and Estes. But these roads will see increased traffic even if nothing new is built here. Estes Drive is one of the few connectors between Franklin Street and northern Chapel Hill and Carrboro. It’s already over capacity, for two main reasons. First, some decisions were made when the road system was originally designed many decades ago, which in hindsight were not the wisest. A limited number of connectors were built, no doubt due to cost, which is relatively higher in this town because of the topography. There are lots of hills. Second, many people in all parts of the town are working energetically to maintain Chapel Hill’s justly famous quality of life. The consequence is, more and more people want to be here! We’ve seen explosive growth in Carrboro, organic growth in and adjacent to the town, and there are many car-owning students – all making Estes a very busy road.

I’m convinced the best way forward is to encourage and support a true community conversation about how the Town should evolve. This conversation should not be an argument between residents and developers in a zero sum game. Instead there must be a sustained debate between ALL stakeholders: residents, developers, the University, town planners, property owners, businesses, and even students. The great achievement of Chapel Hill 2020 is that the early meetings mobilized more individuals than ever before to collectively figure out what questions should be asked. Even though the Council “adopted” the plan, everyone knows that the questions have not been fully answered. We are now in the Implementation phase where the debate will continue and specific answers can be determined through compromise.

— John Ager

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  1. Dan Bruce

     /  October 15, 2012

    What Mr. Ager fails to recognize is that yes, homeowners do have a financial interest interest in what happens in their neighborhood, but it goes beyond that. Homeowners also think about their quality of life and the safety of their children going to school. All or at least most moved to these neighborhoods to raise a family, grow old with our partners and not have it altered negatively by the vision of those who will not feel the impacts but will make the profit! Very few are saying “no development”, but we ARE asking for responsible development that can compliment what has been in place peaceably for 50 plus years.

  2. John, to be clear, the call to limit participation was narrowly constrained to the Steering Committee and covered only those persons who had a direct financial interest and are associated with projects which have begun the formal Chapel Hill approval process.

    This would include the developers involved in Timber Hollow and Chartwell, their employees and anyone else who has a direct fiscal interest in the outcome of those applications (owners or other folks who have received payments from the owners).

    This constraint is typical of sitting bodies (like OWASA or the Town Council) and in-line with standard ethical guidelines.

    Otherwise, the developers, their representatives, employees and supporters are welcomed to participate in the broader community process.

    Further, the community has already suggested that the developers be given space at these meetings to present their projects, discuss the community benefits they will bring and to directly address relevant questions.

  3. DOM

     /  October 15, 2012

    “… This conversation should not be an argument between residents and developers in a zero sum game. Instead there must be a sustained debate between ALL stakeholders: residents, developers, the University, town planners, property owners, businesses, and even students.”

    An excellent summation of the task before us. This has to be a true community effort that is not controlled by one particular party if we want an outcome that is best for our Chapel Hill community.

    Restricting creative input, whether it be from developers or simply from people who don’t live in the immediate area, is a big mistake. In truth, it’s part of everyone’s neighborhood, not just those who live closest to it.

  4. Jason Baker

     /  October 15, 2012

    Thanks for writing this John.

    One thing I am still not clear on is what efforts were made to involve the apartment residents and other renters who make up roughly half of the residents in the planning area. If we believe that residents living closest to the areas of potential impact are to have their input weighted more heavily than the rest of town, this is a key issue we need to tackle. I look forward to hearing how the process will ensure that any recommendations will carry equal weighting between the views of homeowners and those of renters, particularly those living in the multi-story complexes which are scattered throughout the Estes/MLK area.

  5. Priscilla Murphy

     /  October 15, 2012

    There’s been plenty of acrimony to go around. Who can miss the increasingly obvious and dismissive contempt toward citizens availing themselves of the limited opportunities to address the sudden, intense development pressure on the MLK/Estes area? It’s almost a fad, but a profoundly undemocratic one (with a small d).

