Save Del Snow

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  1. Mark Marcoplos

     /  March 6, 2013

    Pam Hemminger got the Sierra Club endorsement.

  2. DOM

     /  March 6, 2013

    Nancy –
    Or it could be you recently became a self-interested NIMBY when Shadowood Apartments announced plans to expand and you now hope that Ms. Snow and her anti-growth minions on the Planning Board will squash that project too because you don’t want more rental housing in your neck of the woods.

  3. Many

     /  March 6, 2013

    How Dilbertesqe. Reading Pease’s response reminds me that the Dunning-Kruger effect is still alive and thriving among those in power.

  4. Terri Buckner

     /  March 6, 2013

    If anyone is interested in reading the Planning Board notes on the Bicycle Apartments review, they can be found in the council email archive from Feb 26 from Del to Ed Harrison. Apparently, no one on the PB approved of Bicycle.

    I agree with Gene that the emphasis on “fact-based” is an overused and misunderstood term these days. Facts can always be twisted to make the argument you want to make.

    But here’s a fact that Gene left out of his letter: Del only has a couple of more months as chair. If he believes the chair is so powerful as to be driving the direction of the PB, then the problem isn’t with Del, it’s with the full PB. The chair is there to set the agenda and keep order in the meeting, not to impose her values on the entire group. And if you look at the other members of the PB, it makes no sense to think that any one person, chair or not, can push through a particular agenda.

    The bigger problem, the one I think Gene did touch on, is that our community doesn’t know how to handle growth and gentrification. Several approaches have been tried and failed. But that isn’t Del’s fault.

    I supported the Bicycle project without knowing any of the technical reasons. I didn’t like the way the PB interceded in the 2020 process at the end. Even though Del and I have opposing views on those and several other issues, I still think she should stay on the board. Don’t cave to the political pressure, Del!

  5. Ed Harrison

     /  March 6, 2013

    Del Snow’s February 26 letter was to the entire Council, forwarded from the Council “mailbox” on the website by the Town Hall receptionist, who spends way too much of her day having to forward emails from there.
    Many thought the issue raised by Gene Pease had been laid to rest when Mark K made his visit (unannounced to the rest of the Council) to the Planning Board a few months ago.

  6. Bonnie Hauser

     /  March 6, 2013

    it’ss sad that citizens and the planning boards and others are often forced to vet the facts in developer and even government propoosals. Fact based is not overused – its under-applied. ( “don’t confuse me with the facts”)

    Its very difficult and unpleasant for citizens to formulate 3 minute statemens to politiely correct the many errors and misrepresentations. And then they fear retribution. Someone is not doing their job and citizens have become defensive fact checkers rather than co-creators of their community.

    Nancy – your right – more casual and open discussion could be the path to win-win -but its going to take thoughtful and deliberate leadership

    Sign me up to Save Del Snow.

  7. Nancy

     /  March 6, 2013

    DOM — It’s Timber Hollow that Ron Strom is converting from modest-income housing to high-income housing. The increased density is a done deal, for all practical purposes, and what our neighborhood has come before the CDC and council to object to is Strom pushing the graduate students, teachers and municipal employees who live there out of town. Some neighbors also objected to Strom wanting to get rid of the buffer stipulated by the SUP and his plan to shunt traffic from his new high-density complex out through two blind intersections.

    And I believe you meant “quash.”

  8. Don Evans

     /  March 6, 2013

    So Del Snow and the Planning Board advised against approving Bicycle Apartments and encouraged the Town Council and Gene Pease to study further information brought to light at the council meeting, and for that Pease wants Del to resign? Sounds like Pease is the one who should be encouraged to leave his board, because someone is not doing his job here!

  9. Diogenes

     /  March 6, 2013

    How big is the back yard? Is it just those NIMBYs in Northwoods? Or the neighbors around Estes and MLK? Or the Bicycle Apartments neighbors? Or the historic district? Or Meadowmont and the Cedars? Or Southern Village and Dogwood acres? Or Morgan Creek? Who am I leaving out? Jeepers. if you draw a circle around all of them it starts to look a little like most of Chapel Hill with the exception of Gimghoul.

  10. Nancy

     /  March 6, 2013

    Ed — Would you prefer those people who write emails come to council meetings and speak for three minutes instead?