    No one denies that change is inevitable or that it needs to happen. But there’s a considerable difference in scope, density, and time-frame between what is planned for Carolina North over the next several years and decades, and what is being pursued for MLK/Estes in as few months as possible (even before the airport has closed). The congestion envisioned due to Carolina North will be far outstripped by what is envisioned for the MLK/Estes nexus, and much sooner. Considerable thought went into what was acceptable to the Town for Carolina North, but almost none of the same guidelines are being applied to the proximate MLK/Estes. It’s as if they never mattered, after all.

    The number of parcels targeted for development is large and closely concentrated. Many of the neighborhoods affected are to be surrounded on two or even three sides by the several imminent projects, and you would be hard-pressed to find any area of Chapel Hill that would happily welcome unquestioningly so much dense, simultaneous development activity in their own back, side, and front yards, let alone being marginalized in or even excluded from the planning.

    Recent choices and decisions regarding development proposals in many areas of the Town have given citizen observers reason to worry that their interests will be discounted, from Greenbrier to Charterwood. And the realities that there are costs to the town, beginning but not ending with financial costs, are largely glossed over — until we notice, belatedly, that we have untenable vacancy rates, awkward traffic patterns, ecological complications, and flat ugliness that should make everyone think more than twice about what is happening to the Town. Instead, we’re being threatened with the cudgel that “if you don’t let us develop at will, there will be tax-hell to pay.” There are no guarantees whatsoever that unrestrained, over-ambitious development will inevitably contain tax increases — speculative overdevelopment can, in fact, cost a community quite a bit.

    So now here we are, accused of the crime of being involved Chapel Hill homeowners with questions about the future. We certainly do have our own financial interest, and part of that means wondering about the effect on property values of such intense proximate development so quickly (and what would happen to net tax-revenues then?). But we also have compelling community and family interests in Chapel Hill that go far beyond the dollar amount of property we occupy — interests that it’s hard to see that any developers credit, let alone share.

    Instead, we are being asked to trust and defer to the cadre of planners and developers converging on the MLK/Estes area, as well as the Town’s responses to them. Theoretically, Town Hall denizens – elected or otherwise — are our representatives. But step by step, decision by decision, we’ve been given less and less reason to have faith in either group, especially when the message to citizens is: you can sit and watch and perhaps comment, just don’t get in the way.

    Is this really how all residents of Chapel Hill want the present and future to look?

  6. Priscilla Murphy

     /  October 15, 2012

    Forgive me: “Greenbrier” should be “Greenbridge” in above commment

  7. Emily Lees

     /  October 15, 2012

    Mr Ager states that ” the best way forward is to encourage and support a true community conversation about how the Town should evolve.” At the same time, his disdain for the homeowners on and around Estes is obvious: he calls it “unreasonable” for the planning to be “dominated” by homeowners and portrays residents as suspicious and dishonest about our own financial stake. The reality is, different. Far from dominating the conversation, homeowners have been blindsided on more than one occasion and many of our concerns and recommendations have been ignored. Furthermore, let’s be honest here about homeowners’ financial stake in this game. Proximity to cheap student housing will likely depress home values. In contrast, developers stand to gain a lot of money by throwing together cheap apartments that can quickly degrade into slums. And Carolina North? The researchers, graduate students and postdocs who will work there stand to gain nothing by having nearby undergraduate apartments. It’s naive to think that change won’t come, but it’s not unreasonable to want to see well managed growth that enhances the community and the Town. Irresponsible “explosive” growth will serve only destroy the quality of life that attracts people to this area.

  8. Terri Buckner

     /  October 16, 2012

    Priscilla–yours is one of the best blog posts I have ever seen on any local blog. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You perfectly express the frustration those of us in the southern portion of the town/county feel about the Council’s rush to approve Obey Creek.

    We were asked to participate in a quasi-small area planning process as part of CH2020, but the recommendations coming out of that process have been totally ignored by the developer and the Council. One Council member actually dismissed the entire process as a “placeholder.”