  11. Terri Buckner

     /  March 6, 2013

    It’s so easy for someone who chooses the safety of anonymity to make constant, nasty, mean-spirited accusations like calling others NIMBY. It’s also cowardly. I don’t object to those individuals who want to participate anonymously if all they want to do is offer information or debate from an intellectual position. But the attacks and barbs are really intolerable.

  12. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Del on several issues and two task forces (including the precursor to CH2020) and know well that she has served our community honorably, diligently and tirelessly – not for political advantage, self-aggrandizement or personal reward but because she has a strong commitment to public duty (a quaint notion, I know, in today’s modern America).

    She has honored the best ideals of civic service – including taking a just and principled stand on key issues before our Town well knowing the personal cost.

    Our community is blessed to have folks like Del who are willing to put in the time, effort and weather the personal attacks to work to the greater public good.

    Gene and Penny’s baseless attacks on Del’s integrity and civic service are beyond disappointing.

    Unfortunately, their disdain seems to be a growing trend in Chapel Hill – the consequences of which are reflected by how few folks are willing to get vitally involved working on local policy issues.

  13. Diogenes

     /  March 6, 2013

    I think you’re missing the point Terry. If practically the whole town has been labeled as NIMBY by whoever it is that labels them as such (not my term) then perhaps you could change the name from NIMBY to voters (for those who live in town)

  14. Terri Buckner

     /  March 6, 2013

    Diogenes–my comment was directed at DOM who repeatedly throws out attacks (on Nancy today) from the safety of his anonymity.

  15. Diogenes

     /  March 6, 2013

    Ooops, guess I’m sensitive about my “anonymity” Interesting question. How many of those unenlightened NIMBYs does it take to make a majority? The answer sure could ruin a day in November for old DOM.

  16. Many

     /  March 6, 2013

    The whole Del Snow thing seems to be classic “shoot the messenger” reaction from both Pease & Rich

    Pease said it himself; the CH 2020 plan is ambiguous and unclear.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but to me that lack of clarity and ambiguity signals a warning to be conservative in interpretations because it is much harder to undo something wrong than it is harmful to postpones something right until later……….and that’s a fact.

  17. DOM

     /  March 6, 2013

    Let’s hear from the other council members!

  18. Diogenes

     /  March 6, 2013

    I think its the voters who count DOM. We” ll have to wait to hear from them in November.

  19. DOM

     /  March 6, 2013

    Let’s hear from the other Planning Board members!

  20. Diogenes

     /  March 6, 2013

    Perhaps we already do …. albeit anonymously!

  21. Bonnie Hauser

     /  March 6, 2013

    Diogenes – Wait! – remember when citizen Gene Pease sought facts and answers for Gimghoul when they wanted to block UNC’s plans to build a parking garage near his home – oops – I mean the cemetary at Gimghoul. Does that make your list of NIMBY communities complete?

    ‘Gene Pease, President of the Gimghoul Historic Association, stated that a parking deck in the Cobb area was a bad idea. He wondered why the University needed a five- or six-story deck and 35% more parking spaces in this corner of campus. If the University is so concerned about the health and safety of its students, Mr. Pease asked, why build a parking deck? He said that the Gimghoul neighborhood was still waiting for answers to those questions and that they do not believe the numbers that the University had presented. Mr. Pease objected to placing an inappropriate five-story massive structure immediately next to a national historic cemetery. “Shame on the University for trying to hold the Council hostage by linking this development proposal to Columbia Street,” he said. Mr. Pease cautioned that allowing this linkage to sway its vote would mean the Council was betraying one neighborhood for another.”

  22. Diogenes

     /  March 6, 2013

    It’s all about shining the light!

  23. Many

     /  March 6, 2013

    I am calling for Gene Pease’s resignation from the Gimghoul Historic Association. Facts be damned!

  24. Name Withheld By Request

     /  March 6, 2013

    An interesting article on Del Snow and Julie McClintock, the founder of NRG:

  25. DOM

     /  March 7, 2013

    Nancy –

    An interesting article above, indeed. And as Pete Seeger once asked: “Which side are you on?”

  26. Nancy

     /  March 7, 2013

    DOM — What are my options? I believe we can benefit from greater density. I believe the density has to be strategic, which means looking ahead of time at what we want where. I don’t believe the best decisions come from silencing everyone who disagrees with me. So I guess I’m on all three sides.

  27. DOM

     /  March 7, 2013

    NANCY — Doesn’t that make you a trigamist?

  28. CitizensAlliance

     /  March 7, 2013

    I am one of the parties involved in the legal action against the Town over the Charterwood vote. Although I am generally not interested in posting comments to blogs, I (along with many, many others) read them. I felt that I had to address the erroneous information about the Charterwood case that is being circulated on-line.

    This case is not about the specific development that was approved, flawed as it was. It is a suit over the procedural errors that were made during the rezoning approval process. The winning of this lawsuit will benefit everyone in the Town because it will establish that the technical aspects of the process work as they are supposed to. I cannot see a downside to that.

    The link to the article Ms. Oates wrote quite a while ago gives me the opportunity to correct the errors that were made at that time. The reference:

    “Developers do need to show sensitivity to the quality of life for property owners in existing neighborhoods, as Charterwood’s 250-foot-wide tree-packed buffer between the single-family house development and the mixed-use buildings does,”

    paints an inaccurate picture. There is an area with that size buffer, provided to preserve the over 60 rare historic trees on the property. Most of the abutting area is buffered by far, far less. The topography of the land is such that the neighborhood lies up to 50 feet below Charterwood. A four and one-half story building on the corner will appear to be closer to nine stories tall to us. The land behind the fire department burn building will be clear cut, subjecting both us and new residents to the smoke that the Town Fire Chief labeled a “moderate to high impact (with the trees that are currently there)” in a letter to the Town. I know that some Council members remarked that the training center may not always be there and then this would cease to be a problem, but given the current fiscal realities, I would guess that we would be living the smoke and training activities until then. If the Council wants to suggest to the developer that Charterwood be delayed until the training center moves that would be helpful. The development will also impact our neighbors (we are all neighbors, aren’t we?) in Lake Forest and Lake Ellen as their lakes suffer the impacts of building on Booker Creek. These are just some of the problems with the development itself, and it is why “Smart growth, sensitive to the quality of life for existing residents and newcomers, will preserve the values that brought us to town in the first place” does not apply to Charterwood.

    Although I did not live here when recommendations were made for this property by the task force that studied northwest Chapel Hill, I do know that the report stated that this land should be developed at a lower density from other NW areas because of “environmental constraints.” From what I understand, the membership of this group included local developers, non-area residents, and Scott Radway, who was selling the Charterwood development despite knowing this. If citizens cannot rely on the recommendations of Town appointed committees, what hope is there for all of the groups now studying other areas of Town?

    It is unfortunate that Del is taking so much heat over Charterwood when it was she who always reminded us that development on this property was a given.

  29. Scott Radway

     /  March 7, 2013

    Ms/Mr/Miss CitizensAlliance: You should get your facts correct before you start to accuse me or anyone else of misrepresentation. Likewise you should have the decency to provide your name.

  30. Nancy

     /  March 7, 2013

    CitizensAlliance: Charterwood will benefit us as a town. It should be allowed to proceed, rather than get bogged down in technicalities. I don’t see how arguing over the technical aspects of the procedure will benefit any of us.

  31. Terri Buckner

     /  March 8, 2013

    Nancy–how do you see Charterwood or any other type of residential development (which doesn’t pay for itself) benefiting the town?

  32. Many

     /  March 8, 2013

    I want to “double click” on one point Citizens Alliance pointed to above about the CHFD burn building on Weaver Dairy for just a second. I wonder if addressing this concern could truly help in solving the Charterwood issue or if this is just a red herring excuse for blocking the development? What if solving this was an opportunity in disguise?

    On the face of it, I would agree that that burn facility is no longer located in an optimal spot (even though it was there long before the Weaver Dairy extension developed that area as residential). What if, in partnership, CHFD, CFD, HFD and the rural FDs built a consolidated training facility elsewhere in the county for joint training exercises? This effort could dovetail into the Durham Tech courses on fire sciences where there is a good foundation for Fire and EMS already.

    As well as helping to solve the Charterwood situation, it could foster that town/county partnership everyone keeps talking about.

    Why not make some lemon-aid?

  33. George C

     /  March 8, 2013

    I like lemon-aid.