    If the Council can’t follow their own processes in one area of town, why should the citizens of the MLK/Estes area expect that their experience will be any different?

    While I like and respect John Ager, I don’t understand why anyone would say that the financial interests of a developer outweigh the quality of life interests of the residents. I haven’t heard anyone say they want to stop development; asking for development that is scaled to the surrounding area of the community just isn’t an outrageous or unreasonable expectation.

  9. DOM

     /  October 16, 2012

    Regarding Priscilla Murphy’s post:

    “No one denies that change is inevitable or that it needs to happen. But…”

    Funny how the folks trying to gain control the Estes/MLK steering committee always begin their argument the same way. If change is really inevitable and needs to happen – why are they doing everything in their power to try and stop it? Do they really believe there’s some dark force out there just waiting to make their worst nightmare come true?

  10. Sarah McIntee

     /  October 16, 2012

    Certainly, the job required here is paddling ahead of the current, which is the only way to control a canoe in a swift stream. Economic development for Estes Drive, with interest rates down, is certainly moving swiftly. We need to get paddling! Rapid development is when mistakes are made. Most of the resdents that I have talked to are not stonewalling development, but they are clearly frightened about the car-scaled nature of the Chartwell development, especially by someone who has known, in other communities, to develop marginal quality buildings for a transient undergraduate student populations, with more parking than is necessary or desireable.

    It is true that Estes has become a major cross-town street, but adding to the load and making it a hot, noisy, 5 lane monster certainly is not the path toward greener, more compact, and more sustainable development. It certainly is not the path towards developing pedestrian scaled, well-connected, walkable and bikeable, shaded, narrow, quiet streets. No one cross-town street should be carrying this kind of load. There are many traffic aspects that need to be CORRECTED FIRST that require retrofits and connections to undo the robbery that has taken place on those who own homes on, what was once, a quiet residential street. The town has made decisions over the years that have put more numbers, higher frustration, and faster traffic onto Estes Drive. No adequate facilities have been provided to make it possible to walk down the street without being baked and deafened. Nothing has been done to improve cross-town connectivity to make shorter routes to spoke roads. The town is responsible for this damage. The town, therefore, is responsible for making a plan that insures that no more damage is done to those who live directly on Estes. These residents do not deserve neither to live on a multi- lane traffic jam, nor to live on a 50 mph country highway.

    The Planning Board and Staff are recommending changes that alter the balance between residents and non-residents. A critical conversation needs to take place between residents and non-residents, from those who live there and those who just use the street. You don’t get good planning if there isn’t an appropriate balance of between these interests.

  11. Priscilla Murphy

     /  October 16, 2012

    DOM (does everyone but me know who you are?): No one is trying to stop change, either — it would be futile, especially in the face of heavy financial stakes. BUT those who will be most profoundly affected by it are certainly entitled to be functionally and genuinely involved in guiding its direction.

    Moreover, “control” of the Steering Committee is in the eye and definition of the beholder — where you stand depends on where you sit. Particularly in view of the ever-more-dismaying record concerning recent development proposals and approvals, not to mention the almost unbelievable derailings of recent planning exercises, there is good reason to fear silencing of citizen voices by any composed majority of other voices.

    One of the most absurd whines yet is that citizens are trying to “outnumber” developers and planners. Seriously? How many citizens will be directly affected by the MLK/Estes development juggernaut? Are they really implying that the ratio of citizen-to-developer voices should approach 1-to-1 balance? (If we were talking about balancing profit-dollars to profit-dollars, maybe then we could talk about being outnumbered.)

    Above all, it’s an absurdity to think that there is consensus, never mind unanimity, within any group of citizens. Any close observer of recent events will know that serious disagreements exist on many issues, from transportation styles and traffic routing issues to school issues to type of use. To argue against full citizen representation using the assumption that all citizens’ voices and votes on all matters will be the same – and by implication, against the best interests of the Town — is disingenuous, at the very least.

  12. JWJ

     /  October 16, 2012

    Re: Ms. Buckner’s post;

    You wrote “that “While I like and respect John Ager, I don’t understand why anyone would say that the financial interests of a developer outweigh the quality of life interests of the residents”.
    Where in Mr. Ager’s post does he imply, allude, hint, or in what way indicate that the financial interests of a developer are paramount?

    I have re-read his post after your comment and am not seeing what you are seeing. Is there some background info you are relying on to make your inference?

  13. DOM

     /  October 16, 2012

    Ms. Murphy:

    “One of the most absurd whines yet is that citizens are trying to “outnumber” developers and planners.”

    I don’t think it’s “citizens” in general that people are complaining about, but a well-organized special-interest group led by the same individuals who have been trying to forestall intelligent growth in CH for years and years. They’re commonly known as the “anti-growth contingent”.

  14. Priscilla, no one apparently knows who DOM is or if he/she is even a Chapel Hill or Orange County resident. Basically, his/her role on CHW is that of an “Internet troll” spreading “flamebait”. Whether it’s a form of entertainment for him/her or part of a more focused/professional attempt to shape the message I don’t know.

    I’m interested in a real dialog with folks who have a real interest in our local community.

    DOM, based on my experience of trying to engage in a thoughtful exchange of ideas and failing, doesn’t fit that bill. Given that, this is the last time I will comment on anything the DOMbot posts.

  15. John Ager

     /  October 16, 2012

    JWJ – thanks, you saved me a paragraph.

  16. John Ager

     /  October 16, 2012

    Sarah McIntee – I don’t think the town has any intention of widening Estes Drive. I certainly don’t think it would be wise, or effective. The excessive traffic on this road is a serious problem to which there is no easy solution. It makes sense to me to examine Estes as one element in the transportation system, and to address traffic flows in aggregate when looking for relief. I will just mention two factors that should be considered. First, the town has ignored cross-town connectivity, in large part, in reaction to citizen demands. When neighborhoods lobby against connectivity, more cars wind up on the major arteries and connectors. Second, many of the citizens complaining about traffic volumes can be observed driving their children to school at Phillips and Estes Hills. This issue was brought up in one of the small group discussions during the Organizing meetings. It’s not a simple issue – there are several valid reasons why a parent may drive their child – but it should be on the table in the community conversation.

  17. Jason

     /  October 16, 2012

    CitizenWill – I have no idea who DOM is and I don’t really care. I do think his posts are valid. Do you NOT think that most of the developments in CH/Carrboro – Obey’s, Estes/MLK, Charterwood, Winmore, Claremont, East 54, etc, etc – are opposed by a mixture of the same folks every time? Whether they are front and center or doing the puppeting, it’s the same folks.

  18. DOM

     /  October 16, 2012

    CitizenWill –

    “Whether it’s a form of entertainment for him/her or part of a more focused/professional attempt to shape the message I don’t know.”

    Just trying to point out hypocrisy when it rears its two-faced head.

  19. Terri Buckner

     /  October 16, 2012

    JWJ–you’re right. I overreacted. Thanks for the correction.

  20. Sarah McIntee

     /  October 16, 2012

    The state, Estes Drive being a state road, has had it on the NCDOT list to be widened for a very long time. There just isn’t enough money to do it. Widening is kept on the list because people who travel on Estes complain about the jam-ups, the stopping buses, etc.. The road can’t sustain any more traffic. School traffic is just part of it. Have you seen the parade of service and landscaping trucks at lunch time? Parents drop off and pick up their children because it saves them time in getting to work, and in getting children to lessons and afterschool programs. Parents park all over the neighborhood when picking up or dropping off children. We need to ask these parents what it would take to get them to use the buses. All of the property near the school has lost value because of the school traffic situation.