  34. Nancy

     /  March 8, 2013

    Terri — I don’t know definitively that it won’t pay for itself, but even if that were the case, I don’t think that’s a reason to stop building residential spaces more dense than single-family housing. Bill Christian strikes me as a developer who wants to do right by the community, and his plan offers places to live in a nice setting (park-like space) within walking distance of a grocery store, restaurants, movie theater, post office and other conveniences. It also creates a commercial pocket, different from a strip mall. That concept worked well for the commercial pocket at Homestead & MLK. I wish the rents were lower, but that’s not going to happen, due to Chapel Hill’s lengthy approval process. Christian can’t single-handedly fix that. I think his original plan, that included a boutique hotel, was a better fit, but he took that out to appease neighbors. So given the strictures he had to work under, he came up with a project that moves us in a direction we should want to go.

  35. Terri Buckner

     /  March 8, 2013

    “A direction we should want to go”? Maybe that’s why these discussions are always so circular. I don’t know what direction we want to go in. I went to the council work session Wednesday night on affordable housing. Part of the discussion was on funding mechanisms. What struck me about that was the underlying assumption. To me, all housing in this community should be affordable; meaning there needs to be a range of housing available for different income levels. The council assumption seems to be that the only way to get affordability is through subsidy.

    Building more high cost housing, like Charterwood, doesn’t make the community more affordable. It just increases the amount of subsidies required–unless there is sufficient commercial development to offset the cost of services needed for the residential.

  36. Diogenes

     /  March 8, 2013

    Too bad we couldn’t have taken that $16 million we just spent on the library to serve the most needy amongst us and used it for affordable housing instead.

    Lest anyone thinks that the additional operating expenses are a surprise, here’s an article written in January 2010 quoting Roger Stancil saying the additional operating expenses would add about 1.3 cents to the tax rate. Guess that was before we had “priority’ budgeting. How much job training could we provide for close to a million dollars a year? A pox on that small but vocal minority that is always carping on “DATA”

  37. Yes, facts and reasoned arguments seem to be the new boogie man.

    We’ve known for some time that the new Library was going to be an expensive proposition. At least it has a public purpose unlike West140 (Lot $4) whose total public price tag – in direct monies and land value – is north of $16M. We had a great opportunity to create Downtown workforce housing but had leadership (many who are still serving) who preferred luxury condos instead.

  38. Many

     /  March 9, 2013

    What is most disturbing to me as a citizen is the hijacking of unnamed “facts” based on a nebulous definition of “bias” which Pease admits “we all bring”.

    Like Rich before him, Pease articulates poorly the issues and facts. Based on his opinion from”multiple discussions” and lack of “understanding how to run the town without increasing the commercial tax base” (Which BTW, Chapel Hill has been doing for the last 30 years 🙂 ), he leaps to the conclusion that the term “fact based” is being misused, without refuting any facts.

    Pease next asserts he is (one of?) the only person(s) capable of discerning facts and feels the need to recite his corporate resume in the context of a voluntary governmental advisory board. Then he asserts that unnamed others (presumably including Del) are “amateurs”, based on his understanding of the term, not the facts.


    Now don’t get me wrong here. I agree with Pease that Chapel Hill must increase their commercial tax base, but it is not the responsibility of the planning board to run interference for the lack of direction from the CHTC. In point of fact, the planning board is mostly a reactive entity making recommendations. If the town of Chapel Hill really wants to increase it commercial tax base (and I am not at all convinced they do) they need to set aside areas that meet the land use and infrastructure needs of businesses they want to target and enable that development through zoning that matches.

    The planning board also does not exist to read minds. In this case, successful form follows function and not emotion. The CHTC need to enable what it is they feel they were elected to do by revising, clarifying and resolving the issues the counsel members themselves point to as ambiguous.

    It is called leadership and although in some quarters leadership is politically difficult, shooting the messenger for “using their best judgement” and being cautious in the face of “confusing and not entirely clear language” has proven to be even more unpopular.

    As far as the law suit goes, I just do not see that bright “ethical line that has been crossed” and neither do others I have talked to on this issue. Mayor Kleinschmidt apparently agrees. I do not think a lawsuit makes a person necessarily more biased in other decisions and Ms. Snow had recused herself from both past and future Charterwood recommendations. My take from the outside is that the Charterwood situation was completely avoidable and that the CHTC failed, not the planning board, the developer or the residents.