  21. Priscilla Murphy

     /  October 16, 2012

    More rhetoric (bounced among unidentified sock-puppets as seen on some other blogs) to parrot the “anti-growth” shibboleth, similar in kind and also lacking in accuracy to the “anti-business” shibboleth. Citizens have earnest, shared, and legitimate concerns, mounting with the pace and intensity of pressure to do anything, just anything, in the name of so-called “growth,” all the while bypassing — increasingly baldly — citizens’ efforts to negotiate or have input. This kind of antagonism toward citizens, depicting them as enemies of their own Town, gives away a preference for combat rather than true openness negotiation. Personal dislike for one or more such citizens is no excuse or justification for dismantling what should be a deliberative and moderated collaborative process.

  22. Sarah McIntee

     /  October 16, 2012

    On bulletin boards/blogs, some people anonymously post disparaging remarks, sometimes insults. It is called, “trolling.” Generally, it is best to ignore trolls. There are lots of them when you go to global warming bulletin boards. Sometimes the trolls are just there to discourage commentary that they don’t want to hear.

  23. Priscilla Murphy

     /  October 17, 2012

    Back to the issues: To escape from the toxic atmosphere of confrontation, it would be great to see what developers and planners as well as citizens actually might offer or seek, and where they see actual negotiating room, if anywhere.

    What if, for example, citizens were able to accept a distinction between the level of commercialization of MLK and that on Estes? What if, for example, developers were able to consider and actually make substantive changes in their vision for their parcels (as some have) that might mean less profit but far more for all to be proud of? And what if, for example, both were able to talk specifically about – with genuine give and take – what mixed-use should and shouldn’t mean?

    Two aspects of the current stand-off are most worrisome: 1. the time-frame demands, and 2. the increase in heat:

    1. Developers and planners are cranking up pressure for an accelerated process, because they are “losing patience” with citizens. It’s very plausible that their haste — aside from normal eagerness to get the show on the road — derives from time-limits in some of their speculative agreements with landowners (in the category of standard risk-of-doing-business).

    But their personal urgency not to lose short-term speculative opportunities cannot and should not govern the community and Town’s planning for the future of such a pivotal area.

    Moreover, claims that they are losing or have lost patience come close to admitting that they have put in time with obligatory pro-forma listening exercises without any intention of actually negotiating. They have put in time with talk, declare they’ve heard enough talking, never intended to change their walk, and never really intended to walk with the community.

    2. The rising heat of rhetoric serves that intention. A zero-sum atmosphere of contention works to developers’ and planners’ advantage, moreover, as they loudly claim that citizens – beyond being nuisances — simply cannot be worked with. If they don’t want to work with the community, what better way to block and circumvent the process than saying “they’re all self-interested, irrational, and won’t negotiate.”

    OK, so tell us what things you are actually willing to make deals about, or are the only acceptable options that which your proposals already include, perhaps with 1 or 2 cosmetically superficial tweaks?

    Finally, it may not be at all fair to paint all the developers and planners with the same brush, but evidence of exception has been sparse. If I am able to assert that not all citizens share the same ideas of what should happen, I should be able to say that not all developers think or behave the same way — and that therefore, for both reasons, there are more than just two sides here. Let’s see them!

    And let’s see them in a forum that will actually have teeth and applicability, not be turned into a wishful town document that changes nothing about what actually happens.

  24. DOM

     /  October 17, 2012

    I seriously doubt you’ll get any developer who’d be willing to open up and share his/her thoughts after reading the one-sided posts on this site.

  25. Scott

     /  October 17, 2012

    Priscilla, you, me, and two others could in one hour establish a process and discussion structure that would reduce the rhetorical heat and get the most important desires of both an applicant and neighbors discussed fairly. Willing to try? If not, who in your neighborhood is? Has the frenzy gone beyond the point of respectful discussion? I would hope not, because that would guarantee that the upcoming “Focus Area” activity will be unsuccessful in many respects.

  26. Sarah McIntee

     /  October 17, 2012

    If any residents don’t want any development to happen, they should consider buying the parcels of concern. I don’t think it serves any of us to assume that development is not going to happen. It will happen. The lands that are near Carolina North are now too expensive for single family development. We should expect commercial and moderate density residential development on MLK because it is a spoke road and major transit corridor. Estes Drive, being a residential cross-road, is not the place for commercial development, but Estes Drive should be expected to have higher density residential, like 3 story townhome duplexes set back enough for landscaped and treed sidewalks and bike paths: a graceful step up from the adjoining single family neighborhoods.

    There is no point in developers trying to get I-can’t-do-anything-with-my-land sympathy if they are asking to do something more than these, going beyond the desireable pedestrian scale, or to build any anything that would decay into something unattractive, poorly used, with nuisance traffic, or an attraction for poor behavior. I realize that we have very conscientious developers here in Chapel Hill, who are attentive to quality and green-ness, but they *do* have a financial stake in getting the most economic value out of property. Developers always have to consider neighbor interests as part of the design contraints for the project. So, no pining and whining is allowed here, just deal with it!

  27. JWJ

     /  October 17, 2012

    Ms. McIntee:

    You wrote that Estes is a state road. Sorry if this is info that is common knowledge, but how do you know that?

    I went on the NC DOT website and found that Estes drive extension might be a state secondary road.

    Would appreciate being educated on this if you have the time.

  28. George C

     /  October 17, 2012

    I can’t say for certain that Estes Drive is a state road but for years we on Town advisory boards have been told that the majority of roads in CH are state roads. That has on more than one occasion made planning very difficult since the state has to sign off on any project involving a state road and their response is sometimes “If you take over the maintenance you can do whatever you want.” Unfortunately, maintenance can be extremely costly.

  29. Priscilla Murphy

     /  October 17, 2012

    DOM, if you imagine you speak for all developers, it more or less proves my point, several of the points in fact.

  30. Priscilla Murphy

     /  October 17, 2012

    (continuation:)… which is very sad, I might add. And with that, I’m signing off this thread. Apologies to Mr. Ager if it seems his comment has been hijacked, but many of his observations reflect the nature of the larger debate or beg the questions that need to be asked. I truly wish I had faith that a constructive process can be embarked upon, because so much is at stake. But there seems scarcely any overlap of interests or will to find any.

  31. Re: NCDOT roads, please refer to and turn on either the Street Maintenance or Street Classification layers (or both) to see which roads are owned and maintained by which jurisdiction.

    Re: Jason and the “puppetmasters”. No, it’s not always the same people and when the same people do pipe up it’s often for a variety of reasons.

    For instance, it’s easy to label some of these folks “no growth” but it’s very inaccurate and, given that several of the folks who like to sling that phrase know perfectly well that it isn’t the case, quite dishonest and disrespectful of small-d democratic principles.

  32. Dan Bruce

     /  October 18, 2012

    Re: NCDOT roads. Estes Drive is state road SR 1780.

  33. Jon DeHart

     /  October 18, 2012

    Sarah knows alot about transportation , She served Chapel Hill for many years on the Chapel Hill Transportation Board of which I am currently a member.

    She and I didn’t always agree. However, I think her post here is spot on . Sounds like a good vision to me .

  34. DOM

     /  October 18, 2012

    Jon DeHart –
    I agree with you about Sarah. She’s the first poster here to present a realistic assessment of the situation – and a willingness to take the next step.

    Ultimately, it won’t come down to who wins it all or who loses it all but how everyone wins something (except those few who are trying to prevent any change – period).

  35. Jason

     /  October 18, 2012

    CitizenWill – There lies the problem. The usual suspects that frequent council and board meetings aren’t “no growth” they are more like “unrealistic growth.” These folks have little business savvy and recommend lots of affordable housing, big payment in lieu’s and other features that make it impossible for a developer to profit. I know those are dirty words – Developer and Profit. And it IS the same people every time. Go to the meetings and see.

  36. Terri Buckner

     /  October 18, 2012

    Jason, you may be right. Maybe we are unrealistic. On the other hand, I think a great many of the developers are presenting plans that are equally unrealistic. In your world, it sounds like profit for the developers trumps quality of life for citizens. In my world, quality of life and respect for the long-term health of the community trump anyone’s personal profit.