    In short, changing the membership of the planning board will not solve the essential disagreements over what development is appropriate for Chapel Hill. It is going to take people putting aside their local allegiances (yes, even the Gimghoul Historical Society), pulling together with plans everyone can see long term value in, solving problems, executing within the process and sometimes living with unpopular decisions, while not being bitter or punitive.

    Here is the entire Pease letter:



    Let me provide some feedback you have requested in your email last week.
    First let me state that I sincerely appreciate the work and commitment any citizen makes to our advisory board system. Prior to my Council commitment I was in your position for approximately twelve years serving on a variety of town boards and commissions, and at different times felt both a connection and disconnection to the town Council. Whether I agree or disagree with some of the Planning Board, or other Boards and Commissions, recommendations I appreciate your work.

    Second, in the last year or so you and a few other planning board members, and a small group of activists in the community (primarily from the neighbors for responsible growth group NRG) say they are not against growth, but support “responsible development” and consistently have used the vocabulary of “fact based information” in the arguments which primarily focus against the majority of developments the Council has considered. I have had multiple discussions with members with these opinions, and when challenged they can’t articulate what responsible growth is. I’ve concluded in reality they are against any growth. They can’t articulate how we pay for the increased costs of running the town, they don’t want our town services cut, nor do they not want their taxes raised, but consistently they are against growth in any form. After serving in various volunteer capacities in this town for fifteen years, I don’t understand how this could possibility work if we don’t increase our commercial tax base.

    So what is “fact based” decision making? Let’s be clear that I understand the term. For the past ten years I have been CEO of an analytics company who solves complicated problems using advanced statistical methodologies for Fortune 500 companies (like Chrysler, Microsoft, US Bank, etc.). To put it simply our work is centered on “fact based” decision making in the purist sense, making decisions in a logical manner based upon data and facts, not individual opinions. In my experience the rhetoric around “fact based” decision making generally is used by amateurs trying to sway an argument that is primarily based on their personal bias. In our town the term has been greatly overused.

    Most of our work in considering a development application is interpreting criteria that are not crystal clear, and we use our best judgment as to how to interpret the language of the Comprehensive Plan, LUMO, 2020 goals, etc. That is primarily why I hope the 2020 outcomes puts clearer language around our future development and takes much of the ambiguity out of our future development process, and discussing we have around it. Today, we expect the citizens we appoint to our Boards and Commissions to use their best judgment interpreting these sometimes confusing and not entirely clear language and documents. We also expect our appointed citizens to be open minded and fair in the interpretation of these documents. We would love to have our appointed citizens use “fact based” decision making, without a ton of biased in their decision making. But we know that we all bring some level of opinion and bias into our decision making. That’s human nature. The challenge we have is to not let our bias overrule the data that we are presented with. Sometimes the information we have makes our decisions crystal clear, but in many cases it is not. That is why we have differences of opinions from our various boards, citizens and Council members in this process.

    I have to say I have seen very little of that unbiased decision making from you and a few others on the Planning Board in the past several years. I can recall several instances where you have spoken to Council representing the Planning Board’s recommendation of a development application, and have spent equal or more time articulating the minority position (which you have been on the side of) rather than presenting why the Board recommended approving the development. Because of this I have over the past year lost confidence of some of the Planning Board recommendations, and as painful as it is to say, I have very little confidence in the Board’s ability to weigh the development applications fairly, particularly with your leadership. Your rhetoric around “fact based” decision making has in reality not been applied.

    I respect the right for any citizen, or appointed Board or Commission member, to disagree or vote against any proposal in front of them. We celebrate discussion in Chapel Hill. It is our right to disagree and/or vote against an issue before you as a volunteer. It is another to sue the town because you don’t agree with a decision the Council has made. That is taking the opinion to an entirely another level. It is the right of any citizen to sue an entity over an issue they feel wrongly hurt. Those are our rights under the law.

    But how can you as a member of the Planning Board have an unbiased opinion on any development application before the Board, when you are leading a citizen group suing the Council over a development decision you disagreed with? I don’t dispute your right to sue, but you cannot have an unbiased opinion, nor should have a role, in future development applications while you are involved in a development law suit against the town.

    You have shown a pattern of bias in your decision making on the Planning Board. There is a major ethical line that has been crossed with the filing of the law suit, therefore I respectfully ask you to resign from the Planning Board.

    Gene Pease Councilmember

  39. DOM

     /  March 9, 2013

    So, Many –

    You don’t think the filing of the lawsuit, that will inevitably cost the town thousands and thousands of dollars – which Ms. Snow herself has said is a real long shot – is bad for the town?

    As a cash-strapped taxpayer, I don’t appreciate someone who is supposedly charged with bettering our situation, causing a sizable (and silly) drain on our coffers. And I would bet that a large portion of our population would feel the same way if they were more filled in on the issues – like the fact that Del Snow’s house sits right behind the property in question. If that isn’t someone addressing a self-serving NIMBY agenda, I don’t know what is.

  40. CitizensAlliance2

     /  March 9, 2013

    As another member of the lawsuit against the Town, I have never heard Del make the comment that the case is a “long shot.” to the contrary, our attorney is quite confident about the outcome of the case – requring the town to follow their own procedures correctly. If the town has to spend money on attorney fees, it is of its own creation.

    Secondly, if the training facility moved, that would be great. All of the Tremont Circle residents are big lemonade fans! But, until that happens, we have to deal with the effects of it, don’t we?

    Lastly, Charterwood actually could be a good development, but walkability to Timberlyne is hardly and aspect of it. Crossing MLK is a nightmare. A lower (not low) density residential deveopment, in keeping with the surrounding area, with the small retail component that was proposed, would make for a better development. Don’t forget that this corner is the first in Chapel Hill and I wonder an apartment building is how we want to say hello.

  41. Many

     /  March 9, 2013

    DOM, I agree the lawsuit is silly, but Ms. Snow is merely a party, I don’t think she is the plaintiff. IMO an equable solution should have been worked out and the whole thing is a waste of the courts time. However the fact that Del Snow’s house abuts the development is a complicating factor, and I doubt you would be willing to go against the concerns of your neighbors in a similar situation. All of this could have been avoided if the parcel had been appropriately planned for and zoned in the first place…….super majorities are not needed once the zoning is in place.

    I think there are still opportunities for cooler heads and compromise, but the calls for Ms Snows removal by council members past & present do nothing to further that possibility.

    First, (again, just my opinion) Charterwood is an appropriate use for that parcel of land. Task force recommendations aside, the density and height argument is not credible given that “development is a given”. I think since February 2007 (has it really been that long?) the developer has made significant concessions and its really a reach to say the development amounts to a “loss of enjoyment”.

    Second, the other issues exposed and expanded upon above by CitizensAlliance were addressable by the ToCH (e.g the CHFD burn building, and runoff mitigation) long ago. Further, the ToCH should have followed their own process and policies if they wanted to avoid civil action.

    Third, the town employs an attorney full time. I suspect this is not as financially burdensome as you might think. It is still a waste of time that could be more productive, however.

    Fourth, I am not sure “bettering your situation” is in the planning board charter. If it is then I expect there are many who agree with the other four council members that did not vote to approve the zoning atlas amendment. It is not a given that Charterwood does “better the situation” making it once again emotional and a question of judgement rather than of planning.

  42. Diogenes

     /  March 9, 2013

    Many te salutamus Propter vocem.

  43. Many

     /  March 9, 2013

    Diogenes, My 40 year old Latin s pretty frayed. Tu urbanus et instructus. (Not necessarily in that order)

  44. DOM

     /  March 9, 2013

    Morituri te salutamus.

  45. DOM

     /  March 10, 2013

    Ed Harrison –
    “Many thought the issue raised by Gene Pease had been laid to rest when Mark K made his visit (unannounced to the rest of the Council) to the Planning Board a few months ago.”

    You wish.

  46. DOM

     /  July 5, 2014

    How many thousands of dollars did Ms. Snow et al’s lawsuit against Charterwood finally end up costing the town’s taxpayers?

    How much better will whatever gets built there be as a result?

    Are Ms. Snow and the others who filed this suit any more satisfied than they were? I would bet that, despite the court’s ruling that neither party is supposed to discuss the outcome, they will continue to try to keep whatever gets proposed for that site from happening.

    Such a waste of time and money.