  37. Jason, FYI I’m usually the lone person who argues for less in lieu monies over actual built square footage in these projects.

    I think that the monies Council collects via in lieu for Chapel Hill’s affordable housing program should come from the general fund – which would provide more stability and oversight – while also removing the incentive to “horse trade” with developers to get in lieu payments to cover, often foreseen but unplanned for, programmatic costs.

    In lieu makes sense in very specific circumstances but, in general, unhealthily distorts the development approval process.

  38. Jason

     /  October 18, 2012

    With the stock of AH the town has forced developers to do in the last several years, PIL’s are more important than ever b/c the maintenence of these homes now comes into play. And Terri, in my world, developers would not have to be responsible for creating AH. If they didn’t have to do that their plans could be a lot more flexible because they wouldn’t take such a massive loss on the freebie housing they provide to the town.

  39. Sarah McIntee

     /  October 18, 2012

    Just a correction to Jon DeHart’s comment. I served only one year on the transportation board. Yes, I know a bit about transportation, planning for sustainability, and water issues, but I am not up to speed on all that is going on currently. My expertise is more from being an attentive resident living 27 years near a critical intersection on Estes Drive.

  40. Sarah McIntee

     /  October 18, 2012

    BTW, In case you are interested, I made a comment on Elizabeth Friend’s article on Affordable Housing here:

  41. Terri Buckner

     /  October 18, 2012

    Jason–I agree about the affordable housing issue. I am not a dedicated disciple of the free market principle but I do believe that affordable housing should ensue from an affordable community, not because of policy decisions.

  42. Jason

     /  October 18, 2012

    I’ve talked to a couple of families who live in AH homes and the number one reason they decided to do it was for CH/Carrboro schools. They don’t own the land and when they sell there will be little to no profit based on the AH formula. They will have paid down some of a loan, but the typical HOA dues that they are responsible for (that match up with the market rate product) are 10-15% of their monthly mortgage. It’s kinda like leasing a nice car.

  43. JWJ

     /  October 18, 2012

    To citizenw: Thank you for the link on the State roads.

  44. DOM

     /  October 28, 2012

    It seems members of town council have tossed out the very rules they themselves set up for the 2020 process. The thousands of citizens who diligently participated in the year-long process never dreamed the ultimate decision for how the Future Focus studies would be controlled would be highjacked by the town council members – thus making it all about personal politics once again instead of community-wide decision-making.

    On Wednesday night, a majority of the council members claimed it was their responsibility alone to select the members of the Central West Steering Committee, refusing to let any town staff members or advisory boards members have any say in their choices. How can that be? These are people who spent thousands of hours guiding the process and trying to make the 2020 program a truly democratic affair.

    When 2020 first began, the whole idea was to take the development process out of the hands of an often politically-motivated town council and create an objective and consistent development process for the town’s future. But here we are, right back at square one.

    Shame on council members who voted to put their own personal political interests above a community who worked so hard to get this far.

  45. Nancy Oates

     /  October 28, 2012

    DOM — In council’s defense, and I rarely defend all of them en masse, I believe they were trying to defuse a very contentious situation, and they were taking a “buck stops here” approach, which I applaud them for.

  46. DOM

     /  October 28, 2012

    Nancy –

    I believe the “contentious situation” you refer to was created by a very vocal and very well-organized neighborhood group who convinced the council that town staff and planning board members would recommend too many people for the Steering Committee who reside outside the neighborhood.

    According to the 2020 plan, this was supposed to be a community-wide effort, not something to be controlled by homeowners within earshot of the planning area.

    Could it be that some council members see a potential benefit in siding with this powerful neighborhood coalition for the next election?

    Like I said above, it looks like politics as usual to me.

  47. DOM

     /  October 28, 2012

    BTW –

    I’d love to hear John Ager’s thoughts on this issue – as well as those of Rosemary Waldorf and George Cianciolo, the co-chairs of 2020.